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In PowerPoint the master slides have inheritance, so you can set common elements on all the master slides easily. I don't see anyway to do this in Keynote. For example, if I want to set the background image on all the master slides then I need to edit the background image on each master slide.

How to set the background image the same on all master slides without editing each master slide individually?

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Create a slide with the background you want, then copy that background. Go the master slides section, click on the master slide you are using, and paste the background onto the master slide. All your slides (that use that master slide) will have the same background.

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Good alternative! – Jim McKeeth Oct 11 '12 at 18:27
How do you copy a slide background? – JoshL Sep 18 '14 at 0:04
You can copy a background by taking a screenshot. First take a blank slide, design it like a background, go fullscreen/play the slide and take the screenshot (select it by command+shift+4). I know its a pain but it works! – Rahul Desai Feb 5 at 6:02
up vote 5 down vote accepted

It appears the correct answer is I cannot do this unfortunately.

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That is right. It is a very annoying gap in Keynote. – user60116 Oct 23 '13 at 4:59

No, unfortunately there's no way to do such a thing (at least to my knowledge).

However, a quite effective workaround is to select all the items you want to apply to other master slides, by clicking all the items with or down, then copy them (⌘C) and paste to all other master slides. Luckily, Keynote doesn't move pasted items when pasting on another slide (as opposed to what it does when pasting the same item on the same slide).

Repetitive movement FTW:

  1. Click on the master slide that you just edited.
  2. Hit .
  3. Hit ⌘V.
  4. Loop.

Kind of ridiculous, but you can actually do it pretty fast ;)

(yes, it should be possible to automate this, but I don't feel like it's a common enough use-case to spend time writing an AppleScript)

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I was considering doing an AppleScript. I create a lot of Keynote presentations and it always seems like I am needing to tweak a characteristic on the entire presentation. BTW, this doesn't seem to work for the Background image from the appearance. If I was just pasting an image on each slide it would work though. – Jim McKeeth Nov 25 '11 at 23:33
I'd love to see such an AppleScript. As a teacher, I'm forever going through last year's slides and updating the master slides to have elements that mention this year's version. It would be WONDERFUL to automate that somehow. (But, my AppleScript skills are mostly of the cut-n-paste-n-tweak variety). Bring on the scripts, please! – Bill Nace Nov 26 '11 at 1:56
@JimMcKeeth ah, good point, the background image won't be copied, along with all slide-dependent options (such as transition). Can't think of anything here. – MattiSG Nov 26 '11 at 9:52

Drag down the handle at the top of the slide sidebar to reveal the master slides:

enter image description here

From there it works the same as in PowerPoint.

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Right, but in Powerpoint I can edit the root Master Slide and the changes are applied to all the other Master Slides. If I have 10 Master Slides, how do I change the background on all 10 without editing each master slide? – Jim McKeeth Nov 25 '11 at 19:39
AFAIK there isn't a way to do this directly. You'll have to change the background on each master slide individually. – patrix Nov 25 '11 at 21:27

The latest version of Keynote does remember your gradient settings when setting the background on a master slide; so this makes it relatively painless to apply the same background to all the other slides.

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Yes you an do it. Very simple, select all the slides you want to change (shift click & highlight them) Open inspector, slide tab, appearance , background and change the background. There is a drop down where you can change the colour, gradient, image etc.

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This changes the presentation slides, not the master slides. You can only select one master slide at a time. – vy32 Nov 7 '15 at 0:45

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