Archive Page 2

Making Your Point – Pencil Sharpener Animation


Here’s a PowerPoint animation of a hand-cranked pencil sharpener:

The message here is “getting started” but it could be “make your point” or “stay sharp.”

This may be an anachronistic device for some of you but it’s a more interesting animation than the electric type. If you use an electric sharpener, a sound effect would add some interest.

As usual, I made the sharpener using an image and overlaying standard shapes. I added some highlights/shadows to the basic drawing and then added the fill colors:

pencil sharpener.png

The dotted rectangle temporarily shows the pencil location.

Here’s the animation to simulate the cranking action; the animation is purposely/temporarily slow:

The lower part of the crank Collapses upward, immediately followed by a Stretch upward of the higher part of the crank. The higher part then Collapses downward followed by the Stretch downward of the lower part. The knob tracks along using a motion path. The second animation shows the knob aligned with the crank parts. Here’s the animation pane:


The motion path has Auto-reverse set so that the knob will return to the bottom position. The duration shown includes both parts of the path.

Also, you may have noticed that I added a small gray rectangle to the knob; this hides the effect of the difference between the motion path length and the Stretch/Collapse lengths (you can see the discrepancy in the first version of the animation above).

Next, I want to repeat this sequence a few times. It’s easy enough to repeat a single effect by setting the Repeat effect option but there is no convenient way to repeat a series of effects. As a result, I had to repeatedly manually apply and align the Collapse/Stretch animations on the timeline. Here’s the animation pane (the timing is faster):


turd.pngPowerPoint animation does not providing a way to “group” a series of effects and treat the group as a single effect (so that Repeat could be applied, for example). This might make the Animation Painter more useful, too. Even primitive tools like copy and paste are not implemented for effects in the Animation Pane.

Here’s the animation with the rest of the sharpener:

Close observers will note that there is something not quite right about this animation. The knob should pass in front of the “hub” that connects the crank to the sharpener on the upstrokes and behind it on the downstrokes. Oops.

The issue is that the knob can’t be in front of the hub and, at the same time, behind it. One way to fix the problem is to remove the parts of the sharpener that cause the problem. But, passing in front and then behind the hub improves the cranking illusion.

A solution to the problem is to replace the knob at the top of the stroke with a second identical knob that can be set Back of the hub for the downstroke. I used this technique in this earlier putting animation:

Here, the front part of the green is a separate object and the ball moves in front of it until it reaches the edge of the cup where it is replaced (Appear, Disappear) with a copy of the ball that can drop behind the front part of the green. See this post for details.

Here’s an animation that replaces the knob to correct the problem:

Here’s the animation pane:


Some notes:

  • The animation of the knob for the upstrokes includes the Hide After Animation option; I could have used a Disappear effect but this simplifies things a little.
  • The two parts of the crank are animated as before on the upstroke.
  • After the upstroke the second knob Appears; remember to send the second knob Back.
  • The motion path (down) for knob2 also includes Hide After – more about this below.
  • The crank parts are animated as before for the downstroke.

Now, again, we are faced with the problem of repeating this (more complicated) animation several times. I could do it manually as before but I want to show you another technique that may be a little simpler. In particular, rather than repeat the animations, I will duplicate the objects. This requires a little work to make sure that objects disappear and appear at the right time.

Here’s an animation showing four instances of the crank action:

Here is the partial Animation Pane:


Some notes:

  • The first two instances of the crank action are shown.
  • The red text shows the changes that have been made to assure that objects disappear and appear appropriately.
  • In particular, in the first instance, Hide After Animation has been added to the down knob motion path and the Stretch/Down of the lower crank. These changes assure that these objects will not remain visible when their counterparts in the second instance appear.
  • In the second instance, Appear has been added for the knob and the lower part of the crank.
  • Subsequent instances are the same as the second.

Here’s the animation with the crank actions “stacked” in the appropriate positions with the sharpener:

I made sure that the front/back relationships are correct and removed the last two Hide After settings so that the knob/crank won’t disappear.

The pencil is made from standard shapes:


The Rounded Rectangles provide the scalloped edge at the sharpened point. A highlight (Rectangle) is added to the metal eraser collar.

Here’s the pencil animation without the sharpener:

Here are some notes:

  • The unsharpened version of the pencil Fades in and moves into the sharpener.
  • After the sharpening action, the unsharpened version is replaced by the sharpened pencil (Disappear/Appear). The sharpened pencil moves left out of the sharpener. You could end the animation here.
  • A second motion path moves the pencil to the left and down. Simultaneously, a Spin and a Grow are applied.
  • The Grown pencil is replaced with a better image (see below).
  • The “spark” indicating the sharpness of the pencil is a 4-Point Star. It enters via a Basic Zoom/In and then Disappears.


The Grow animation results in a poorly rendered image (except for very small enlargements). Unfortunately, this will require replacing (Disappear/Appear) the “grown” image with a sharper version of the same size in the animation. The better  version usually be created by re-sizing the original image.

It’s sometimes difficult to position an object like the large pencil since its desired position results from on screen animations (motion paths). The size and orientation can be determined from the animations and, in some cases, you can set up drawing guides using the motion path end point to center the pencil. However. this won’t work when the object’s center is off the slide.


When you move a drawing guide off the slide, PowerPoint deletes the drawing guide. This obviously makes it impossible to use drawing guides off the slide. If you want to delete a drawing guide, right-click and select the option.

Here’s a trick to help position the big pencil. In slide show mode, run the animation until the object reaches the desired position (you may need to temporarily insert a click. Then take a screen shot, and paste it over the slide (you may have to crop and/or resize the screen shot image)  Now you can use the screenshot as a guide to position the big pencil. Here’s what this looks like (I have changed the screenshot to grayscale for clarity):


If you want to see more details, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a free “source” PowerPoint file containing this project:

Powerpointy blog – Making Your Point – Animated Pencil Sharpener

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. If you appreciate my efforts, liking or following this blog might be a good idea.


Prezi-style PowerPoint Updated

I have published several posts demonstrating techniques for approximating Prezi’s “pan and zoom” style in PowerPoint. The idea is to allow you to combine this engaging visual style with other PowerPoint features (e.g., animation).

This post showed you how to make a presentation that explored a simple space containing geometric objects; the technique involves making several “scenes” and creating prezi-like transitions using zoom and motion path animations to move the viewer through the space. Although this method works, it is a little tricky and I found it difficult to explain.

In PowerPoint 2016, a “Morph” transition was introduced that makes prezi-style PowerPoint much easier. Here’s a version of the presentation in the earlier post; this one is created using the Morph transition:

Here’s how I made this sequence:

  • First, I created the welcome slide; it displays the entire space that I plan to explore: a slide-size background (yellow) and three shapes (I’ll take care of the text later). I Grouped the background and shapes into a single object; I’ll call this the “space group.”
  • Next, I Duplicated the first slide to make the second slide.
  • On the second slide, I enlarged the space group by about 200% and positioned the group so that the blue circle is centered in the visible slide space (zoom in to make this easier). Here’s what the second slide looks like (I added a blue slide-sized rectangle to show the slide boundaries; you can see that only the desired part of the enlarged space group will be visible):


  • Next, I selected the Morph transition for the slide, I accepted the default timing and options. The Morph transition will create zooming and motion so that the first slide will smoothly transform into the “close-up” I created on the second slide.

NOTE: there is much more to the Morph transition, both good and evil. I will be exploring some of these traits in later posts.

  • I repeated the process of duplicating, editing and applying the transition to create slides three and four; slide four includes a rotation. Here’s what the sequence looks like (again, the blue rectangle shows the visible slide):


  • Finally, I added the text and and animations.

I was able to create this sequence in a few minutes – much less time than the original method.

A spicier example using the Morph transition can be found here  My method for animating mind maps (see post) can also be simplified using Morph.

Like all PowerPoint features, the Morph transition is not without problems.  To see one of them, let’s examine a variation of this sequence; suppose I want, not unreasonably,  to add outlines and text to the shapes in the “space:”


Here’s the first transition using Morph as before:


turdThis particular problem is not with Morph itself, but is a result of enlarging the group to create the second slide; to whit: PowerPoint’s idiotic rule that the usual tools used to resize objects do not apply to point-measured details like line width and font size. In particular, when the scene is enlarged (using the sizing handles or Format Shape/Size) the text and outlines are not enlarged.

This problem will occur with any point-measured feature including shadows, soft edges, glows and 3d parameters like bevels and depths. Why these are measured in points is an enduring mystery.

I know of three ways to fix this:

  • Do the job PowerPoint should have done; that is, change the line widths and font sizes to correspond with the enlargement. In the case of the blue circle, the enlargement is 200% so I changed the line width from 6 points to 12 and the font size from 48 to 96 points. This isn’t difficult – fractions of points work just fine.  Here’s the first transition after the point sizes were manually adjusted:
  • Another method is to convert (Copy/Paste Special) the scene to a picture (e.g., png) and enlarge it for the second slide. Even though this is easy, the issue is that PowerPoint doesn’t do a great job enlarging pictures so the result may be a little fuzzy:
  • Another method is to avoid lines and text altogether – this is the most difficult but will exercise your PowerPoint skills. The diagram below illustrates the steps to build the blue circle without lines and text.
    • The outlined circle is made with two concentric circles, one slightly larger than the other.
    • The text is converted to Freeform by Intersecting the text with a Rectangle (Intersect is a Merge Shapes option).
    • Grouping the circles with the Freeform creates an object that can be enlarged to create the desired result.


I conclude, dear reader, that Morph provides an easy way to create Prezi-like transitions in PowerPoint but also, sadly, that Morph is a little like decorating a badly constructed house: flaws may be exposed.

If you want to see more details, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a free “source” PowerPoint file containing the Prezi-style transition sequence:

Powerpointy blog – Prezi-style PowerPoint updated

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. If you appreciate my efforts, liking or following this blog might be a good idea.


PowerPoint Secrets: Shapes and More Shapes

I often draw PowerPoint objects by combining simple “shapes;” here are a few examples from earlier posts:


This post is about shapes and how to get more of them.

Standard Shapes

A library of standard built-in shapes is provided directly in PowerPoint, including the Rectangle, Oval, Triangle and so forth. Many of these shape include one or more adjustment “handles” (yellow squares) that allow certain changes to be made to the shape; here are a few examples:


Here is another selection of standard shapes that are less familiar:


The first shape is called a Sun; the second shape is a Sun after a change in the adjustment handle.  The “drum” shape is from the Flowchart group and is called a Magnetic Disc (does anybody actually use these for their intended purpose any more?). The “house” is actually intended as an Action Button; it can’t be ungrouped.

NOTE: An Action Button is intended to be used to “trigger” animations. Actually, any object can be a Trigger.

What if you need a shape that isn’t available as a standard shape? There are several solutions.


Some font sets consist partly or wholly of symbols – punctuation marks or “dingbats,” for example. A couple of these are probably already installed in your version of Office. Dingbats can be used as-is or converted to shapes. Here are two examples:


The aircraft shape is from the Wingdings font. The first version of the airplane is a text character with a red font color. You can convert text to a shape by Intersecting the character(s) with a shape (a blue rectangle above). The result (the first blue airplane) is a Freeform. The final version is the shape with a gradient fill.

NOTE: Intersect is a Merge Shapes option. To use Merge Shapes, select two or more shapes (or text boxes) and pick an option. Union, Intersect and Subtract are probably the most useful. For Subtract, the order of selection is important.

The thumbs up/like symbol is from Wingbats2. I Intersected it with a shape to create the blue Freeform. Note that the result is not an unfilled shape with an outline; the last example demonstrates a black outline and red fill.

You can find thousands of dingbat fonts on the web. Here’s an example from the Modern Icons font from


This time, I applied Text Outline, Text Fill and Italic without converting to a shape.

Smart Art

Some Smart Art objects contain shapes that are not available as standard shapes. They can be extracted from Smart art objects (Convert to Shapes) and used like standard shapes. Here are a couple of examples:


The first example shows the Upward Arrow Smart Art object and the arrow shape copied  from the converted object. The result acts like a standard shape; it even has an adjustment handle. The gear is extracted from the Gears Smart Art object; the result is a Freeform. A 3D Depth and Rotation have been applied (you can make better gears yourself and animate them – see the series starting with this post).

Drawing Freeforms

The shape option called Freeform allows you to draw an arbitrary shape “freehand” using a click and drag technique. You can find many tutorials on this process on the net so I won’t attempt another one here.

However, you may find Freeform drawing difficult. One of the reasons for this is that Snap-to-grid is not available during Freeform drawing or editing – one of those long-standing PowerPoint irritations that, I fear, will never be fixed.

NOTE: If you want to try Freeform drawing you may find it helpful to “trace” over an image of the object you want to draw; I outlined this method in an early post.

Groups and Merged Shapes

Since my readers may not be comfortable with Freeform drawing, I have avoided using  it in recent posts. A surprisingly useful number of new shapes can be created from combining standard shapes using Group or Merge Shapes. Strictly speaking, a group is not a shape; here you can see some of the differences between grouped and merged shapes:


The result of a merge is a single FreeForm while the components of a group retain their individual identity; this makes a difference for some effects. Also, If you need a shape with a “negative” space, Merge is much easier than grouping.

Here’s how to make a shield shape using the Merge technique:


Using an image as a guide, Ovals and Rectangles are arranged to create half of the shape. In this example the small red Oval is Subtracted followed by the red Rectangles. The resulting shape is Duplicated, Flipped/Horizontal and then Unioned with the other half. Component shapes must be positioned carefully to avoid unwanted lines in the result (see the jigsaw puzzle post for more on this).

Here’s another example – the beaker shape used in my post on drawing glass:


Importing Shapes

In the real world, outside of PowerPoint, shapes are a form of vector graphic. You can find and download these kind of images just as you can JPGs or PNGs.

However, Microsoft has consistently refused to directly support standard or popular vector formats in favor of a couple of proprietary (and limited) formats. But you can import popular vector graphics into PowerPoint in usable (editable) form using conversion tools available on the net.

NOTE: I learned of this process from this Spicy Presentations post (there is a lot of other interesting stuff on this site).  An update: PowerPoint 2013 no longer supports EPS and SVG graphics.

UPDATE: Beginning with PowerPoint 2016, you can insert SVG vector graphics and convert them to PowerPoint objects – more below.

I am not an expert, but it appears that the most popular formats for vector graphics are EPS and SVG. EPS is the output format for Adobe Illustrator and SVG is an international standard. Practically speaking, this means that you will find more results searching for EPS images and, to a lesser extent, SVG images, than other formats.

NOTE: The subject of this post is “shapes” that you can use to create more complex objects like “icons” or other illustrations.  Often, this requires extracting a simple shape from a complex icon or illustration. You can, of course use a downloaded icon or illustration itself for your purposes. I find, however, that you can create exactly the object you need with a consistent color and style by using shapes or by editing the converted original image.

Here’s the process:

  • Search the web for the images you  want in EPS (or SVG) format. A lot of these are available free (with certain conditions) and others are available at reasonable costs. Download the EPS/SVG files – many of these are provided as sets of images.
  • Downloads are usually compressed/zipped files – you will have to unpack the file.
  • If you are using PPT 2016 or later, you can directly insert an SVG graphic.
  • If you are using an earlier version or if you are working with an EPS file, use an online conversion site. Upload the EPS/SVG file and select EMF as the output format. I used – it’s free as long as you don’t do too many conversions in a day. Download the converted EMF file and insert it (Insert/Picture) onto a PowerPoint slide.
  • Apply Ungroup to the inserted EMF or SVG object. A message will appear, asking if you want to convert the object to “a Microsoft drawing object;” click Yes.
  • To complete the conversion and access the components of the converted object, Ungroup it (at least) once more to isolate the specific shape you need. In some cases, you will need to ungroup several times to get at the component shapes. You may get some unexpected results; see below.

Here’s an example using a set of shield shapes from EMF image is on the left – a set of shapes. The converted/ungrouped result is shown to the right.  Each shield is a separate shape; there is also an invisible background rectangle and some text. A couple of shield icons are shown, created from shapes in the set.

Here’s another set (stars) from


After ungrouping, most of the shapes are single Freeforms (like the rounded star). However, there are some exceptions. The large asterisk is two Freeforms – one of the “lobes” is a separate object, shown offset in the blue version. The small asterisk (green) is six Freeforms as is the yellow shape. The variations are a result of how the images are organized for distribution. The outline stars (red) are odd: they are not groups and they cannot be point edited.  None of the anomalies are serious since the usual effects can be applied to the shapes. I applied Fill and Shadows to the red extracted shapes.

Since complex, curving shapes are difficult to create in PowerPoint, downloading vector graphics is useful. Here are a couple of examples:


The “splat” is a Freeform; the flame icon is a group of three Freeforms. I copied the largest Freeform as a flame shape for my purposes; you could use the three shapes grouped as an icon.

Sometimes, things are a lot more complicated. Here’s an example of an EPS object converted as described above to an EMF:


Shown is the original image which has a green gradient surface and a shadow. The second version is the image converted to EMF; an ungrouped version and a red-outlined version are also shown.  A couple of things have happened:

  • The fill of the arrows in the converted image is black rather than the green gradient of the original. I think this is because the EMF format does not support the gradient style of the original – the gradient is replaced with black.
  • The edge of the arrows is a gray gradient in the original. The gradient has been replaced in the converted version by seven (!) copies of the arrow in shades of gray in an attempt to create the gradient.

You may find other issues with the EMF format that make it difficult to extract the shape you need.

While I’m at it, here’s an example of how a complete converted EPS illustration can be modified in PowerPoint:


I have deleted shapes and re-filled others in the original shark to create my “golden” version. I also enlarged the eye.

Editing Points

You can modify a shape (created by any of the techniques above) using Edit Points; this operation essentially converts the shape to a Freeform allowing you to edit it (modifying the lines and points). Here are some examples created by moving points:


A simple change may make the shape you want – otherwise you are engaged in Freeform editing which may be slightly easier than starting from scratch.




Drawing in PowerPoint: Emoji


Emoticons and emoji were invented to add emotional context to emails, texts, social media posts, etc. Initially, emoticons created from characters like ” :-)” were used to assure that emails were not misinterpreted. Later, emoji (stylized faces based on the “smiley face” and other symbols) were introduced to provide a clearer indication and a wider range of emotional clues.

I have written several posts on introducing characters and emotional context to PowerPoint presentations. I’ve shown you how to create expressions and personalities using simple cartoon-like figures. And I’ve used similar techniques based on Lego toy figures. In this post, I’ll show you how to add emotional context with emoji created with standard PowerPoint shapes.

But wait! You can find millions of emoji on the web; why would you want to create your own? There are several reasons:

  • You may not be able to find precisely what you need on the web; for example, maybe you need a sad doctor.
  • You can create a set of emoji with a consistent appearance and style.
  • Since the emoji are PowerPoint objects, you can modify them to create new versions.

Of course, these points may not be important in your application; go ahead and use web images to punch up your presentation – I won’t tell anyone.

I have used standard PowerPoint shapes, to create these objects; occasionally, I use Merge Shapes to combine standard shapes to create new ones. This method avoids drawing and editing Freeform shapes because some readers may not be comfortable with “hand drawing.”

Some emoji drawings have a dimensional look; I think this is partly because the smiley face was used as a pin-on button early in its career. This can be done in PowerPoint; here are examples comparing the flat look with the “button” look, both created in PowerPoint:


You could use 3D Bevels, Materials and Lighting to get the button look. You could also work with Gradient Fills to create shadows and highlights. However, I don’t recommend it. You will find it much simpler to stay with the flat look, especially as I will add additional features to the basic face.

turdI have written dozens of posts on 3D drawing (search this blog for “3D”) and have often complained about the inconsistencies and issues with PowerPoint 3D tools.

Here’s how the basic “happy” emoji is constructed:


The face is a circle, the eyes are Ovals. The mouth outline is a Moon shape, rotated. The teeth shape is made by applying Merge Shape/Intersect to a copy of the mouth outline and an Oval as shown. Fill and outline colors are added to create the final emoji.

Here are a few basic tips:

  • Set Grid Spacing to 1/10 (or whatever you like) and set Snap to Grid. This will help in drawing and aligning the shapes.
  • You can override the Snap when needed by holding down the Alt key.
  • Create a circle using the Oval shape and holding down the Shift key.
  • Use Drawing Guides to help align and center shapes. The Alignment tools will also help – here’s an example showing how Guides are used to center the parts of the face:


  • I aligned the eyes and Grouped them (see above); then, I centered the Group to help space the eyes.
  •  Use Rotate and Flip tools to get accurate rotations (rather than free rotating using the handle). The Moon shape is rotated 90 degrees to form the mouth.
  • I used the Eyedropper fill tool to copy the “yellow” face color from a web image.
  • For convenience, I Grouped the elements of the face to form a single object.
  • You will probably need to resize your emoji; here are some tips:
    • Check the Lock aspect ratio  for the group in the Format Shape/Size pane. This will assure that you will not distort the emoji when you resize it.
    • Be aware that elements measured in points (lines, text) do not resize along with the shapes. One way to preserve the proportions of the object is to Copy and Save Special as a picture. The PNG type is best since it does not have an opaque background. More on this here.

Here are three “happy” variations using different shapes for the features:


Version A replaces the Oval eyes with rotated Moon shapes. The mouth shape is Filled with white to provide the additional teeth. Rotated Chevron shapes form the eyes in version B and a Teardrop shape is added. In Version C, the eyes are Moons and the Moon shape forming the mouth is adjusted (flattened) using the adjustment handle.

Adding eyebrows adds expressiveness; here are some examples using the same face with different eyebrows:


The faces suggest sadness, anger, concern and another form of anger, all distinguished by differently oriented eyebrow shapes.

Here are a few more expressions using different mouth shapes:


These are some more intense versions:


The teeth shape in the second version is made by intersecting two Moon shapes. To make the eyes, group the eye and the eyebrow, duplicate and flip horizontally, align and group the two eyes.

Traditional comic artists have developed a vocabulary of symbols that you can use to intensify emotional impact:


The “steam” line is created by intersecting two Double Wave shapes. For more examples including idea light bulbs and speech balloons, see my post on character expressions.

You may want to create individual emoji characters to tell your story. One way to do this is by occupation.

Some occupations can be signaled by head gear:


The “headband” shape is made from a Rectangle and two Ovals; one Oval is Unioned with the Rectangle and the other is Subtracted. This shape is used for the police officer, the scholar and the chef along with other standard shapes as shown.

NOTE: Shapes must be sized and positioned carefully to get good results from Merge Shape operations. Use Drawing Guides and Snap to Grid to help here. Sometimes the order in which the shapes are selected before the operation is important. For example, the second object selected is Subtracted from the first.

A suggestion of clothing and “accessories” can help identify occupations:


The added parts are made from standard shapes as shown. The wrench head is made by Subtracting a rotated Hexagon from a circle. The pitchfork is made from a Block Arc and Rectangles. Notice that the farmer’s hat is behind the head.

Here are some more elaborate examples:


Rounded Rectangles form the fingers of the computer user. The teacher’s glasses are made from rotated Trapezoids and a Line. An Intersection of a Triangle and a Trapezoid form part of the collar and tie group; adding the triangle and Trapezoid complete the neck wear for the teacher and the doctor.

The doctor’s iconic stethoscope is made from Block Arcs and Rectangles. By using another face, I made the doctor worried.

These emoji are gender/ethnicity/age neutral and that’s a good thing since they have universal meanings. If you really need some diversity, hair shapes and color can help:


Use skin and hair color and/or facial hair for more variety; see this post for ideas.

Some emoji are not faces; here’s an example:


This thumbs-up/ok/like symbol is made from standard shapes as shown:

Here’s a favorite of mine:


A shape formed from the Union of two Ovals and a Block Arc is used twice in the result. The top part is a union of an Oval and a Teardrop. An Oval completes the composition.

If you want to see more details, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a free “source” PowerPoint file containing these projects:

Powerpointy Blog – Emoji

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. If you appreciate my efforts, liking or following this blog might be a good idea.

Motion Backgrounds

In this blog, I’ve used motion (animations and sometimes video) to create visual metaphors, demonstrate processes and enhance my story. This post is more about using motion as a design element in slides, Layouts and Themes.

WARNING: Motion can be exciting and attention grabbing; it can also be distracting. (See my brilliant essay on “animation for a reason” for more on this.) So, these techniques may not be appropriate for all situations. For example, they are probably not acceptable for a staid business meeting, partly because they are distracting, but also because they are “non-standard.” On the other hand, they may be useful for training and certainly for promotional videos. You decide based on your audience and situation.

There are two main sources of motion in PowerPoint: animation and inserted videos. Transitions can also simulate motion; I have used video versions of transitions as animations – see this post. This post will explore the use of video and PowerPoint animation to create motion “backgrounds.”

In a live presentation, the length of time that a slide will appear can’t be predetermined. In these cases, you will want the background motion to continue until you move to the next slide. If you are creating a video using PowerPoint, you will want the motion to continue for a particular interval. You will have to deal with these considerations whether you use animations or video.


If you search the web for “motion backgrounds” you will find hundreds of sources, many of which are “free.” (Some sites require a paid subscription to download “free” videos.) You will also find that the cost of purchasing videos is not prohibitive, at least for corporate budgets.

Abstract or “nature” videos are useful for motion backgrounds. Here’s an example of a (free) abstract video featuring a “bokeh” effect:

This is a 10 second video, designed as a loop – that is, it is intended to be seamlessly repeated. Note that the motion is largely confined to the edges of the frame allowing for text or other material to appear in the central space. Here’s a title page using the video as a background (this runs for 15 seconds):

Here are some notes:

  • I simply Inserted the video; it happened to be proportioned properly for my 16×9 (widescreen) slide layout.
  • I set Start/Automatically under Video Tools/Playback. This places the video as an event in the Animation Pane, where I set Start to After Previous. This assures that the video will start as the slide appears.
  • I also checked Loop until stopped in the Playback ribbon.
  • Even though I did not choose Start/On click, a Trigger item appears in the animation pane. I removed it (a trigger can be used to start an animation by clicking on the object).
  • Under Slide Show, I unclicked Show Media Controls; this prevents annoying playback controls from appearing during the slide show.

Now, consider a couple of problems.

First, there is a noticeable pause before the video repeats. If you can’t tolerate the pause, skip ahead to the section on animations.

turdI have tried this on a couple of PCs so I don’t think it’s a performance problem. I did a little research but found no help. If you know something about this, let me know. Otherwise, I will treat it as another PowerPoint failure.

The second issue is not obvious in the demo above. In slide show mode, even if you have not chosen Play on click and removed the Trigger item from the animation list, a click on the video (which fills the screen in this case) will restart it and have no other effect. This makes it impossible for Mr. Potsgood (the presenter) to click to the next slide!

You can fix this by creating a slide-sized Rectangle, any color, setting the transparency to 99% and placing the Rectangle over the video object. This invisible shield will prevent a click from being interpreted as a “start video” operation and allow Mr. Potsgood to get on with his presentation.

Videos can be resized, cropped and re-colored. Here’s a content slide background featuring a video element derived from the bokeh  video above:


Here’s an example of a slide layout with motion elements for the (fictional) Jetstream company:

Here’s the slide and animation pane for this example:


Some notes:

  • The shapes in the animation are made by applying Merge Shapes/Union to an Oval and a Triangle and applying a Soft Edge to the result.
  • The shapes are placed off the slide, two at the left and two at the right.
  • The animation is Fly In; the direction is selected so that the object will fly over the black Rectangle at the bottom of the slide.
  • Each animation is set with Repeat Until end of slide; the durations and start times are set as shown in the Animation Pane to create a “random” effect.

Here’s another “content” slide layout for a fictional organization:

Some notes:

  • The bubbles are Ovals with a Circle 3D Bevel and the Translucent Powder Material. My post on drawing spheres has additional information.
  • Up motion paths are applied to each bubble with Repeat Until end of slide.
  • The start time, duration and motion path length are adjusted to create “random” action. The length of the motion path contributes to the delay between repeats.
  • A background-filled (white) rectangle is placed on the slide in front of the bubbles but behind the slide content so that the bubbles do not appear in the content area of the slide.

To make more elaborate motions, it may be easier to animate groups of objects rather than a larger number of individual elements. Here’s an example:

This effect incorporates a group of small circles, duplicated four times.  The duplicates have been rotated a “random” amount. A Spin animation has been applied to each group and white rectangles added to form the borders. Here’s what the slide looks like:


The Spins are repeated and some are counterclockwise; I did not “radomize” the durations.

Here’s a similar example using the same groups but using Exit/Zoom In rather than Spin; the timings are random:

Overlapping shapes with semitransparent fill can be used; here’s an example using rectangles moving horizontally:


The motion paths move the rectangles from off the slide to the opposite side. Auto-reverse and Repeat are set. I took some care to assure that the motion paths are horizontal and the rectangles aligned. Timing is “randomized.”

Here’s a standard content slide with some motion added to the layout:

Some of the older marketing folks over at Acme were appalled at the liberties I took with their logo. What do you think?

Themes and Layouts

Every PowerPoint file has a “Theme” (sometimes called a ‘template”) that determines the appearance of the slides. Organizations usually create a standard Theme to assure a degree of uniformity in presentations.

In addition to setting the color scheme, default fonts and a few other details, a Theme includes a Master Slide and a number of Layouts.  Each slide in a PowerPoint file has an associated Layout that includes placeholders for the slide title, bullet list and other content. The Layout also includes default elements that will appear on the slide, usually including the logo and other design details.

To incorporate motion elements in a template, you create Layouts that include these elements. Usually, you will need a Layout for a presentation title slide, a “content’ slide that includes a slide title and a bullet list placeholder, a blank Layout (maybe including a slide title), and one or two section title Layouts. You will start with a built-in Theme and modify it by copying Layouts and editing them.

NOTE: The built-in Themes include a bewildering variety of Layouts (about a dozen). I never use most of these so I delete them in the interest of simplicity. My favorite layout is blank with a title.

Once you have completed the Layouts you need, you can save the Theme so that it becomes available for new presentations.

You can find help on the web for the details of creating Themes.

Here are a couple of notes that relate to Layouts with motion elements:

  • Objects that appear on Layouts are not accessible on slides that use those Layouts. For example, a Template user cannot directly modify or move a logo that appears on a Layout. This applies to animated objects and videos so that a user cannot inadvertently modify them.
  • Animate objects or videos in a Layout do not appear in the Animation Pane for the slides that use the Layout. This assures that a user can add additional animations without affecting the motion elements of the Layout.
  • Animation events or videos in a Layout “play” before any animations created by the user.

If you want to see more details, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a free “source” PowerPoint file containing these projects:

Powerpointy blog – Motion Backgrounds

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. If you appreciate my efforts, liking or following this blog might be a good idea.

PowerPoint Secrets: Rotation

I often rotate a shape to create a new shape, usually to fit into a layout or design. For example, in my post on jigsaw puzzles, I rotated puzzle pieces to create other pieces that fit into my puzzle layout. Sometimes I just need a new shape and the easiest way to get it is to rotate one of the standard shapes; here’s a standard Trapezoid and a copy rotated 90 degrees:


There are three ways to rotate an object:

  • Freehand, clicking and dragging the “rotation handle.”  If you need a precise rotation (e.g., 20 degrees), freehand rotation may be difficult.
  • Using the Rotate tools. You can rotate precisely 90 degrees, right or left, or Flip  the object horizontally of vertically (a flip is not strictly a rotation – so sue me).
  • Using the Format Shape/Size pane and setting the value of Rotation (plus or minus degrees). This is the most precise way to rotate to a specific value.

So far, so good. However (there’s always a however), some characteristics of a shape depend on the rotation and some don’t. In the rest of this post I’ll try to demonstrate this and show you ways to control it.

NOTE: This is pretty arcane stuff. If you want a shorter version, skip to the Summary.


Most of the fill variations allow you to specify if you want the fill to rotate with the shape. Here’s a (deliberately garish) Gradient fill:


The original shapes (a Trapezoid and two rotated versions) are shown in red outline. The second column shows the result of the default fill; as you can see, the fill is rotated with the shape. The third column shows the results with the Rotate with shape option unchecked.

If the gradient is used to simulate the appearance of light on the surface of the object, it makes sense that the fill should not rotate with the shape.

Picture/Texture fill also has this option; here are examples:


It may be useful to uncheck Rotate with shape with Picture fills; you can see that this will keep the picture upright even though the shape has been rotated. In the 30 degree rotation example, the X offset has been adjusted to keep the face near the center of the shape.

This option is not available for Pattern fill. Here are some examples:


The fill pattern does not rotate with the shape. In the case of 90 degree rotation,  you can pick another version of the pattern to match the rotation (shown in red). Of course, this doesn’t help for other rotations. Converting to a picture before rotating causes the fill to rotate but JPG, PNG and GIF do not reproduce the fill pattern accurately. An EMF file appears to work. Notice that converted objects do not retain some features of the shape; e.g., the yellow adjustment handle.

Background Fill reflects the background regardless of rotation.

Shadows, etc.

Here’s how shadows are rendered for rotated shapes:


A shadow is the result of a light source; if the shape is rotated, the shadow should stay in the same relative position. As you can see, the outer shadow is oriented correctly; the inner shadow is not.

For the 90 degree rotation, you can select a variation of the inner shadow that provides the correct result. A solution that works for all rotations is to create a version of the rotated shape that is, in fact, not rotated (the rotation handle is at the top, relative to the slide). Here’s how:


I drew a rectangle (yellow) and Intersected it with the rotated trapezoid; the result is a rotated trapezoid with the handle on top. Be sure to select the rectangle first since the result of Intersect inherits the properties of the first shape selected. The inner shadow is now oriented correctly.  As before, the result is no longer a standard shape; e.g., the adjustment handle is missing.

You can think of this operation as “resetting the rotation handle.”

By the way, if your object is a group, you can reset the rotation handle by ungrouping the object and then grouping it again (you can use Regroup). A new group has an upright orientation regardless of the rotations of its components. Here’s an example:

The first row shows a group (Trapezoid and Right Arrow) followed by a 90 degree right rotation of a group. The rotation handle indicates its orientation. Next, the group is ungrouped and regrouped. The rotation handle of the result indicates its upright orientation.

This suggests that grouping a shape with an invisible shape (no fill/outline), ungrouping and regrouping will effectively reset the orientation (shown in the second row above). However, the invisible element may affect other operations on the object.

Reflection, Glow and Soft Edge effects are not affected by the rotation of the object.

3D Lighting and Rotation

These examples show an Oval with rotations and a 3D Bevel (the Bevel makes the 3D Lighting effect visible):


The second column shows the highlight created by the lighting; notice that the highlight is rotated. Like a shadow, the highlight orientation should reflect (!) the environment, not the orientation of the object. You can adjust the Lighting Angle to correct this (a trial and error operation) or use an intersected version of the Oval (yellow) to correct the orientation of the highlight.

turdPowerPoint’s attempt at 3d lighting has other problems, especially when two or more objects appear together; see my post on 3D cars for more on this.

3D Rotations are also affected by an existing (2d) rotation. Here are some examples (I added a small Depth to the shapes for clarity):


The 3D Rotations of the rotated Trapezoid (second row) are unexpected, to say the least. The results of 3D Rotations of a version created by the intersection method (yellow) are correct.

turdModifying PowerPoint’s preset 3D rotations by adjusting the rotation values manually is a mystifying and generally unsatisfying process.


Generally speaking, text objects and shapes exhibit the same behavior under rotation. So, the details you have learned (?) above apply to text.

However, text offers an additional rotation option called Text Direction – it offers four options for orienting text within the text box: horizontal (default), 90 degrees, -270 degrees and “stacked.”

TIP: A text object is always a “text box.” That means that text always has an enclosing shape, usually a rectangle. If you use the Format Shape pane, you will need to select Text Options to assure that the effects you select apply to the text and not the surrounding shape.

Here are some examples of Fill and Shadow applied to a text object and rotated versions:r10.png

As you can see, the same anomalies apply to rotated versions of the text as I described for rotated versions of shapes. Using an intersection (yellow) corrects the fill and shadow orientations. The “grouping” technique, however, does not correct the anomalies.

NOTE: The object created by the intersection technique is not text; i.e., it cannot be edited as text.

Here are some examples of 3D Lighting and 3D Rotation applied to a text character:r11.png

If the text box is rotated, the orientation of the highlight and the 3D rotation are incorrect (since the Shape is rotated). Using the Text Direction results in the correct orientations but there are limited options. Using Intersect to create a shape yields correct results.

There are seldom-used operations called Transforms that warp text into various shapes; these effects apply only to text. (In my version of PowerPoint, I can only find Transforms under Text Effects in the Drawing Tools ribbon.) There are thirty-six different transforms available; a few are actually useful.

NOTE: I used text transforms in my post on word clouds and my post on “wheels.”

Here are some results of applying Transforms to rotated text:

A transform (Triangle Down in the example) is always oriented relative to the rotation handle. You can’t create a different orientation using an intersection; the intersection is a shape and Transforms do not apply. In some cases, you may be select another transform that provides the result you want (Fade Right in the example).


Some animation effects have a direction option; Wipe and Fly In, for example. These animations always reference the slide, not the orientation of the object. Wipe/Up, for example, wipes towards the top of the slide regardless of the rotation of the object.

This is consistent, at least, but it does eliminate some possibilities – a diagonal Wipe, for example.


If you apply fills, shadows and 3d effects to shapes or text that have been rotated, you may not get the results you want. There are some techniques that might help:

  • Some effects have options (Gradient Fill for example) that change the results (“do not rotate fill with shape”, for example).
  • If the object is a rotated Group, you can reset the rotation by ungrouping and regrouping. You can group your shape with an invisible shape to reset the rotation handle. This doesn’t work with text.
  • Intersecting your shape or text with a rectangle creates an object that looks like the original but with the rotation handle on top – this will change the result of these effects (3D Rotation for example).

If you found this helpful (or if you didn’t) please share your question or opinion with a comment. If you want email updates when a new post appears, “follow” this blog.

Drawing in PowerPoint – Simplified Jigsaw Puzzles

I have written three posts on drawing jigsaw puzzles in PowerPoint (part 1, part 2 and part 3). A jigsaw puzzle can represent bringing together parts to form a whole: experts to form a service team, segments to form a market or parts of a solution, for example. The interlocking pieces suggest unity, interdependence or cooperation.

These earlier posts asked you to draw Freeform shapes for the pieces – a tricky task, especially making the pieces interlock seamlessly. Starting with a simpler puzzle layout and using standard shapes, along with Merge Shape tools, is a much easier and more accurate technique, especially if you’re not comfortable with Freeform drawing. Here’s a comparison of a puzzle piece from the earlier posts and a piece created using the simpler method:


The first piece reflects the traditional jigsaw puzzle appearance; each piece is separately  created. The second piece is much simpler and there are only a relatively small number of variations.

It may also be that the simpler approach is graphically cleaner and more appealing; you can decide.

Here’s how:

  • I started by setting the grid spacing to 0.1 inches and setting Snap to Grid. This makes it easier to draw and position objects accurately.
  • Each puzzle piece is based on a 4×4 square. A rectangle forms the basis of the edges. The oval and a small rectangle will form a knob. Size the shapes so that they snap  to the grid. The oval just touches the top of the edge rectangle.


  • Applying Merge Shapes/Union to the parts completes the “knob edge:”


  • To create the “socket edge,” Subtract a copy of the knob edge (orange) from an edge rectangle:


  • Now you can create a bunch of puzzle pieces using the knob and socket edges (plus a filler rectangle). You will need to rotate copies of  the edges; use Rotate 90 degrees and Flip for accurate rotations.:


As a trial, duplicate this puzzle piece several times and apply the Union operation to the pieces. Rotate some of the trial pieces 90 degrees. The pieces should snap together precisely:

If this doesn’t work, the original parts of the piece were misaligned and should be corrected before proceeding. Small pixel size gaps are apparently unavoidable; ignore these.

Tiny steps in the piece outline or extra line segments after the Union operation indicate that the parts are misaligned:

I have found that the easiest way to correct this is to move one of the parts of the piece diagonally a short distance and then move the other pieces to realign them. Of course, the Snap To Grid option is essential (you didn’t ignore that, did you?).

All the puzzle pieces can now be made from these four parts – the “knob edge,” the “socket edge,” the straight edge and the filler rectangle:


It’s a good idea to check Lock Aspect Ratio in the Size Pane for each part.

Duplicate, rotating if needed, selected parts, assemble carefully and apply Merge Shapes/Union to create the six basic puzzle pieces. Again, use Rotate 90 degrees or Flip to get accurate rotations:

You can create all of the (internal) puzzle pieces you need by rotating one of these six pieces.

You can make all the edge and corner pieces by rotating these nine basic pieces:

I will use a 3D Bevel to get a realistic puzzle piece. The appearance of the bevel is influenced by 3D Lighting which depends on the rotation of the piece:

The first row shows a puzzle piece and the same piece with Bevel applied. The second row shows the original piece rotated right 90 degrees and the rotated piece with the same Bevel applied. You can see that the results are different by comparing the top edge. This becomes more obvious when differently rotated pieces are assembled into a puzzle.

I want all the pieces in a puzzle to be uniform. Since many of the pieces will be rotated, I will want to reset the rotation handle on these pieces. To reset the rotation handle, Union the piece with an unrotated rectangle; here’s the process:

Select the rectangle first before the Union operation; an object created by a union inherits its properties from the first object selected.

NOTE: I plan a separate post on resetting the rotation handle for different kinds of objects.

Here’s a puzzle layout created from these pieces:

Here’s an application of this layout:

Rather than fill each piece with a fragment of the picture (as I did in the previous puzzle post), I used the puzzle layout as a semitransparent overlay with Bevel/Top/Circle to give each piece the rounded edge effect. The Material is Clear providing the transparency.

Here’s a 3D rotated version:

The 3D lighting caused the image to wash out so I increased the contrast of the image to compensate. I also added Depth to the underlying picture to create the edge.

If you want to animate the assembly or disassembly of this puzzle, each piece must separately contain a fragment of the image. In the original puzzle post, I did this with Fill/Picture; an easier way is to use Merge Shape/Intersect (see the post on animating breakthroughs for details of this method). Here’s a breakup animation using these techniques:

Each piece is animated by a motion path combined with Exit/Basic Zoom/In Slightly.

You can also assemble puzzle pieces with separate images to show a team, for example:

The original puzzle post used Fill/Picture to create the pieces. It’s easier to position the puzzle piece over the image and use Merge Shapes/Intersect:

For this kind of application, you may want to build your puzzle pieces with smaller knobs and sockets; this leaves more space for the individual pictures.

If you want to see more details, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a free “source” PowerPoint file containing these projects:

Powerpointy blog – simple jigsaw puzzles

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. If you appreciate my efforts, liking or following this blog might be a good idea.

Let’s Make a Movie! – Creating Videos


You may want to make a video to advertise your wares or share your ideas on the internet. You can feature videos on your organization’s website, your blog, video sharing sites like YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion or media like Facebook or LinkedIn. These sites far outreach any native PowerPoint sharing sites; PowerPoint is not an internet medium.

SlideShare, probably the largest presentation sharing site, actually converts PowerPoint to another form  (maybe Flash) and simply allows you to click through static “decks.”

Designing a Video

It’s easy to use PowerPoint to create a video; however, designing a video is considerably different from the usual conference room presentation.

  • The most obvious difference is that there is no presenter. In the usual circumstances, the presenter delivers the message interactively, supported by the slides. In a video, even with a narration, the crux of the message must be carried by text, images and animation.
  • Web videos are usually short and are have limited goals. For example, the video may be intended to make the viewer aware of a problem or an opportunity and to encourage the viewer to take a “next step” like visiting your website.
  • Animation and transitions are critical in capturing and managing the viewer’s attention. Movement makes your video much more engaging than a series of static “slides.” In fact, today’s viewer expects it.
  • The video may or may not have a narration but will usually employ audio; you will need to synchronize the audio and the visual effects.
  • Obviously, the “source” PowerPoint must be implemented to run autonomously without requiring clicks. The timing involved is an important aspect of the design.
  • To create a video from a PowerPoint file, select Export on the File tab and select Create a Video. I usually use Internet Quality; Low Quality also seems be adequate for internet videos and creates a smaller file. Since you have provided timing (duration) for each slide, the option Use Recorded Timings and Narrations should appear. If not, default timings will be supplied.

NOTE: Interactive “videos” allow the viewer to explore a subject on his own via on-screen navigation. It is straightforward to create this kind of experience in PowerPoint but a converter is required to transform the PowerPoint to an interactive web medium (HTML5 or Flash).  See the iSpring product, for example. I may attempt an interactive video using a converter in a later post.

A Video Project

The project for this post is a variation of a video that I created to promote a presentation design business. I had found that many prospects had not considered the idea of paying a PowerPoint guru even though some were aware that the quality of their presentations could be better. The video was designed to make the viewer aware of the possibilities (about 90 seconds with audio):

Here are a few design notes:

  • These are not traditional corporate slides, with titles, bullets and the usual background, shown in inexorable sequence. Rather, the video is organized as a series of scenes and transitions, leading to a specific conclusion.
  • In particular, the scenes lead the viewer through a series of questions (with implied answers) designed to suggest the shortcomings of operating without a presentation specialist:
    • How important are presentations (important enough not to be treated casually)?
    • Who designs your presentations (and are they appropriately skilled)?
    • Are your presentations overstuffed, wordy, etc. (and are you proud of them)?
    • Do you hire specialists in other communications areas (why not presentations)?
  • Transitions and (in one case) a change in background mark the scenes.
  • The overall tone is light – appropriate for questioning the prospect’s practices.
  • The music is light, but with an insistent rhythm. A light popping sound effect is used for punctuating the punctuation.
  • Movement is featured constantly.
  • Corporate look-and-feel including colors, logos, fonts, etc. can be utilized but, again, avoid the canned corporate template/theme.

Animations and Transitions

The animations and transitions are relatively simple. Most of the scenes are single slides with a sequence of Entrance effects.  I did use several slides to build the “bad design” series; this reduces the number of animated objects on a slide and makes managing the animation easier.

Timing the animations and transitions is critical. You want to maintain the pace consistent with the audio but you also want the content (mostly text in this project) to “register” with the viewer. Since you know the content, you may be inclined to use intervals that are too short for a viewer who is seeing the material for the first time. On the other hand, people can comprehend text or simple images in a remarkably short time. The best practice is to test your video with “outside” viewers to get the pacing right.

In the case of the “bad slides” sequence, I do not expect the viewer to study the example slides in any detail; I just want to give a quick impression. I want to give the impression that there are of a lot of bad slides out there, not focus on any particular form of evil.

NOTE: It is absurdly easy to find examples like this on the net. Finding a well-designed slide is infinitely harder. You may note that most of the examples are from government agencies or educational institutions. I hope this is because these groups are simply more likely to publish on the web rather than that these people are really bad with PowerPoint. What do you think?

Here’s the animation pane for the “who designs your presentations” scene; I have named the objects for clarity:


Each text box appears using a Wipe or Stretch, followed by a Zoomed question mark with a pop sound effect. In three cases, an image enters with the phrase (the designer guy, Stella and the kid).

Reviewing animations, transitions (and sound effects) using Slide Show may not be satisfactory if you use a low-powered PC. Animations can be jerky and not reflect the actual timing. Using Preview Timings and Narrations under Create Video will produce smoother results but the timing may not be accurate (more on this below).

All slide transitions use the Advance Slide/After xx:xx option. Typically, the interval is set to cause the transition a short time after the last animation effect. When no delay is wanted, the transition occurs immediately after the last effect. The duration of the transition itself is one of the transition parameters for the next slide.

Sound Effects

I acquired the “pop” sound effect from Soundrangers and used Insert/Audio on my PC to add it to the slide. I set Audio Tools/Playback/Start automatically so that the effect appears on the animation pane (the gray events) and can be coordinated with the animations.

A speaker icon appears on the slide when the sound is inserted. This can be used by a presenter to play the audio manually; since I want to control the sound via the animation pane, I set Hide During Show. I copied the icon to the other slides where needed. For convenience, I positioned the icons near the question marks. Here’s the “who designs..” slide with the “pop” icons:


Unfortunately, the sound effect appears on the animation pane as an event with no duration (the pop effect actually lasts for about 0.3 seconds). On the other hand; the Start After option does account for the actual duration (see the red lines on the Animation Pane above). Using audio in PowerPoint would be simpler if the duration of audio playback were actually shown in the animation pane, like an animation effect.

By the way, I used the methods outlined in my series of posts on PowerPoint characters to create the figures on this slide. This is an example of how characters can help tell stories.

Background Audio

The royalty-free music track was also acquired from Soundrangers; the original track is a little more than 60 seconds in length. Given the animation and transition timings, the video will be about 90 seconds long. Obviously, I need to repeat part of the audio track so that the audio will play until the end.

NOTE; You can acquire audio “loops” – music designed to be repeated seamlessly. Since PowerPoint provides a Loop playback option, a loop track can be played seamlessly for an arbitrary length of time. However, if the loop is short, the playback is noticeably repetitive. A track not designed for the purpose with the Loop option will be obviously repetitive.

For my project, the audio track has a definite ending and I want that ending to synchronize with the end of the video. So I Trimmed a copy of the track to the beginning 30 seconds (approximately) and followed it by the complete 60 second track. Here’s a picture:


I made a spreadsheet of the slide timings (duration and transition) and adjusted the trimmed track length and the slide timings (in tenths of a second) to get the transition to occur at the beginning of a slide. I applied a Fade Out to the end of the trimmed piece so that the “cut” is less noticeable.

Fortunately, here’s a very nice video from Microsoft that will explain these details so I won’t have to.

ADVISORY: As I noted above, there is no guarantee that PowerPoint playback (Slide Show or Preview Timings) will actually run at the specified rate. Audio plays at the proper rate. As a result, if you use a low-powered PC, you may not be able to synchronize visual effects with the audio in PowerPoint; rather, you may have to create videos to check the timing.

If you want to experiment with a much more sophisticated audio editor, try Audacity® – a “free, open source, cross-platform audio software for multi-track recording and editing.”

Other Video Projects

To help you understand the potential and challenges of PowerPoint videos, here are a few other video projects I’ve worked on:

  • Video infographic  – the client wanted to raise awareness of wireless trends affecting healthcare. I created a web video using the basic techniques described here. A couple of “characters” and animated pie charts and graphs added appeal.
  • Trade show videos – the client used large video screens associated with his trade show booth to attract attention. The design called for a looped series of short vignettes with attention-grabbing text and images.
    • Native PowerPoint can be used in these situations but using video eliminated potential compatibility or performance problems associated with the operating environment at the show.
  • Recreating a web video – a client’s customer had created a video highlighting his operation, including applications of the client’s products. The client wanted a shorter version of the video concentrating only on the client’s contributions. Rather than try to edit the video directly, I extracted the audio using a free web app and recreated the visual scenes in PowerPoint (I had access to the images used in making the video) and exported the result as a new video.
    • This project was complicated by the fact that the client’s company name had changed since the original video was made. Since I recreated the slides, this was easy to fix visually. I did not attempt any sophisticated audio editing but was able to eliminate the old name from the audio track using the PowerPoint tools.
  • Video of live presentation – the client had a video of a sales presentation his company had made at a conference. The video had been made on a phone and did not show the actual slides clearly. I embedded a cropped version of the video featuring the presenter in a PowerPoint presentation and synchronized it with the original slides. The slides occupied the left two-thirds of the (wide) screen and the cropped video on the right third. I exported the result as a video. Voila!
  • I have made hundreds of short videos for this blog demonstrating animations.

So give it a try. You will find that you can make simple but engaging web videos for your organization or just for fun using a tool you already have.

Weighing Your Options – Spring and Digital Scales


The previous post demonstrated animated “balances” as presentation metaphors. Other forms of weighing devices use an indicator of some kind rather than a direct comparison of two weights. Mechanical scales using springs and electronic scales with digital displays are examples.

The simplest kind of spring scale is a “slider;” here’s an example:

The animation suggests that outdated legacy technology puts the organization in the red danger zone. The bouncing effect adds some life to the animation.

Here’s how the scale is constructed:

  • There are 4 parts (groups): the static body (blue outline), the load (black), the pointer (red), and the “hanger” (green). Each is made of standard PowerPoint shapes.
  • The load is labeled using an OCR style font to suggest obsolescence.

Here are the animation details:

The load appears with a Fade; the load, hanger and  pointer are animated by a Down motion path with a Bounce End option (I added a red rectangle to the animation pane to show the bounce timing). These parts move together but are separate groups; after you apply the motion path to one part, use the Animation Painter to apply the motion to the other parts.

NOTE: The Bounce End option is available for motion paths and some other effects; the option is set in the Effect Options pane:

The option is set by using the slider to the time you want the bounce to start relative to the start of the effect; in this case the duration of the motion path is 0.8 sec so the bounce occurs in the last 0.2 seconds of the motion.

The motion path actually moves beyond the end point temporarily to implement the bounce.

The next example of a spring scale is the type you might see in a grocery store; it uses a pointer on a round dial to register the weight in the suspended pan:


Here’s the construction:


There are three parts: the body/dial (blue), the pointer (red) and the pan assembly (green). The pointer (a Diamond, an Oval and an Isosceles Triangle) includes a dashed circle to establish the center. The pan assembly is a Pentagon (rotated) and a Chord.

I used the techniques discussed in my seminal post on clocks to build the dial. Briefly, create a group containing opposing tic marks and digits, duplicate and rotate around a common center. Editing the digits completes the dial:


TIP: You can rotate an object precisely using the Size options (Format Shape/Size & Properties/Size/Rotation).  Changing the Rotation value (degrees) rotates the object relative to its initial position. You can use negative numbers for counterclockwise rotations. When a rotated object is duplicated, it retains the edited value.

Here are the animation details for the spring scale:


  • I used a Fly-in for the entrance of the load; it’s easier than a motion path. The duration is 0.6 seconds.
  • I used the Bounce End option for the Fly-in; I set the timing at 0.3 seconds. This means that the load will reach its lowest point at 0.3 seconds and the bounce effect will start at this point, lasting until the end of the Fly-in – 0.6 seconds.
  • As in the motion path, the object will temporarily move slightly beyond its expected endpoint.
  • The Teeter effect on the pan starts when the load reaches it (0.3 sec).
  • The Spin of the hand also starts at this point.
  • The Spin also has a Bounce End option. In this example. the Spin has a duration of 0.7 seconds with the bounce timing at 0.5 seconds. This means that the hand reaches a point slightly beyond its endpoint at 0.5 seconds and bounces until 0.7 seconds.

TIP: Teeter is an “emphasis” effect (not associated with Entry or Exit). It causes the object to rotate slightly, return and repeat (4 times). With short durations, it is useful for simulating vibrations or shudders. You can see the details of the effect by creating an example with a long duration. The center of rotation can be altered by grouping the object with a properly sized and positioned circle.

You can use red-yellow-green segments on the dial to show a change in status or add indicative text.

A variation can show a negative effect; maybe too much workload:


Another “last straw” load has been added with the same animation of the load and the pan as before. However, the hand has a motion path with a simultaneous Spin and the dial falls. A dashed circle has been added to the dial so that a Spin makes it fall to the side. You can invent additional chaos if you want;  see the explosions post, for example.

Close observers will note that the pan doesn’t actually drop when the weights are added in this example. This slide has enough going on. If you disagree, you can add motion paths as in the previous examples.

Removing negative things like debts or distractions can improve the situation. Here’s an example demonstrating this using another kind of spring scale:


The construction of the scale is straightforward using standard shapes.

Here is the construction of the red-yellow-green indicator:


TIP: The 5-pointed Star (and several other standard shapes) are not symmetric when their height and width are equal. Use a circle as a guide to manually adjust width and height to get a radially symmetric shape.

turdI have had trouble using Artistic Effects like Blur; the effect may work once but then becomes unavailable or inoperable. Some others have reported these problems. I suspect that it’s because I use a $400 Chinese laptop and the software is badly designed. I have no problems using other software (e.g., Corel Paintshop) to create blurs and other effects.

The objects disappear via a Dissolve and a simultaneous motion path. Here’s the animation:


Digital scales don’t create a lot of action, except for the display – and we can take advantage of that. Here’s a personal “bathroom” scale:


I used a font that mimics a 7-segment LCD display (from ), common for these devices. There are 5 text boxes that appear, one after the other – an Appear animation, followed 0.2 sec later by a Disappear and an simultaneous Appear for the the next text box.

Here’s an animation  about relieving burdens that uses a digital scale:


Here are notes on this animation:

  • For simplicity, I created all the text boxes spread out on a separate slide.
  • The first text box (HELP) uses a Start After Previous/Blink animation with the Repeat Until Next Click option. The HELP text will blink when the slide appears and will continue until the first click.
  • I applied After Previous/Appear to all remaining text boxes. Then I added Disappear after 0.2 sec  to  each box. You can do this in two steps by selecting the boxes in order (Cntrl/Click) and then applying the two animations.
  • I modified three animations to Start on Click.
  • Here’s part of the Animation Pane:


  • Next, I selected all of the text boxes and aligned them Center and Middle; this stacks the text boxes. Then, I copied and pasted the text boxes on the indicator window on the scale.
  • To complete the project, I animated the loads.

If you want to see more details, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a free “source” PowerPoint file containing these projects:

Powerpointy blog – spring and digital scales

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. If you appreciate my efforts, liking or following this blog might be a good idea. To contact me directly, use the contact form on the About page.

Weighing Your Options – Balances

Scales and balances are useful presentation metaphors; they can show changes that result from adding (or deleting) objects or concepts. Balances compare two weights and can show comparative changes. Here’s an example:

The blue objects shift the indicator from red (danger) to green (safety) as they overcome the evil black stuff. Labeling the objects, using call-outs or synchronizing with text adds specific meanings, as in this version:

NOTE: I made an animated balance in an earlier post; I  did it again here because the animation is simpler (I hope).

Here’s how the balance is constructed:


  • The objects are made from standard PowerPoint shapes. The “beam” is made from two slightly different Braces combined using the Merge Shapes/Combine operation:
  • The balance is made up of 4 objects: the stationary “post” including the indicator background (blue outlined), the “beam” including the pointer (red), and the two pan assemblies (green). The right pan assembly includes the Cloud shaped load.
  • Each of the moving parts is grouped with a circle (dashed line) that determines the center of the part for animation purposes. In particular, the circle grouped with the pan assemblies sets the center at the point where the pan assembly attaches to the beam – this makes it easier to create the motion paths for the pan assemblies.
  • Four radial lines (black) are included that identify the rotated positions of the beam – 10 degree increments.
  • The parts are arranged and sized so that they don’t interfere during the animation.

Here’s the next step (animating the beam and the two pans):

  • The beam rotations are 10 degrees counterclockwise.
  • The first Line motion path added to the pan assembly will snap to its “center.”
  • The motion path is edited so that the end point of the motion path is located at the intersection of the dashed circle in the beam group and the appropriate radial line (black).
  • Subsequent motion paths also snap to the center of the pan assembly but are then moved to snap to the end point of the previous path. The end point is then positioned as before.

TIP: Motion paths in close proximity are difficult to edit since the endpoints tend to arbitrarily snap to the endpoints of a nearby path. You can overcome this annoyance by zooming in to do the editing and using the Alt key to override unwanted snap actions.

Next, the load elements (balls) are added and the first one is partially animated:

  • I added center lines to the balls to help with the animation.
  • Using the Animation Painter, I copied the movement of the left pan to the red ball. Then I reordered the effects in the Animation Pane so that the movement of the red ball is synchronized with the movement of the pan. Here’s the Pane:

Animating the second and third balls is a little tricky; they only move with the second and third motion of the beam. Applying the motion paths of the pan to the second ball using the animation painter copies all of the paths to the second ball – the path corresponding to the first motion of the pan is not needed. Just deleting the path does not do the job. Here’s an example showing how to successfully delete the first path:

turdBe careful; the Animation Painter copies all of the animations from the first object and replaces all the animations of the second object. This tool could have been designed with more flexibility but wasn’t.

  • Select the first motion path on the slide and hit the delete key; alternatively, select the path on the Animation Pane and select Remove on the pulldown.
  • At this stage, the object would jump to the starting point of the motion path before the motion path is executed. To fix this, the object needs to be moved to the starting point. However, moving the object will also move the motion path.
  • To avoid this, you need to Lock the motion path one of the motion path Effect Options. This fixes the position of the motion path on the slide. Now the object can be moved so that its center coincides with the starting point of the second motion path.

This is the first time I have ever used the Lock/Unlock option. I guess this is why it’s there.

  • Continuing the process with the third ball, adding the appearance effect to the balls (Float Down) and re-ordering the effects completes the animation; here’s the slide:

  • Here’s the animation pane:

Here’s another balance type; in this design the pans are constrained to move vertically:

Here’s the construction:

  • All the parts are constructed from standard PowerPoint shapes. The “post” is a Trapezoid with a smaller Trapezoid Subtracted (Merge Shapes) to provide the window.
  • The red-yellow-green indicator is formed from three Block Arcs.
  • The dashed circles and radial lines are used as before.
  • A black horizontal line is added to the pan assemblies to help locate the motion paths.
  • I used the same steps as before to animate the balance.

You can also  use spring and/or digital scales in your presentations; the next post will show you how.

If you want to see more details on animating these balances, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a free “source” PowerPoint file containing these projects:

Powerpointy blog – balances

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. If you appreciate my efforts, liking or following this blog might be a good idea. If you want to contact me directly, use the contact form on the “about” page.

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