At a special event held at Apple's Cupertino campus on August 7th, CEO Steve Jobs introduced iWork '08, which includes Apple's presentation application Keynote. According to Apple, Keynote '08 offers "new text effects, transitions and themes that help users easily compose spectacular presentations, and Smart Builds with easy-to-set-up A-to-B animations that make impressive animations easy for anyone to create."

Designers looking for a low-cost but effective solution for quickly designing slideshows that incorporate multimedia will definitely like two of Keynote 08's new features. The first of which is Keynote's new Smart Builds feature. Smart Builds allow you to create what Apple calls "A-to-B animations." In previous versions of Keynote, you could only control movement or opacity in a transition from slide to slide. In this new version, you can program position (movement), rotation, scaling and opacity within a slide.

The second is Keynote's new "Instant Alpha" feature which enables the computer to guess what parts of an image you'd like to mask out. I found that on simple images which had a neutral background, it was quite successful at masking the image. For more complex images, you will still want to edit in Photoshop. But for making quick masks on the fly for testing or experimenting, this will be a great tool.

While it still lacks a timeline a la Watchout, having the ability to manipulate data within a slide as opposed to only in transitions makes the $79 program even more appealing to the first time designer or designer on a budget. Keynote is part of iWork '08, which also includes "Pages," a word processing application, and the new "Numbers" application, which is a spreadsheet application. The suite of applications is available as a free downloadable demo from Apple.com, and can be purchased for $79.