Prezi Style PowerPoint

Prezi has been touted as the “PowerPoint killer” and has engendered commentary ranging from debates on the value of “visuals” and animation (here) to critiques of the software itself.

My brief experience with Prezi as a tool for the presentation designer has been disappointing: Prezi has no drawing tools and no animation beyond pan/zoom and fade in. And, in my experience, Prezi fails to convert PowerPoint objects correctly. (See here for other shortcomings.)  Prezi is a one-trick pony (see this post for more on this view).

I won’t add further to the debate on Prezi as a presentation medium except to note that you can make bad presentations in Prezi just as easily as you can in PowerPoint.

So, can you continue to use PowerPoint as a tool and incorporate Prezi style pan and zoom? It is possible for the experienced PowerPointer to create these effects but, because of a long-standing PowerPoint bug, there may be limitations.

Here’s the basic idea. Prezi manipulates a “camera” representing the point of view of the audience, moving the camera around the “canvas”, zooming in or out and rotating. PowerPoint has a fixed camera viewpoint but the Prezi effect can be approximated by manipulating the canvas and the objects on it – moving, rotating and zooming relative to the fixed viewpoint (just like Einstein says).

Here’s a video of a simple PowerPoint sequence that demonstrates the technique:

The canvas, containing three objects, is displayed followed by “pans” (including a zoom and a rotation) to each of  three scenes corresponding to the three objects . Each scene is an enlargement of the canvas positioned so that the appropriate object appears in the center of the slide.

To create the sequence, make a slide for each scene, then build the slides that transition (pan and zoom) between scenes. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Create 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. I used 16×9 aspect ratio but that’s not required.


  • Because of the PowerPoint bug mentioned above, the size of the canvas is important. PowerPoint motion paths FAIL  for “large” objects; in particular, objects that are twice the size of the slide or larger are truncated when moved. So, since we plan to use motion paths to “pan,” we don’t want a scene at any point to be larger than twice the canvas size. More about this later.

Microsoft never fixes these things. This bug has probably existed for ten years and is well-known.

A reader informs me (May 2016) that this bug has been fixed in PowerPoint 2016. About time.

  • The gradient-filled background on the canvas is not strictly necessary but it adds to the motion effect.
  • 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).
  • I also added a separate slide-sized rectangle, unfilled with a red outline. This identifies the slide boundary and delineates the part that will appear in Slide Show mode. This will help when positioning the canvas for the subsequent scenes (keep the red rectangle in Front).
  • Scene 1 is centered on the blue circle and zoomed in. To create scene 1, duplicate the canvas. Keeping the red rectangle fixed, center the new scene on the blue circle and re-size by 199%.
  • The 199% resize value assures that motion paths applied to the canvas for the next scene will not fail.

You may not be restricted to 199%, depending on your version of PowerPoint.

  • The red rectangle now outlines the part of the canvas (scene 1) that will actually show on the screen in Slide Show mode:

scene 2

  •  Now create the remaining scenes:

correction 1

  • Now build the transition between scenes 1 and 2. First, duplicate scene 1; this will be the transition slide – implementing the pan/zoom between scenes 1 and 2.
  • Next, on scene 2, add lines/connectors (blue in this example) between the midpoints of each side of the canvas. This locates the center of the canvas in scene 2 and will be the target for the transition motion path.

correction 2

  • Make sure that the endpoints “snap” to the midpoints of the sides; the endpoints will turn red when they are properly positioned.
  • You can use Drawing Guides to indicate the location of the center; however, PowerPoint does not like Drawing Guides outside the slide boundaries and that may happen in some applications of this technique (thanks again, PowerPoint designers).
  • Now copy the blue target lines to the transition slide.

transition slide

  • Select the canvas and apply Motion Path/Right in the animation pane. Then move the motion path endpoint to the intersection of the blue lines.  Zoom in and use the Alt key to precisely position the endpoint. Here’s the result with the motion path:

motion path

  • Note that selecting Motion Path/Right causes the start point of the motion path to be 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 pane looks like:


  • To change the size for the Grow/Shrink effect, 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.”  No comment.
  • 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.

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. Here’s a more elaborate example (with different timing and motion paths along with animation and sound effects) based on the same sequence:

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

If you want copies of the PowerPoint files discussed in this post, use the form below to ask for the “Prezi Style PowerPoint” files.


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.

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