Can the presentation app finally topple Keynote?
PowerPoint 2016 is all about bringing the Mac app into closer parity with its Windows cousin. On the surface, much has changed: the ribbon has been streamlined and redesigned, so PowerPoint 2011 stalwarts will need to adjust to looking under the Insert tab for table, chart and SmartArt controls.
The floating toolbar has gone, while the Inspector has been incorporated into the main interface in the form of a sidebar that displays context-sensitive tools appropriate to what you’re doing. Animation, formatting and comments are three examples – they’re housed in separate tabs here, or you can click and drag them away to restore the floating window setup if that works better for you.
Sadly, this is as good as it gets as far as customising the user interface goes. Windows users get to alter all aspects of the ribbon, but this kind of fine-tuning is sorely absent here.
The story is echoed elsewhere – PowerPoint 2016 on the Mac is supposed to bring it into line with the Windows version, but feature parity is still some way off: you can’t, for example, directly import video from YouTube or photos from online sources into your presentation in the Mac version, while some editing controls are also missing.
Worse, some features from the 2011 edition are gone – you can no longer export a presentation as a movie, for example, while importing a multi-page PDF doesn’t let you choose which page to embed.
It’s not all bad news. PowerPoint 2016 has done more than simply revamp the interface. Templates and themes have been refreshed, with a wider range of variants and colour schemes to choose from. Editing imported images is easier with formatting controls in the sidebar and other picture tools on the ribbon. There’s even a Remove Background button and an option for making a single colour transparent – a good alternatives to Keynote’s Instant Alpha feature.
PowerPoint 2016 also introduces a 3D view for viewing and managing layers. It might seem gimmicky, but it actually works well – you can easily see what goes where. Meanwhile, collaboration is made that bit easier with simplified tools for sharing presentations as well as threaded comments, which make it easier to keep track of conversations.
Ultimately there’s a lot to like about PowerPoint 2016, and Office’s new modular update function should ensure many missing features appear over time. However, in the here and now, Microsoft’s presentation tool is still some way short of providing a compelling alternative to Keynote. Nick Peers
PowerPoint 2016 is supposed to bring the Mac app in line with Windows, but feature parity is still a way off This is certainly a step forward, but PowerPoint 2016 still falls some way short of achieving true greatness.
The new sidebar provides convenient access to key tools for managing your slideshow’s elements.
PowerPoint’s new 3D layout view makes rearranging images and other layers easy.