Combine motion paths in PowerPoint into a seamless ride

PowerPoint's motion paths don't always take the route you expect. When that's the case, simply move the motion paths!

PowerPoint offers a number of motion paths that are easy to implement, but they don't always move objects the way you expect. For instance, if you combine a move to the left or the right with a move up or down, you might expect the object to move one direction and then the other, but that's not exactly what happens.

When you try to combine two motions paths, the object moves along the first path and then returns to its original position before moving along the second path. Usually, that's not what you'll want. Let's look at a simple example using the circle object shown below. (The arrows and numbers represent the path I'm going to create; they aren't actual objects in the slide.) After adding the circle (or any AutoShape object) to a blank slide, do the following:

  1. With the AutoShape object selected, click the Animations tab. In PowerPoint 2003, right-click the object and choose Custom Animation.
  2. From the Add Animation dropdown (in the Advanced Animation group), choose More Motion Paths. In PowerPoint 2003, choose Motion Paths from the Add Effect dropdown.
  3. Select Right and click OK (no OK button in 2003).
  4. In the Timing group, choose After Previous from the Start dropdown. In PowerPoint 2003, the Start option is in the Modify section in the Task Pane, just below the Add Effects dropdown.
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 2.
  6. Select Up and click OK and set Start to After Previous.

At this point, the circle has two motion paths. If you press [F5] to run the show, you'll see the circle move to the right then jump back to its original position in the bottom left corner and move up from there. There are four turning paths, but their paths are rounded. Fortunately, you can implement a more angular path with very little effort. Simply drag the up motion path line so that its green triangle matches up with the right motion path's red triangle. When you run the slide, the circle will move to the right and then move straight up, without jumping back to its original position in the bottom right corner of the slide. Moving a motion path is simple and it really opens up the possibilities!


Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.


Of course, you can draw an arbitrary motion path ("custom path") including the right angle path in your example. The trick here is to assure you begin at the geometric center of the object (otherwise you'll get a jump at the beginning). Combining 2 or more paths as you have shown is useful if you want the 2 paths at different speed or if you're combining paths with other effects.