There are two easy ways to connect slides to one another: action buttons and links. Action buttons are AutoShape objects that link to other slides, play sounds, and perform other specific tasks. Users simply click the button to execute the actions. The user-friendly display of action buttons makes them a natural for self-running presentations. Links include hyperlinks and actions. They let users link to other slides, files, and even web pages. In this article, we’ll add several action buttons and links for easy maneuverability.

Note: You can download the demo files for these techniques if you want to see them in action.

1: Outline your needs

You can add links at any stage of development, but knowing the paths you might want to travel from slide to slide is the key to knowing which slides need links. Figure A shows our example presentation, which displays a few informational messages. The first slide is a menu. We want to link the menu arrows to the appropriate slides. From those slides, we’ll use action buttons to return to the menu.

Figure A

Outline your presentation’s path.

2: Add an action link

The jump from the menu slide to the appropriate informational slide is easy work for an action link. To add a link that jumps to the instructions slide when clicked, do the following:

  1. Click the Instructions arrow (AutoShape). If you click inside the text, PowerPoint will add a hyperlink style (underscore) to the text. If you click the border, it won’t. In PowerPoint 2003, choose Hyperlink from the Insert menu and skip to step 6.
  2. Click the Insert tab.
  3. Click the Action option in the Links group.
  4. In the resulting dialog, click the Hyperlink To option. The default setting in the drop-down is Next Slide.
  5. Choose Slide, as shown in Figure B, from the drop-down.
  6. In the next dialog, choose General Instructions as shown in Figure C.
  7. Click OK twice.

Figure B

Choose Slide to link to another slide in the presentation.

Figure C

Select the slide you want to link to from the Instructions arrow.

You just linked the first arrow to the General Instructions slide. Action links are an easy way to link an existing object, in this case, the arrow AutoShape.

3: Complete the menu links

Repeat step 2, adding an action link to both of the remaining arrows:

  • Apply: How To Apply
  • Status: How To Check Your Status

4: Test the menu links

You’ll probably want to check the links before you continue. Press [F5] and click one of the arrows to jump to its corresponding informational slide. Press [Esc] to return to Normal view. Repeat this step to check all three links.

5: Add an action button

The arrow action links jump to specific slides, but there’s no way to get back to the home menu slide. You can only click through the remaining slides. That’s where action buttons come in. Add an action button to the General Instructions slide as follows:

  1. Select the General Instructions slide.
  2. Click the Insert tab. In PowerPoint 2003, choose Action Buttons from the AutoShapes drop-down (on the Drawing toolbar) and skip to step 4.
  3. From the Shapes drop-down (in the Illustrations group), choose the action button (bottom of the gallery) with the house, shown in Figure D. Click and drag near the right-bottom corner of the slide to insert the button.
  4. When PowerPoint displays the Action Settings dialog, choose Slide from the Hyperlink To drop-down. Notice that First Slide is the default. In this case, that seems like an appropriate choice because the home menu slide is the first page in the presentation. We’ll discuss why it’s the wrong choice in a moment.
  5. Choose Slide 1. PowerPoint uses the contents of a slide’s Title placeholder as the slide’s name. Because this slide doesn’t have a title, PowerPoint references its position.
  6. Click OK twice.

Figure D

Add the Home action button.

In step 5, choosing First Slide might not be the right choice. If you add a slide to the beginning of the presentation, the action button will link to the new first slide. Using the default is fine, as long as the presentation’s first slide is your true destination, even if the first slide changes.

There are several action buttons. I recommend that you familiarize yourself with them and their functions, so you can put them to work. They’re all just as easy to implement and use as the home button is.

6: Complete the action buttons

Using the instructions in #5, add an action button to both the How To Apply and How To Check Your Status slides. Link those action buttons to the menu slide (Slide 1). Or simply copy the button from the General Instructions slide to the other two slides. Both methods will work; copying a button is a bit quicker.

7: Add the action button to the slide master

You can create individual action buttons as needed. You can even copy a completed button, as mentioned in #6. Sometimes you’ll want the same action button on every slide. When this is the case, you can add the action button to the slide master as follows:

  1. Click the View tab. In PowerPoint 2003, choose Master from the Insert menu, select Slide Master, and skip to step 3.
  2. In the Master Views group, click Slide Master.
  3. Repeat the instructions in #5 to add an action button to the slide master.
  4. Click the Slide Master tab.
  5. Click Close Master View.

When you return to Normal view, you’ll find the action button you added to the master on every slide in the presentation. (You don’t have to complete this step now.)

8: Test the action buttons

Test the action buttons by pressing [F5], clicking a menu link to access another slide, and then using the Home action button to return to the menu slide. Check all three action buttons before you continue.

9: Create an End action button

It’s possible that users will need to view only one slide, so a quick end-of-show link would be efficient. As you might have guessed, there’s an action button for that. Using the instructions in #5, add an action button to one of the information slides, but use the End action button, shown in Figure E.

Figure E

Add an End action button.

The default setting will link to the last slide in the presentation. Similar to the situation we discussed in #5, you can specify a different slide, one that isn’t literally the last slide. What matters is the button’s visual clue to the user. Users will recognize the button’s icon and understand that clicking it will take them to the last slide they need to view. It doesn’t matter to them or the show’s progression whether that slide is actually the last one in the presentation. After completing the first End action button, copy it to the apply and status slides.

10: Add a hyperlink

Links can access other slides, other files, and web pages. A link can even display a default email window and fill in the address. To illustrate, let’s add one final link to the presentation:

  1. Select the end slide.
  2. Click the Insert tab. In PowerPoint 2003, this option’s on the Drawing toolbar.
  3. Draw a Text Box control (in the Text group) on the slide.
  4. Enter the text shown in Figure F.
  5. Select the name Susan Harkins.
  6. With the name selected, click Hyperlink in the Links group. In PowerPoint 2003, choose Hyperlink from the Insert menu.
  7. In the Address control, enter a valid email address, as shown in Figure G.
  8. Click OK.

Figure F

We’ll add an email link to this text.

Figure G

Enter the email address.

Clicking the hyperlinked text will launch the system’s default email client. Figure H shows an Outlook Express window with the address control filled in automatically. This hyperlink isn’t a navigating link similar to the others, but it’s just as useful and easy to implement.

Figure H

Quickly send email using a hyperlink.

For easy techniques using action buttons, read:

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