Adding a drop-down menu to a primary or introductory slide is a good way to give viewers a bit of control over a self-running presentation. You can spend a lot of time programming objects, or you can use animation. The latter is easier to implement and doesn’t require the skill level that programming does.

The technique is simple really: You combine AutoShapes to build a drop-down menu type group. Then, you add a bit of animation so that the drop-down menu’s submenus seem to drop down from a main menu when clicked. The example in this article, which you can build in 10 easy steps, is simple by design, so as not to confuse the technique with the possibilities.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Design the menu

The first step is to design the menu. If the presentation is complex enough, you might use flowchart software. For most of us, pen and paper will do. The point is to allow users to choose a specific slide or a subset of slides to view instead of forcing them to sit through a linear presentation. That means the menu must clearly represent the direction or subset.

Menu items can have submenus, and those submenus can have submenus, but simple is best. If you truly need submenus, consider creating a main menu slide that links to a choice of submenus, rather than trying to fit them all onto one slide.

2: Add the main menu

You’ll need a clean slide for your main menu and in most cases, it’ll be the first slide in the presentation. To this slide, add an AutoShape for the main menu by choosing Basic Shapes from the AutoShapes drop-down list, clicking a shape, and then clicking in the slide. Use the handles to size the shape. Then, add the appropriate text, as shown in Figure A. To add text, right-click the shape and choose Add Text. Then, simply type the appropriate label. You can also change the font, size, and weight.

Figure A

This AutoShape represents the drop-down menu’s main or top level.

3: Add a submenu

Next, add the first submenu using an appropriate AutoShape. Position it under the main menu AutoShape (Go To, in this case). Add the appropriate text, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Choose a smaller AutoShape for the submenu.

4: Add remaining submenus and format

Repeat step 3 to add the remaining submenus. Add text for each and format as necessary. Figure C shows three submenus. Viewers are free to choose the information they want to view.

Figure C

Submenus direct users to specific slides.

5: Group submenus

To get all of the submenus to drop down together, you must group them. Select them all (don’t select Goto) by holding down [Shift] while you click each submenu. Then, right-click the selection, choose Grouping from the resulting context menu, and choose Group, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Group the submenus so you can animate them as a group.

6: Add animation to the submenu group

Now you’re ready to add the animation that will display the submenus when someone clicks the Go To button. Do so as follows:

  1. Choose Custom Animation from the Slide Show menu. In PowerPoint 2007, click the Animations tab. Then, choose Custom Animation from the Animations group.
  2. Select the submenu group.
  3. From the Add Effects drop-down list choose Entrance.
  4. From the resulting submenu, choose Wipe, as shown in Figure E.
  5. From the Direction drop-down list, choose From Top.
  6. Click the Play button (at the bottom of the Custom Animation pane) to preview the effect.

Figure E

Add an Entrance effect to the submenu group.

7: Set the Go To trigger

Right now, clicking anywhere in the slide will display the drop-down submenus. That might be adequate, but more than likely you’ll want a click to the Go To button to be the only trigger. To limit the click to the Go To button, do the following:

  1. Choose Timing from the submenu group, as shown in Figure F.
  2. In the resulting Wipe dialog box, click Triggers.
  3. Select Start Effect On Click Of and choose the Goto button from the drop-down list, as shown in Figure G.
  4. Click OK.

Figure F

Choose Timing from the group’s drop-down list.

Figure G

Specify the Go To button (which PowerPoint identifies as a rounded rectangle object).

8: Link a submenu

Individual submenus need a hyperlink to their target slides. Add a hyperlink to the first submenu as follows:

  1. Click the top submenu (Instructions), which will select the entire submenu group.
  2. Click one of the submenu’s borders and its handles will turn gray, as shown in Figure H.
  3. From the Insert menu, choose Hyperlink.
  4. In the Hyperlink dialog box, click the Place In This Document shortcut (to the left).
  5. Select the target slide, as shown in Figure I.
  6. Click OK.

Figure H

Select just one submenu.

Figure I

Identify the target slide.

Repeat steps 1 through 5 to link all of your submenus to their target slides.

9: Set up the return trip

Most likely, you’ll want to let users return to the main menu slide by clicking a hyperlink on the target slides. With a target slide (Instructions, Apply, and Status) current, you can use an Action Button to return home — in this case, that’s the first slide in the presentation:

  1. From the AutoShapes menu, choose Action Buttons.
  2. Click the Action Button: Home button, as shown in Figure J.
  3. Click inside the slide. It’s best if you position the Home action buttons in the same spot on each slide.
  4. PowerPoint will launch the Action Settings dialog box. In this case, you’ll retain the defaults shown in Figure K, so click OK.

Figure J

Use the built-in Home action button.

Figure K

Accept the button’s default setting, which links to the first slide in the presentation.

By default, this button creates a hyperlink to the first slide in the presentation. It won’t always work that way, but it’s good to know that the method used to add a hyperlink in step 8 isn’t the only route.

Repeat steps 1 through 4 to add a Home action button to each of the target slides.

10: Test the drop-down main menu

At this point, you have the basic pieces in place, so press [F5] to see how they work together. The first slide displays just the Go To button. Click the button to display the drop-down submenus, as shown in Figure L. Click any one of the three submenus to access its target slide. Then, click the Home button to return to the main menu slide.

Figure L

Click the Go To button to display the drop-down menus.