How to deal with keynote files that crash when you try to open them (movie conversion error)

“Using a Mac is like trying to shave with a bowling pin whilst using a PC is like juggling with razors.”

I loved Apple’s Keynote, until the new version tried to bring the Mac version and the iOS versions down to the smallest denominator. Yup, I love to be able to use my iPhone or iPad as backup in case my MacBook Pro fails during a presentation. But why did Apple have to dumb down the Mac versions?

Not being able to freely configure the presentation view on the Mac is one thing, but strangely enough, some video files stopped working. Keynote apparently cannot deal with the Codec anymore, so it tries to convert the embedded videos when opening the presentation for the first time.

It would be inconvenient if it worked as it takes a couple of minutes, but nope, no luck, while converting Keynote crashes.

It is just not possible for the new Keynote version to open some presentations that worked fine under the old version.

There are inconveniences, but this is a show stopper. If I would rely on “old” presentations, it would make my work impossible.

Bad apple, bad.

However, there’s a workaround. As this posting nicely states, keynote files are just .zip files with another file ending. Yup.

If the keynote file crashes due to an embedded video just:

  1. Rename the keynote file (.key) into a .zip file (you might go to Finder => Preferences => Advanced => Show all filename extensions first)
  2. Double-click the .zip file to uncompress it
  3. Move the .zip file into another folder (otherwise this file might cause problems later)
  4. Open the folder and delete the video files (alternatively, move them out of that directory, you might try to convert them or embed them again later)
  5. Compress the folder (right-click, compress …) Note that if you did not move the old .zip file into another folder, the name might change slightly.
  6. Rename the new .zip file into an .key file
  7. Open the .key file with keynote (double-click should work)

It’s a crude work-around, but it allowed me to access a keynote file that worked well under a prior Keynote version but stopped working when the codec made problems.


  1. I agree with your concerns. The good news is that on installing the new Keynote the old version is not removed! but remains in the applications folder. If you remember to open old files with this version (and create new presentations in old Keynote) you will avoid many problems.

  2. Lifesaving comment, thanks very much – worked perfectly. Be sure to save your old .mov (QT) files to convert outside Keynote then reimport. Flawless solution!

  3. Thank you, and yup, get them out, convert them into a different format, and re-import them. And it’s a shame Apple did not solve this better (do they use their own products — and the products of their products — long term, I mean?).

  4. When converting the slideshow to movie the pace changed, quickened so the background soundtrack no longer aligned with the slides. How do I slow/control the pace of the movie?

  5. Good question, I don’t know. I would assume that a movie editing program would provide some of the needed functionality, but I was never in a situation where I had to find out how this works.

  6. Do you have any advice for a keynote file on the ipad that wont stop updating? I cant export it or do anything with it and am quite stuck. Thank you so much!

  7. Never had that problem. If you just cannot open the file, perhaps one way is to delete it and try with another file (might be some issues with fonts, videos, etc. — you can convert videos to work on iOS devices, on the Mac under Keynote Preferences, General, there’s a tick box for adding videos and converting them). If the whole app cannot be used, perhaps uninstalling (deleting) the whole app and reinstalling would work. If the app itself wants to do some updating, perhaps cutting the Internet connection might work (for the moment). If you desperately need to get access to the file and it’s only in the app, and exporting doesn’t work, perhaps synching the device and trying to access the file on the Mac itself might work. But honestly, I wouldn’t bet on any of these ideas. Remote diagnostic is hard at best and I cannot see your device.

  8. Great. It works. It solved a serious problem with a presentation written in Keynote ’09 version that was crushing in the 2015 keynote version (in addition Keynote ’09 was not opened when I reinstalled from the original CD). Thank you so much!

  9. Thank you for the feedback and glad to hear that it worked for you too. 🙂

  10. Still working in 2019 …. thank you so much; very easy fix.

    Unfortunately the problem video was a .flv and I cannot get it to convert even outside of keynote.
    But I cannot believe how easy the fix was for a presentation the I was not looking forward to recreating from scratch.

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  1. Using Videos in Presentations | ORGANIZING CREATIVITY
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