Posts Tagged 'metaphor'

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:

WARNING: 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.

Building Your Story – Animated Lists


Your presentations are full of lists: agendas, products and features, customers, office locations, schedules and miscellaneous bullet points. Animating some of these lists is a good way to add impact and engage your audience; here’s why:

  • Presenting a load of information all at once is a deadly habit. Progressively disclosing items one at a time will allow you to keep  your audience’s attention focused where you want it.
  • Animation is a powerful attention grabber; it is nearly impossible to ignore. (The reasons are rooted in survival instincts – see here for more.)
  • Sometimes, the choice of animation effects can actually add to your message; I will show you some examples in this post.

Here’s an example that the folks over at Acme use to discuss their customer management services:

Acme presenters discuss each element of the “mantra” one at a time. The animation is eye-catching and adds to the idea that these principles are a solid foundation for customer service.

Here are some notes:

  • Each “brick” is a Rectangle containing text. 3D Bevels are applied to the Rectangle and the text to suggest solidity and importance.
  • Each animation is a Fly-in/From Top. This is much simpler than a motion path and works well as a “building” step.
  • The Fly-in has a Bounce end setting; again, this suggests weight.

A top-down build may be useful for other lists (an agenda, for example). This example uses Stretch animations to introduce each element:

Some more ideas about agendas are in this post.

These ideas can be applied to other structures – a pyramid, for example:

This sketch suggests the organizing a structure by selecting elements from a stockpile. Line motion paths are used. As I often do, I made a target structure (red outlines) to aid in setting the motion path endpoints; here’s what this looks like:


You can apply animations to SmartArt diagrams, too. Here’s an example of a Radial Venn diagram with Fly in animations:

Animating SmartArt is a little different; here’s how this was done:

  • Select the diagram and apply the animation (Fly in). The default will apply the effect to the entire diagram.
  • Under Effect  Options (SmartArt animation), select One by one (other diagram types may have different nomenclature). This creates a list of effects in the animation pane that you can edit.
  • For this example, I Removed the effect for the central element and modified the direction, order and timing of the remaining elements.
  • If you struggle to get the result you want, try decomposing the SmartArt into individual ordinary objects and working with those (see “Not So SmartArt” for more on this).

Here’s a more elaborate example of “delivering” a list element:

Faithful readers will recognize techniques from my post on animating vehicles. You might want to review that post; here are a few helpful (?) notes:

  • I drew the car using standard PowerPoint shapes. This may be simpler for you if you are not comfortable with drawing Freeforms. Here’s the process:


  • The shapes (Ovals and Chords) are combined using Merge Shapes/Union and Subtract for the wheel openings. The wheels are combination of Ovals with a Star and a Donut.
  • The body and wheels are kept separate since they will be animated separately.
  • I applied a motion path to the car body, positioning the end point using a temporary target version of the car.
  • Using the Animation Painter, I applied the identical motion path to the other elements. This assures that the elements will move together.
  • I added Spins to the wheels. Each wheel rotates once each time the wheel travels a distance equal to the circumference of the wheel (that is, diameter times 3.14). See the animated vehicle post for details.
  • I used a second slide for the last part of the animation. After positioning the elements to match the outcome of the first slide, I added animation to drop the tow rope and drive off to the right.

I often spread an animation sequence over several slides. This simply makes it easier to manipulate the animations. Of course, the transition(s) must be automatic and the slide elements must be carefully positioned.

The next idea is a little whimsical:

The saucer’s delivery is a curved motion path combined with a Grow effect. On a second slide, the tractor beam disappears and the saucer exits with another motion path and a Shrink.

I drew the saucer and its cargo using standard shapes. The tractor beam has Soft Edges. The smaller version (that flies in from the left) is a PNG of the original, reduced in size. I couldn’t just shrink the original drawing since the Soft Edge effect is measured in points and doesn’t scale with the rest of the drawing. (There is no logic to this, it’s just how it works.)

The next post will demonstrate similar effects using animated construction equipment.

If you want to experiment with these effects, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a free “source” PowerPoint file:

Powerpointy blog – animating lists

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.

Animation in PowerPoint: Flow


Presentations often show processes, networks, organization charts and similar structures. These systems are sometimes explained by “flow:” data flow in computer networks, material flows in industrial processes, information or cash flows in business processes, etc.

Animation is very useful in these kinds of representations; you can actually show and explain the movement and effect of  data, messages, and other “flow” elements.

This what I call a rational use of animation – actually adding to the impact and effectiveness of a presentation as opposed to distracting or actually putting off your audience. If you want more on this subject see this rant.

One very simple technique for showing a flow is a Wipe animation applied to a Dashed line; here are some examples:

The blue lines have a Round Dot Dash type and a Round Cap type. The green lines also have the Round Dot (oddly) but a Flat Cap type. The animation for all the lines is Wipe From Left; the lower lines have Repeat set to 4.

Here’s how the Wipe effect might be used in a diagram:

Here the flow is from left to right and the starting times are staggered.

There are a few other effects that work with some object outlines. Here’s an example:

Here I used the outline of an Oval shape and applied an Entrance animation effect called Wheel; the Repeat option is used. This effect has a parameter called Spokes; setting Spokes to 4 yields this result:

There are limitations to using Wipe and similar effects. A more flexible approach is to use motion paths; this example shows a continuous flow of separate objects:

Some notes on this effect:

  • Each of the four objects (circles) has a Line motion path with Smooth Start/End set to zero.
  • The Duration of each motion path is 2 sec.; each motion path is delayed by 0.5 sec. relative the the previous one.
  • Each motion path has Repeat = 3. The timing is set so that the flow is uniform. Here is the animation pane:


An attempt at 2-way flow, this version applies Auto-reverse and Repeat =3 to the motion paths for seven objects with the same timing as above:

As you can see, this is pretty confusing. It’s probably better to use separate sets of motion paths to demonstrate 2-way flow as in these two examples:

The second example uses a curved motion path.

For some applications, it is useful to animate discrete messages and use callouts to identify the messages. Here’s a whimsical demo showing interactions in a network:

My post on demonstrating a computer network includes a more elaborate example.

You can also show continuous flows (like a fluid); here’s a simple example:

This applies the Wipe animation to five separate objects in order. Since the options for Wipe (and Stretch) are From Left/Right/Top/Bottom, this technique works best for horizontal or vertical straight flows. (My post on liquids shows similar effects.)

Here’s another example:

This uses some of the techniques in my post on pipes and wires. Here are some details:

  • Basically,  the pipes are created as shapes with 3d effects applied and converted to png images. To get transparent pipes, apply transparency to the shapes before converting to images.
  • Rounded rectangles are used as the fluid – this makes the flow through the bend a little more convincing (this ain’t perfect but it took several tries to get this effect).

Showing a continuous fluid flow over a curved path is a little more complicated. Here’s a way to do it:

The first animation is essentially the same as the earlier examples but with a shorter interval between motion paths (0.1 sec). The second animation adds curved Lines to complete (I hope) the illusion.

If you use a different shape (not a circle), you may have to rotate it as it follows the path. My roller coaster post addresses this.

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

Powerpointy blog – flow

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.


An Animation for Success: Sinking the Putt


Here’s a widely understood metaphor for success:

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Added 7/8/2015: A reader asked if “3d shading could be added to the ball and still make it roll realistically.” First, PowerPoint “3d” and animation don’t play together. There’s an example of applying animation to a 3d object in this post on 3d gears. And I don’t think it can be faked; the Spin rotation is in the plane of the slide rather than “in” to the slide. If the animation were “flat” (e.g. horizontal) a Spin might be convincing. In short, don’t expect too much from PowerPoint animation, Thanks, reader, for the comment.

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 – Sinking the putt

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.


Storms and Swarms – Part 3: Word Swarms


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

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

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

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

swrm 7

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

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

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

swrm 8

If you want a free copy of a PowerPoint file containing these examples, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a free “source” PowerPoint file:

PowerPointy blog – swarms 3 – words

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.

Storms and Swarms – Part 2: Attack!


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

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

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

swrm hosp 1

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

swrm hosp 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 – swarms 2 – attack

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.

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

storm banner

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

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

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

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

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

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

swrm 2

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

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

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

Here’s the animation pane for this version:

swrm 3And here are the motion paths:

swrm 4

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

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

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

swrm 5

swrm 6

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

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

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

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

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 – swarms 1 – raining

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.

Animated Icons: Tools

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

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


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

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

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

The layout for the hammer animation looks like this:

tools2Here are the steps:

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

Here’s the animation pane:


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

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

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


Here’s how the wrench is constructed:tools4

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

Here is the animation set-up:


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

Wire Cutter

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

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

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

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


Here’s the animation set up:tools9

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

Screw Driver

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

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


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

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

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

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

If you would like to build these or similar animations, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a free “source” PowerPoint file:

Powerpointy blog – tool icons

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.

Animating a Roller Coaster


A roller coaster ride isn’t always fun. This project uses a roller coaster to symbolize undesirable fluctuations in cash flow (whatever that is) and suggests that my (fictional) company may be able to help.

Here’s the animation:

You will notice that the cars move and rotate to follow the track. In PowerPoint terms, motion paths are combined with Spin effects. If I were to use a realistic roller coaster profile, it would be difficult to synchronize the Spins with the motion path to get a smooth action. On the other hand, if I use a series of straight lines and circular arcs to define the path, there will be no rotations required during the straight segments and a single Spin will work for the arcs. However, I will need to do a little arithmetic to time the Spins. All of this will become clear, one hopes, as we progress.

Here is the layout for the track profile:


Note: You can always click on these images to see a larger version. Click Back on your browser to return to this post.

To make this easy to construct, I used 45 degree lines with equally sized circles and, as you can see by the green dots, I allowed the lines to snap to the 45 degree points on the circle. With this construction, each peak/valley will require a 90 degree Spin, either clockwise or counterclockwise.

The roller coaster will have several cars. Since the animation is not simple, I don’t want to manually animate each car; there are two ways to accomplish this:

  • If your version of PowerPoint has the Animation Painter, you will be able to transfer the animation you built for the first car to the next car in a couple of clicks. This is the method I will use but there is a wrinkle for this project; details later.
  • If you don’t have the Animation Painter, animate a rectangle picture-filled with the first car image. Then, after the animation is applied, duplicate and change the fill of the rectangle to create animated versions of the next car.

In either case, duplicate the second car several times and position all the cars at the starting point. Then add a delay to the start of the second and following cars to create a “train.”

The cars are create using standard shapes and applying a black fill. I decided to do this project in a silhouette form; you may want a more colorful roller coaster and cars. Here’s my construction:


The wheels are equidistant from the center of the car and the wheel spacing is the same for both cars.

Next, the lead car is sized so that so that the car will go through a “dip” without colliding with the track:


Now, I want to build a series of “targets” on the track to help with the animation; this is a technique I use often in these posts to create accurate motion paths. I converted the lead car to a png and added an outline. I added Lines to the png to identify the center; the Lines (red) snap to the midpoints of each side:


The reason for the conversion to png is to allow these center lines to be easily drawn. Group the lines with the png. Then, position copies of the target at selected points on the track profile and rotate appropriately:

The first target is placed at the starting point, off the slide to the left. The next target is placed at the point where the car enters the curve – the front wheels are at the transition point. I added a rotated target at the bottom of the curve and at the exit, continuing to rotate and position all of the targets.

Next, position the original car at the starting point. Apply a Custom motion path drawn through the center points of each “target.”  Eliminate the Smooth Start/End for the path. Edit the points of the motion path to add the curves. Set the appropriate segments to Straight. Here’s what the motion path (red) looks like:


Now the car will follow the track profile but it does not rotate as it should; that’s the next step.

The speed of the car is constant; it is determined by the duration of the motion path. So, I need to know the distance for each segment so that I can determine the start time and duration of the rotations. To get a “distance,” I drew a dashed line along the track profile and counted the dashes. Here’re the numbers:


The first (straight) segment is about 16 dashes long; the curved segments are about 6 dashes long, etc. Since the smallest increment in animation timing is 0.1 seconds, I won’t need greater accuracy.

I set the duration of the motion path to 3.5 seconds and the total path distance is 54 dashes. Now, the first segment duration is

((number of dashes in the segment)/(total number of dashes))*(total duration) =
(16/54)*3.5 = 1.0 seconds.

That is, the duration is proportional to the distance. By the way, this says that the start of the first curved segment is at 1.0 seconds so this should be the start time of the Spin. I did a little spreadsheet to calculate the duration and start time of each segment (for a 3.5 second total time):


To add the first rotation, select the car and apply Spin/Quarter Spin/Counterclockwise animation effect With the motion path. The start time for this segment is 1.0 seconds and the duration is 0.4 seconds. You can adjust the timing directly on the animation pane by moving and changing the size of the bar representing the effect; using Zoom In on the animation path makes this easier. Here’s the animation pane for the path and the first rotation:


And here’s the result:

Adding the additional rotations using the calculated timing results in this animation pane:


I will use the Animation Painter to add the second car; however, the second car is shorter than the lead car and doesn’t quite track. To fix this, group the second car object with a rectangle that is the same size as the lead car; the rectangle can be made invisible (No outline) later. Here’s the process:


Now, select the animated lead car, select the Animation Painter, and click on the second car group. Position the second car at the starting point of the animation. Using the Animation Pane, delay the effects for the second car by 0.2 seconds. Here’s the Animation Pane:


Duplicate the second car and add the delay as many times as you like to create the “train.”

All that’s left is to create the roller coaster structure. The “track” consists of three lines: the rail (a 4.5 pt line), the ties (a 4.5 pt dashed line) and the base (8pts):


It will take a little fiddling to line these up with the layout and each other.

The structure is built using the “group and dupe” method outlined in an earlier post. Create a group of aligned vertical lines along with groups of lines at plus and minus 45 degrees. Position the three groups over the layout like this:


Now, edit the lines to fit the track; if you hold down the Shift key while editing the lines, the angle will tend to “stick”:


The flags are a Wave shape with a vertical line.

I added the text and the logo to create the final version; I also changed the color of the structure to a light gray to de-emphasize it.

If you want a free copy of the PowerPoint file for this post, please use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a “source” PowerPoint file:

Powerpointy blog – animating a roller coaster

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.


Animation: Hourglass

father time

This post uses techniques outlined in my previous post on liquids to create an animated hourglass. You might want to look at that post.

The hourglass is constructed from standard PowerPoint shapes, except for the glass itself and its highlights:

hrglass 1

Here are some details:

  • The top and bottom of the columns are elongated Chord shapes.
  • The glass is drawn using the same conventions as the glassware in the “liquids” post: transparent color and highlights. The shapes are hand drawn (Freeforms) but could be constructed using the PowerPoint 2010 Merge Shape tools.
  • Symmetric parts have been created once and duplicated and flipped.

The “sand” consists of 3 additional parts placed in back of the glass:

hrglass 2

The upper and lower parts of the sand are shapes derived from the glass (point edited or the Merge Shapes tools). The descending stream is an elongated Rounded Rectangle.

Here’s the animation:

Here’s the animation pane:

hrglass 3

  • The upper sand shape exits with a Wipe From Top effect.
  • At the same time the stream quickly enters with a Wipe From Top effect.
  • After the stream enters, the lower sand shape enters with Wipe From Bottom effect.
  • Just before the end of the lower sand shape effect, the stream exits with a Collapse From Top effect.

If you would like your very own free copy of a PowerPoint file containing these effects, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a “source” PowerPoint file:

Powerpointy blog – animated hourglass

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.

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