An Animation for Success: Sinking the Putt


Here’s a widely understood metaphor for success:

The “secret” to this animation involves dropping the ball into the hole.

The green is in two parts, the foreground and the background; the foreground is In Front of the background. The hole is at the boundary of the two parts. Here’s a sketch:


The foreground shape is a Rectangle; I Subtracted (a Merge Shapes option) an Oval to get the cutout for the hole. The background is similar; I Edited Points to get the curve on the top. Two Ovals representing the cup are In Back of the background shape.

The ball must start In Front of the foreground shape and move (with a Shrink) to the edge of the cup but it must fall In Back of the foreground. A single object can’t be both In Front and In Back of another object so the ball object must be replaced with another ball before it drops. Another sketch:


So, after the “front” ball reaches the edge of the hole, it Disappears and the “back” ball Appears before dropping behind the foreground. Here are some details:

  • The front ball is a 0.6 in diameter circle. I drew a “target” ball (0.3 in diameter) at the edge of the hole and set Drawing Guides at the center of the target ball. I drew the motion path (a Custom Path) so that the end point is at the intersection of the target drawing guides. Faithful readers will recognize this technique.

Later versions of PowerPoint display a ghostly image of the object when motion paths are drawn. This is meant to be helpful in constructing the motion path by indicating the location of the object as the path is drawn. In simple cases this is useful but I find that the motion path endpoint can be set more accurately using the “target” drawing guides.

Also, the “ghost” does not take into account other animations (e.g., Grow/Shrink or Spin) that occur With the motion path.  So, when other animations are involved, the ghost image of the original object is not very helpful.

  • I added a 50% Grow/Shrink With the motion path.
  • To make the putt more dramatic, the motion path has a double curve:


  • Also, I used the “Smooth End” option to make the ball  slow down and come to a dramatic pause on the edge of the cup:


  • The original ball Disappears and a second smaller ball Appears and drops into the cup.
  • The rest of the slide is made of objects layered as indicated in this sketch:


This simple, “flat” style is better than a more realistic rendering – it’s cleaner and less distracting. It’s also easier (and trendy). I used several clip art examples from the web for inspiration.

But what about the sound effect??? This is the first time I have used sound in these posts (if you didn’t hear the sound in the video above, you may have your speaker muted) and I don’t think I can get away without some comments on sounds.

In the first place, I am not convinced that sound effects are appropriate in the typical stand-up conference room presentation.  They can easily be distracting and off-putting; especially if they are over-used or used inappropriately. In larger venues, sound from your presenting device/laptop may not be supported. As with many PowerPoint features, some discretion is called for.

On the other hand, sound is certainly useful for web videos and similar applications; narrations and music (as well as sound effects) can be quite effective.

Here’s how the ball drop sound effect is done:

  • This particular sound effect is free from There dozens of sites that can provide a bewildering array of sound effects, not all free but not expensive. A favorite of mine is
  • Find out what audio formats are supported by PowerPoint here.
  • After you’ve downloaded the clip, use Insert/Audio/Audio on my PC to insert the audio clip. A speaker icon/image will appear on your slide along with a small player bar.
  • The Audio Tools/Playback tab will appear. Under Start, select Automatically; this option places the audio clip on the Animation pane so that it can be synchronized with the animation.

Apparently, the PowerPoint designers thought the primary use of audio would be that the presenter/viewer would manually click on the speaker icon to hear the audio (I’ve never used sound this way). So, when you select Start/On Click (the default), that’s the way it works. The clip will appear in the Animation Pane but will run only when the icon (the “trigger”) is clicked.

By the way, the Format option under Audio Tools simply provides the usual picture tools  applied to the icon; it has nothing to do with the audio.

  • You can select an option so that the speaker icon does not appear during slide show mode; I usually just move it off the visible slide space.
  • I used the Trim Audio to shorten the clip – the ball rattled around too long in the original clip, I thought. Trimming was surprisingly straightforward.
  • You can apply many of the usual animation options to an audio clip in the Animation Pane. Unfortunately, PowerPoint animation does not recognize the duration of the clip; it treats it as an instantaneous event. This means that synchronizing audio with animation effects may require some trial and error.
  • I positioned the clip to occur With the final ball drop; here’s the final animation pane (annotated):


As usual, use the form below to request a free copy of the PowerPoint file for this project. If you don’t receive a response in a few days, you may have made an error in your email address.

PowerPoint Secrets: My Tools

tools bannerAs a result of years working with PowerPoint, I have some favorite tools and methods that may be useful to you, too.

In versions of PowerPoint that implement the “ribbon,” a “quick access toolbar” is also provided; this remains on the screen regardless of which “tab” is active. The value of this is that you can select a set of commands that is always available, always in the same position, regardless of PowerPoint’s muddling around switching tabs trying to guess what you want to do next.

You can select commands using the pull-down at the right side of the toolbar and clicking on More Commands.

What you select for your toolbar depends on your habits and what you do with PowerPoint. In this post, I’ll tell you what’s on my toolbar and why; you can go from there.

(By the way, my choices are partly determined by the fact that I don’t have the memory or the coordination to make keyboard shortcuts work. Besides, with PowerPoint, my hand is almost always on the mouse.)

So, here’s the list:

  • Undo, Redo. Obvious unless you never make mistakes. Undo is probably already on the toolbar.
  • Copy, Paste. Again, obvious. These tools are on a couple of the tabs but not in the same location on each tab. I don’t seem to use Cut that much but you may want it on the toolbar.

By the way, why doesn’t PowerPoint have a delete tool?? I think there used to be an “Erase” but I can’t find it now.

  • Group, Ungroup, Regroup. These seem to be essential for the kind of work I do which involves a lot of drawing. Leaving the components that make up an object ungrouped is asking for trouble. Also, I tend to use groups of groups and, given the way PowerPoint grouping works, I often have to ungroup to edit a component.
  • Bring to Front, Send to Back. I use these to manage the layering of objects on the slide. If the layering is the least bit complicated, I use the Select Pane (see below).
  • Duplicate. For consistency and appearance, I create a lot of similar objects. Duplicating an object to help create a similar object seems natural. Also, using duplicate several times can create a series of objects with equal spacing (see this post for more).
  • Duplicate Slide.  When I working on a complicated slide, I often duplicate a version of the slide as a backup; that is, if I screw up the next step I can always go back.
  • Format Painter. Again, this useful in creating similar objects.

There appears to be space for about 14 icons in the “quick access toolbar.” I have suggested 12 above so you can add a couple more. Or you can just ignore my suggestions.

PowerPoint also provides a number of persistent “panes;” these are toolsets that, once evoked, stay available on the desk top.

I usually use two monitors: the Normal view is on one and the other is used for the “panes” below. This is not quite as convenient on a single monitor.

  • Format… pane.  This pane collects in one place all the tools used for fills/outlines, object and text effects, size/rotation, etc. Having the pane open avoids some of the clicks and scans it takes to find these functions in the ribbon tabs. You can evoke this pane by right-clicking on an object and selecting Format… or by clicking on the Drawing Tools tab. The pane will change based on the type of object selected. When a object includes text, be careful that you pick the appropriate toolset (Shape Options or Text Options).
  • Selection and Visibility pane. I lauded the virtues of this pane in a previous post. Briefly, it lets you control the layering and grouping of objects on a slide directly. You can also name objects (!) and make them disappear temporarily so you can work efficiently on complex slides.
  • Animation pane. Set effect parameters, sequence, timing, overlaps, etc. using this pane. Indispensable except for all but the simplest animations.

I usually have an Explorer window open on the second monitor, too. Did you know you can drag images directly from the Explorer window onto your slide? Fascinating.

Storms and Swarms – Part 3: Word Swarms



This is the third in a series of posts about “storms and swarms.”  These are animated effects that generally affect the entire slide space, involve a fairly large number of objects and exhibit a certain “randomness.” A single visual metaphor (e.g., rain or attack) is usually the goal of the effect. The first post used a “rain” effect to suggest the growth in the use of wireless devices. The second post demonstrated a couple of “attack” effects. This post will show you a “word swarm.”

My posts on word clouds (here and here) have been pretty popular. These examples use an array of words and a figure to suggest a prospect’s worry  or concern; this post uses an animated word “swarm” with a similar intention. Here’s the animation:

The animation of the individual words is more complicated that the previous swarm examples. It involves two Zooms, a Spin and a Dissolve. Here’s a single word:

Here’s the animation pane for the single word with some notes:

swrm 7


The Entry and Exit Zooms cause the word to appear to fly out of the slide; there is a Dissolve near the end of the Exit Zoom. A 30 degree Spin is simultaneous with the other effects.

You can apply the animation to the other words by using the Animation Painter. To achieve the appearance of randomness, I adjusted the position of the words on the screen, varied the start times and overlaps (the total duration is the same for each word) and changed the spin to Clockwise for about half the words. As I have noted before in this series, I don’t know any easy way to do this. I just made the adjustments one-by-one until it looked right.

Here is the layout and (part of) the Animation Pane:

swrm 8


If you want a free copy of a PowerPoint file containing these examples, use the form below:

Storms and Swarms – Part 2: Attack!


This is the second in series about “storm and swarm” animations. The first post described a “rain” effect to suggest the growth in wireless devices. That effect uses vertical motion, top to bottom. Horizontal motion can also be used as in this example suggesting hospital security threats:

The building is a simple combination of Rectangles and a projectile is a Union of a Rectangle and an Oval.

The projectiles are placed off the right (left) edge and Fly Out/To Left (To Right) animations are used; this is simpler than using motion paths:

swrm hosp 1

The animation timing is “random;” as I noted in the first post in this series, creating randomness is a challenge. The approach is basically to fiddle with the start times until you get the effect you want. In this case, the durations are all the same:

swrm hosp 2

You can also create effects where the motion appears to come out of the slide, or into it. Here’s an example that’s another kind of attack:

The UFOs are a couple of Ovals; the skyline is a series of Rectangles and Pentagons.

The UFO animation is a Basic Zoom/In To Screen Bottom with the starting positions off the top edge of the slide space. The “In” specifies that the observer moves in (the object gets larger). I also added two instances of the Teeter effect With the zoom to add to the flying saucer effect.

The zoom effects (PowerPoint 2010) are fairly bewildering. The Basic (?) Zoom has 16 variations, 4 of which are identical to the separate Zoom effect. You can, of course, create virtually any zooming effect you want by combining Grow/Shrink with motions.

Here’s the layout and animation pane for the UFO swarm:

ufo swarmIn this case, the sequence is fairly regular so it’s easier than the other swarms. Again, each UFO gets a zoom with two Teeters simultaneous with the zoom.

The next post in this series will create a word swarm.

You can request a free copy of a PowerPoint file containing these animations by using the form below. Please take care with entering your email address; if it fails, you won’t get your file. In fact, if you don’t get your file within a few days, try again.

Storms and Swarms – Part 1: It’s Raining!!

storm banner

I was working with a client on a video to explain the growth and importance of wireless devices in healthcare. He said he wanted to show it “raining iPads.” This is the “device rain” segment I created:

Wait a minute, you say? A video? Isn’t this a PowerPoint blog?

Of course, what I’m describing is a video created with PowerPoint. This is a much under-utilized way to create corporate/sales/web videos without the expense of hiring a gang of experts. I will revisit this topic.

The “device rain” is an example of the kind of animation I call “storms and swarms.” These generally affect the entire slide space, involve a fairly large number of objects and exhibit a certain “randomness.” A single visual metaphor (e.g., rain) is usually the goal of the effect.

I took a simple approach to this “device rain” effect; I created a Group of device images (pngs with transparent backgrounds):swrm 1

I duplicated the group twice, positioned the three copies above the slide space, and applied a Down motion path to each instance (after the text animation).  I overlapped the motion paths to get a mix of devices; here’s the animation pane:

swrm 2

This is a pretty cheap solution, I admit. It worked for the video because the “scene” lasted only a few seconds and it didn’t take too long to produce.

But why not take the obvious approach and animate each device separately?

In the interest of better PowerPoint and for all my fans out there, I tried that and got this result:

Here’s the animation pane for this version:

swrm 3And here are the motion paths:

swrm 4

Note that I cheated a little by repeating each path to get a longer sequence. Even so, this is pretty complicated.

It’s fairly easy to apply the animation to the 26 images; the difficulty is in the tedious process of setting the starting location, path length and effect duration for each object to get a random-appearing swarm. In fact, simulating randomness is the primary challenge for the “rain” effect. I’m not sure this approach is worth the trouble and time.

However, we can improve the first simple approach by observing that, in real life, objects falling close to you will appear bigger and faster moving than those farther away. To simulate this, create two groups, one for the foreground and one for the background:

swrm 5

swrm 6

Use animation like the first variation, remembering to make the foreground objects (larger) move faster than the background. Here’s what this looks like:

Attentive readers will notice a couple of other things about this version:

  • The text is animated word by word. Text animation is an important technique for videos; see this post on “kinetic typography” for more examples.
  • I used the techniques outlined in this post to create two continuous streams (background and foreground); for a standup presentation this would allow the swarm effect to continue until you click to the next slide .

The next post in this series will show you how to build other types of swarms.

As usual, a free PowerPoint file containing these examples is available; use the form below to request a copy. Be careful in providing your email address – if it’s wrong, you won’t get your file.

Animated Icons: Tools

bannerThis post is one of a series on creating custom icons and adding impact with animation. Creating your own icons lets you match your brand/color scheme and get precisely the image you need. You can also edit and re-use your icons without special software.

Tool icons can represent software/apps, support or maintenance and sometimes act as a visual metaphor.


The hammer icon, like the other icons in this post, is created using standard PowerPoint shapes and Group/Merge operations. Here are the steps:

tools1The spool-shaped part of the hammer head is made by Subtracting two flattened Ovals from a Rectangle (see Drawing Tools/Merge Shapes). Subtracting a Rectangle from a Moon shape yields the claw part. The handle is made from a Chord shape, a Rectangle and a Rounded Rectangle. The parts are completed using the Union operation. The fill colors are selected from the template for this project; presumably, these would be consistent with the client’s branding.

Other examples of this technique are shown in my Slideshare post. This earlier blog series provides examples of cutting tools.

The layout for the hammer animation looks like this:

tools2Here are the steps:

  • To establish the pivot point for a Spin animation, add the circle as shown (temporarily red) and group it with the hammer object.
  • Duplicate the hammer/circle object and rotate it 90 degrees counterclockwise. This (shown in red outline) provides a reference for positioning the nail and block.
  • Position the block under the reference hammer head; add the nail as shown.
  • Delete the reference hammer object and set the circle to No Outline.

Here’s the animation pane:


The hammer stroke is a 90 degree counterclockwise Spin. Near the end of the stroke, a Down motion path moves the nail, followed by a rebound of the hammer (another Spin).

The duration of the nail motion is very short (0.05 seconds). Timing values less than 0.1 second cannot be set directly in the animation pane; you must use the Effect Options pane.

Generally, some experimentation with timing and other factors is needed when designing this kind of animation. Here’s my result:


Here’s how the wrench is constructed:tools4


  • Union of an Arc and an Oval with a Rounded Rectangle Subtracted forms the wrench “head.”
  • The rest of the wrench is constructed with a Rectangle and a couple of Triangles. This is Unioned with the two heads, rotated.
  • The indentation in the handle is represented by a Rounded Rectangle; this is Grouped (not Unioned) with the rest of the wrench since it is a different color.
  • The nut and bolt are a concentric Oval and Hexagon. The standard Hexagon is not symmetric; you may have to fiddle with it to get to look like a standard bolt.
  • The nut/bolt is is rotated to match the jaw of the wrench.
  • Fills are added as shown.

Here is the animation set-up:



A circle (red) is grouped with the wrench group to establish its center of rotation (just inside the upper jaw. The animation consists of a a motion path to position the wrench followed by 60 degree rotations of the wrench and the nut/bolt. Here’s what it looks like:

Wire Cutter

Here’s how (half of) the wire cutter tool is constructed:tools6

The curved piece of the handle is a Wave shape; the blade is a Pie shape.

To complete the tool, add a circle to the half to establish the pivot point; group the result. Duplicate and Rotate/Flip Horizontal the copy to form the second half. Then align the two parts and Rotate each to open the tool.  Here’s the process:tools7

The animation will cut a piece of “wire;” it’s made of two concentric filled circles, with 3d depth and rotation added:



Here’s the animation set up:tools9

Two copies of the “wire” are used; one behind the cutter blade and one in front. The cutting action uses Spin to move the two parts of the cutter. A motion path and spin are applied to the front wire object after the cut. Here’s what it looks like:

Screw Driver

I plan to suggest the twisting motion of a screwdriver by quickly alternating between two views; here’s how the two views are constructed:tools10

I’ll need a screw; here’s how it is constructed:


The Union of a series of triangles is used to Subtract from the screw to suggest threads.

Next, I grouped each view of the screwdriver with the screw:tools12

The illusion of the screwdriver twisting is created by alternating quickly between these two (superimposed) images; here’s the effect:

Here’s the animation pane; one image Appears and the other Disappears every 0.2 seconds:tools13

If you would like to build these or similar animations, use the form below to request a free copy of the PowerPoint file for this post:

Crawls, Tickers and Film Strips

A “crawl” or “ticker” is a moving line of text, often seen at the bottom of the screen during a TV news or sports presentation. In a PowerPoint presentation, a crawl can be used to introduce a quote or fact in an attention-grabbing way. A “filmstrip” of images can be displayed similarly. Also, a moving background using this technique can impart a sense of motion.

Warning: This technique, like other animations, will draw attention. This can be distracting rather than helpful. In fact, I have only used this in trade-show/kiosk displays and would suggest using it advisedly in typical stand-up presentations.

Here’s an example of a PowerPoint text crawl/ticker:

This is simply a text box with a motion path that moves the box from off the slide to the right to a position completely off the slide to the left. The smooth start/stop is eliminated and the duration is set to 20 seconds so that the text can be easily read. Here’s the set up (the motion path has been highlighted):


Depending on a number of factors, the animation might be jerky; if this is the case, here are some things to try to make the animation smoother:

  • Make sure “hardware graphics acceleration” (in the Slide Show tab) is enabled; this is the default for later versions of PowerPoint.
  • Slow the animation (increase duration)
  • Reduce the size of the animated object
  • Simplify the object; for example, eliminating shadow effects and gradient fills may help.
  • Convert the object to a jpg or png.
  • Use a more powerful PC/graphics card.
  • Convert the effect to a video clip (I’m planning a post on video in PowerPoint that will provide details).

Here’s an example using a “film strip” of images:

This effect uses the Repeat option so that the crawl continues (until the next slide, for example). There’s a trick to this:

  • Duplicate the original strip.
  • Position the duplicated strip end to end with the original and group the two.
  • Place the group so that the right edge is at the right edge of the slide.
  • Apply a Line motion path that ends at the right edge of the slide. Remove the smooth start/end options.
  • Select the Repeat until end of slide option. Here’s the set up:


  •  The blue rectangle represents the slide; the copy of the strip has been recolored for clarity. This video shows how this works:
  • If you want the strip to crawl onto the slide and then repeat, make a copy of the (single) strip, add a motion path so that it moves onto the slide. Then, replace it (Disappear, Appear) with the “double” version animated as above. Here’s what this looks like:
  • The three instances of the strip have been colored differently to demonstrate the animation. Here’s the animation pane:strip3

Similar techniques can be used to create the illusion of motion of a foreground object by moving a background; here’s a sketch:

The car enters the scene with a simple motion path; the background “crawls” using the techniques described here. The different rates of the background strips add a sense of depth. Here’s the animation pane:


This sketch could be improved by adding details to the buildings and animating the wheels of the vehicle (see this post for details). You might add clouds as a third layer, moving even more slowly.

If you want to try these techniques, use this form to request a free PowerPoint file containing these objects and animations:


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