Kerning in Apple Keynote

I hope you find this as useful as I would have a few months ago…

Somehow over the last year or so when I tried figuring out how to do kerning in Apple Keynote I didn’t get it. For some reason I assumed it was like other applications and I guess it’s not. Sigh. Anyway, this is here for me so I get it right when I forget, and maybe for you!

If you aren’t a type nerd, kerning is the process of adjusting the spacing between characters in a proportional font, usually to achieve a visually pleasing result. Yup. It’s not tracking, or character spacing, which is different. But Keynote is confusing. Ugh.

My first mistake was trying to put the cursor between two letters, because that’s how other applications do it. Well, don’t do that. It doesn’t work. (Doing so affects the entire line of type!)

Don’t highlight two characters and try to adjust the kerning. It adjusts the space between the two letters and the space after the last letter. What!?

Right, so… Just select the one character you want to adjust the space after! In this case I selected the “A” in the word “Avenue”…

Now under the Format Menu, select Font, then Character Spacing and you can Tighten or Loosen. You’re better off just using Command-Option-[ and Command-Option-] though.

Hey, look at that! We’ve done it. Kerning. Adjusting the space between two characters. Amazing. I mean, you don’t get actual numerical values like other applications, but you just go with the visual spacing and that’s the best you can do.

The weird thing to me is that it’s not called kerning, and instead called “character spacing”, and the reason I think it’s weird is because Keynote was created for Steve Jobs, who was a big typography nerd. Maybe it was named as such to not be as confusing to non-typography nerds, but in doing so, it confuses typography nerds.

That’s part of a larger issue I’ve seen in computing over the last 25 years or so. The “dumbing down” or “simplifying” of things that are at all complex or even slightly obscure, so that people without the requisite knowledge in a specific area can understand things. Maybe that’s not the worst thing, but I still think it sort of penalizes the people who have advanced knowledge in a subject.

Anyway, that’s how do you kerning in Apple Keynote.

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