Prezi Style PowerPoint

Prezi is an alternative to PowerPoint and has achieved some impact as a presentation tool. For some applications, zooming around a “map” of concepts, categories or ideas is an engaging method of presentation.

My brief experience with Prezi was disappointing: Prezi has no drawing tools and no animation beyond pan/zoom and fade in (see here for other shortcomings.)  Prezi seems to be a one-trick pony (see this post for more on this view).

Of course, you can make bad presentations in Prezi just as easily as you can in PowerPoint.

Can you incorporate Prezi style pan and zoom transitions in PowerPoint? The answer is yes but it’s a little tricky. You can read this post and decide for yourself whether it’s worth the effort.

Here’s the basic idea. Prezi manipulates the point of view of the audience, moving a “camera” around a “canvas” (a diagram or map), focusing on particular elements. In PowerPoint, the Prezi effect can be approximated by manipulating the canvas – moving, rotating and zooming the canvas within the visible frame formed by the slide outline.

Here’s a PowerPoint sequence that demonstrates the technique:

The canvas, containing three objects, is displayed in Scene 1 followed by transitions to three additional scenes. Each scene positions the canvas in the frame (slide outline) so that the desired result is achieved. Here’s a diagram (the “frame”or slide outline is a red-outlined rectangle the same size as a slide):

You can see that in Scene 2, for example, the canvas is enlarged and shifted so that the blue circle is centered in the slide outline.

Once the scenes have been built, you can create the three transitions between scenes. (This is a technique I use a lot for animations: make the starting picture and the ending picture and then devise the transition between the two.)

Here’s how you can create the scenes:

  • Create Scene 1. For the canvas, I used a gray gradient filled rectangle the same size as the slide and grouped it with three objects: a blue circle, a smaller red circle and a tilted green square.

  • If you have rotated objects like the green square on your canvas, make a note of the amount of rotation (+15 degrees in this case).
  • The red outline identifies the slide boundary and delineates the part of the canvas that will appear in Slide Show mode. This will help when positioning the canvas for the subsequent scenes (keep the red rectangle in Front).
  • To create Scene 2, duplicate Scene 1. Keeping the red rectangle fixed, move the duplicated canvas so that the blue circle is centered in the red slide outline. Re-size the canvas object by 199% (more about this later). Use Format Shape/Size to resize the canvas; set Lock Aspect Ratio and change the Scale Width to the appropriate percentage. Make a note of the percentage.
  • The red rectangle now outlines the part of the canvas that will actually show on the screen in Slide Show mode:

  •  Now create the remaining scenes using the same methods. For the remaining scenes, the canvas is not enlarged. Scene 4 features a rotation to “square up” the square – 15 degrees (remember?).

Now that the scenes are completed, build the transitions between the scenes.

  • Build the transitions using separate slides. Using a separate slide for each transition isolates the transition animations and simplifies adding other animations to each scene, if needed.
  • Now build the transition between scenes 1 and 2. First, duplicate scene 1; this will be the basis for the transition 1 slide.
  • A Grow animation and a simultaneous motion path will be added to the canvas on the transition slide. The Grow is straightforward, the motion path is a little tricky; the end point location (target) needs to be established.
  • To establish the “target” for the motion path, Copy the contents of Scene 2 and Paste on the Transition 1 slide. Group the pasted items and set to No Fill and black outlines. This is what the transition 1 slide should look like:

  • Now, draw lines connecting the midpoints of each side of the rectangle. With some care, the endpoints of the lines will snap to the midpoints (a green endpoint indicates this has happened). Here’s what the slide looks like now:

  • The intersection of the two lines is the target endpoint for the animation.

This is similar to using Drawing Guides to help locate an endpoint; however, sometimes you need Guides outside of the slide boundary and PowerPoint doesn’t support that

  • Now add a Line motion path to the canvas. Position the end point of the motion path carefully at the intersection of the two crossed lines in the target. This may require zooming in to get the endpoint properly positioned. Here’s the result with the motion path:

  • Note that the start point of the motion path is automatically positioned at the center of the canvas.
  • Add the zoom (Grow/Shrink 199%) effect to the canvas With the motion path. Here’s what the animation looks like:

To change the size for the Grow/Shrink effect, click on the effect in the Animation Pane and select Effect Options.  Click on the down arrow on the Size field and change the value in the Custom box. For reasons known only to the PowerPoint creators, you must hit Return in the Custom box for the new size to “take.”

  • Test the animation: in Slide Show mode, click through Scene 1, the transition slide and Scene 2. If there is a noticeable jump between the transition slide and Scene 2, you probably need to refine the endpoint of the motion path.
  • You can adjust the animation parameters (timing, etc.) of the two effects to your liking. I unchecked the Smooth End box for the motion path; you may want to adjust the overall or relative timing of the two effects to your taste.
  • Repeat the process for the remaining scenes. the transition to scene 3 is just a pan (motion path) and the transition to scene 4 includes a Spin/Counterclockwise 15 degrees.
  • You can experiment with the timing of the animations and the “shape” of the motion path to get the effects you want.
  • Strictly speaking, the separate transition slides are not necessary.  However, I think they keep the work organized. Also, when a Grow (zoom in)  animation is used, the poor rendering of the result is immediately replaced by the scene slide.

For early versions of PowerPoint, the size of the enlarged canvas is important: motion paths fail for “large” objects. In particular, objects that are twice the size of the slide or larger are truncated when moved.

To clean up a transition slide. remove the target object (black outline above) and make the slide Transition automatic. Specifically, on the Transitions ribbon, set the Advance Slide/After 00:00:00 check box. This will run the animation steps in sequence (regardless of any Start on Click settings) and advance to the next slide immediately after the animations.

Is all this worth it? Hard to say, but at least you can add Prezi-like effects to your presentations and still use other PowerPoint features like additional animation on the slides.

Another project using these techniques is documented in “More Prezi.”

If you want a free Powerpoint “source” file that will help with the details of this project, use the link below, click on the icon and select download.

Powerpointy blog – prezi style

If you have problems, complaints or thank-yous, add a comment below. You might “like” the post or follow this blog, too.

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11 Responses to “Prezi Style PowerPoint”


  1. 1 Diana October 6, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    another great tutorial, thanks! i had a breakthrough when i read this! 🙂

  2. 2 Chris November 6, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I am confused about the step with apply motion path right?

    • 3 pptcrafter November 6, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      Select the “canvas,” go to the Custom Animation pane, select Motion Path and the select Right. This will create a horizontal straight motion path to the right (i.e., the object will move straight right). Select the Motion Path (the dotted arrow), click on the red end, and drag it to the target.
      Hope this helps.

  3. 4 Chris November 7, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Sorry, I requested the powerpoint file, but I need it desperately as this if for school

  4. 5 Will S January 20, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    This is very hard to follow. I don’t really understand how to even start. I have a scene, but then to “duplicate it” and “resize it to 199%” I really don’t understand. I can duplicate the slide, but how do I resize it to 199%?

    • 6 pptcrafter January 21, 2014 at 10:12 am

      Sorry – this is a difficult technique.
      I did not mean to say to resize the slide. You should group the objects in the scene including the background and resize this group. It will be larger than the “slide.”
      I hope this helps.

  5. 7 Kim January 8, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    Hard to following the step. Maybe share your ppt will be much simpler than this.


  1. 1 Making Screenshots Work in PowerPoint | powerpointy Trackback on October 23, 2013 at 9:51 am
  2. 2 More Prezi-style PowerPoint | powerpointy Trackback on August 7, 2014 at 2:20 pm
  3. 3 PowerPoint Animated Infographics – Timelines | powerpointy Trackback on January 27, 2016 at 11:03 am
  4. 4 Elementary! – Magnifying Glass Effects | powerpointy Trackback on July 18, 2016 at 10:42 am

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