In previous versions of PowerPoint, animating elements on the screen was in equal parts (to me, at least) amusing and annoying. I loved it when the items did their little swirls or faded into view at just the right time. But I fussed and fumed over that one word bubble that would never arrive on cue. Now in PowerPoint 2010, the animation feature is easier — and goes farther — with just a few clicks of the mouse. Here’s a small taste of these improvements.

1: Use ready-made animations

The Add Animation gallery presents simple animations you can easily apply to items on your slide. Simply click the element you want to animate, click the Animation tab, and click Add Animation. The gallery (Figure A) shows a number of simple animations that control the way objects enter, exit, appear, and disappear on your slides.

Figure A

The Add Animation gallery offers assorted ready-made animations you can apply to elements on your slide.

2: Set triggers

A trigger enables you to tie your animation to another action on the slide. You can create bookmarks in your presentation that trigger an animation to begin, or you can set the animation to start when you click the mouse. You can further control the trigger by indicating which action you will take to trigger the animation. Set a trigger for an animation by clicking the animated item and then clicking Trigger in the Advanced Animation group of the Animations tab.

3: Use the Animation Painter

It’s not unheard of to spend hours trying to get everything in your presentation animated perfectly. Getting things to move at the right speed, in the right order, and ending in the right sequence used to be a pretty tricky business. Now you can automate the animation sequences you like by using the Animation Painter. Available in the Advanced Animation group, the Animation Painter works like the Format Painter tool. You click the element with the animation you want to copy, click Animation Painter, and then drag the pointer over the item you want to receive the animation settings. PowerPoint does the rest.

4: Let the timeline help you out

The timeline appears at the bottom of the Animation Pane to help you see how the animations are unfolding on your slide. You can use the timeline to gauge the entry and exit of various items and to determine whether you want to change the time or sequence of events. Each individual animation also shows the length of time it requires by displaying a small time segment to the right of each animation entry. You can scroll along the timeline by clicking the arrows at either end or click the Seconds control to Zoom In or Zoom Out and change the increments of time you are working with (Figure B). This can help you fine-tune the animations so that the motion occurs precisely when you want it to.

Figure B

You can change the increments on the timeline to fine-tune the animation of elements on your slide.

5: See it all in the Animation Pane

The Animation Pane (Figure C) brings together all kinds of information and tools for you to use as you organize, order, and time the animation features you add to elements on your slides. Display the Animation Pane by clicking the Animation tab and choosing Animation Pane in the Advanced Animation group. The task pane lets you preview the animation (click Play), reorder animations, and see where they fall on the timeline. You can also access options related to each animation by clicking its arrow and choosing the tool you want to use. You can set options, control time, or even remove the animation if you like.

Figure C

The Animation Pane brings together all the settings you may want to change for individual animations.

Katherine Murray is the author of Microsoft Office 2010 Plain & Simple (Microsoft Press, 2010), Microsoft Word 2010 Plain & Simple (Microsoft Press, 2010), and Microsoft Word 2010 Inside Out (Microsoft Press, 2010). You can reach Katherine through her blog, BlogOffice or by emailing