What Is an Animation in Presentation Software?

Visual effects can give slideshows a boost

An animated graphic, by the simplest definition, is any graphic element that depicts​ movement. Visual effects applied to individual items on a slide—or to an entire slide—in presentation software are called animations.

PowerPoint, Keynote, OpenOffice Impress, and other presentation software come with animation features packaged with the software so users can animate graphics, titles, bullet points, and chart elements to keep their audience interested in the presentation.

Microsoft PowerPoint Animations

In PowerPoint, animations can be applied to text boxes, bullet points, and images so they move on the slide during a slide show. Animation presets in versions of PowerPoint affect all the content on the slide. Entrance and exit animation effects are a quick way to add movement to your slides. You can also apply a motion path to a text or object to animate it.

All versions of PowerPoint have custom animation features to allow you to decide which elements move and how they will move. The Animation Painter, which was introduced in PowerPoint 2010, is a great animation tool that works much like the Format Painter option in other Microsoft Office or Microsoft 365 programs. It allows you to copy an animation effect from one object to another with a single click or double-click to paint multiple objects with the same animation format.

Powerpoint 2016 added the Morph transition type. The feature requires two slides that have an object in common. When Morph is activated, the slides automatically animate, move and emphasize objects on the slides.

Apple Keynote Animations

Keynote is Apple's presentation software for use on Macs and Apple mobile devices. With Keynote, you can make your presentation more dynamic by using simple effects such as displaying text on the slide one bullet point at a time or making an image of a ball bounce onto the slide. You can also build complex animations pairing two or more of these effects.

Keynote's build inspector lets you select an effect, speed, and direction for your animation and to indicate if the animation occurs as the object appears or when it disappears. You can also combine actions into a single animation in Keynote or build objects one piece at a time. 

Both Keynote and PowerPoint give you the ability to add sound effects to animated text and objects. Make good use of it.

Considerations for Animations

Animation adds a sense of playfulness to a presentation, which can keep your audience relaxed and involved in the presentation. Use a combination of entrance and exit animations and of onscreen effects that grab the audience's attention. 

However, use animation with care. A few animations enliven your presentation but use too many and you end up with an amateurish-looking mishmash. This mistake is similar to the rookie error of using too many different fonts on a single slide. 

Some people prefer to receive hard copies of a presentation. Because different presentation applications use animations and transitions in different ways, experiment with a print-to-PDF version of the presentation to ensure that you don't end up unnecessarily inserting one slide per animation.

  • How do I add animations to PowerPoint?

    To add PowerPoint animations, select the object you want to animate, then go to the Animations tab. You can choose from presets or create a custom PowerPoint animation.

  • How do I reorder animations in PowerPoint?

    To change the order of PowerPoint animations, go to the Animations tab. All of the animations for that slide will be listed in the Animation Pane. Click-and-drag the animations to reorder them.

  • How do I change the animation speed in PowerPoint?

    To adjust animation speed in PowerPoint, choose the animated object, go to the Animations tab, then edit the Duration field in the upper-right corner. Use the arrows to adjust the speed in quarter-second increments, or enter a custom speed.

  • How do I remove PowerPoint animations?

    Select the animated object, or press Ctrl+A to select all objects on the slide, then go to the Animations tab and select None. To disable animations for a slide show, check the Show without animation checkbox before you begin the show.

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