Posts Tagged 'plumbing'

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.



Drawing in PowerPoint – Wires and Pipes


Wiring and plumbing are used as metaphors and icons for connections, relationships and processes. And you may want to represent an actual pipe or wire; who knows?

I used wires and connectors in my famous post on meters and gauges.

Wires can be created by drawing a Curve, adjusting the line width, and applying 3d Format/Top Bevel/Circle; here’s what this looks like:


The line is 20 pts wide; the bevel is 10 pts wide (half the line width) and 10 pts high. You will have to pay attention to these dimensions to get the desired appearance.

But what about the ends? They don’t look like a wire.

There are a couple of ways to eliminate the unwanted bevel; both involve first converting  the line to a picture (Cut/Paste Special/Picture (png) or (jpg)):

  • Cropping: use the Crop tool to eliminate the offending parts of the converted line image; as  you can see, this isn’t the best result (although it’s easy):


  • The second method is to use another object and Merge Shapes/Subtract to “trim” the wire image (I have added red outlines to clarify):


The”subtraction” method makes it possible to make the cut at right angles to the wire.

You can use these techniques to create an exposed conductor (starting with a 16 pt line for the conductor):


Lines that loop don’t make a convincing wire:


You can fix this by creating a clipped segment and laying it over the intersection:


You can also use the bevel effect on text. Using simple “skinny” fonts creates a wiry effect; these examples are Gulim and Comic Sans:


I used simple shapes with mild bevels to create a USB connector:


You can make other connectors, too, but let’s wait until after we do some plumbing.

The most familiar kind of plumbing uses rigid pipes along with other pieces (“fittings”) to connect the pipes. Creating a pipe is easy; I used a rectangle 1 inch high with a Circle bevel (width and height 36 pts = 1/2 inch), converted to png and cropped to remove the unwanted bevel on the ends:


This pipe image can be resized and also used as parts of other piping components. Another useful shape is a Donut with a bevel effect. Converting it to a picture and cropping it results in an elbow shape:


The red rectangle (1 inch high) is used to help set the thickness of the Donut to match the  pipe.

Here is the coupler – the element used to attach the pipes and fittings:


Creating this piece is a little tricky; here’s how I did it:


  • Start with the pipe image; resize it.
  • Apply a narrow Circle bevel to the image (8 pts).
  • Convert to png (Copy/Paste Special).
  • Create a Rounded Rectangle (shown in red) to use as a “cookie cutter” to get the right shape (Drawing Tools/Merge Shapes/Intersection). Set the round corners to match, more or less, the bevel. The result has the right shape as well as the rounded corners.

Use the pipe image, the elbow image and two “couplers” to get this:


Here’s how I made a more complicated fitting (a “sanitary wye”):


  • Create the Rectangle and the Block Arc; align as shown.
  • Use Merge Shapes/Union to create the combined shape. (The Union operation may create extra points if the two source shapes are not sized and aligned carefully. This can lead to unwanted artifacts in the “3d” version.)
  • Apply the Circle Bevel.
  • Convert to png and Crop.
  • Group with the couplers.

You can create other parts with the same techniques; here’s a valve:


You can make additional pieces like tanks and pumps to complete your metaphor.

Some of these techniques help in making wiring connectors; here’s a simple example:


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

Powerpointy – wires and pipes

See this page for more on downloading files.

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

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