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The article, How to use color in a PowerPoint slide to highlight information, shows three simple ways to use color when emphasizing information. We all know that words are quickly forgotten, so consider using easy ways to emphasize details so your audience will remember what’s important. In this article, we’ll continue what the first article started; I’ll show you three simple ways to emphasize data using simple animations.

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I’m using (desktop) Office 365 but you can use earlier versions. You can follow along with the downloadable .pptx demonstration file. (The demonstration file also contains the slide from the linked article.) This article assumes you have basic PowerPoint skills, such as inserting AutoShapes and applying properties. Not all of the animations are available from the browser, but the browser will play them in an existing show, although you may notice subtle differences.

How to make an arrow pulsate in Microsoft PowerPoint

An arrow is meaningful to all of us—it pulls our attention straight to the targeted point. Even more powerful is a pulsing arrow. By adding an easy animation to an arrow AutoShape, we can make the arrow move a bit. For example, we’ll add a pulsing arrow to the left of the item Lose weight. First, we need an arrow:

  1. Click the Insert menu.
  2. Click the Shapes dropdown in the Illustrations group.
  3. Choose a right-facing arrow and insert. Resize if necessary.
  4. Click the contextual Shape Format tab and choose Red from the Shape Fill dropdown to format the arrow in Figure A.

Figure A

Insert a right-facing red arrow.

At this point, you have a slide with a few text items and a red arrow. The next step is to animate that arrow, and it’s easier than you might think because PowerPoint has a pulse emphasis animation. To apply it, do the following:

  1. Select the arrow.
  2. Click the Animations tab and click the gallery’s More button (the down triangle at the gallery’s right border).
  3. In the Emphasis section, click Pulse.
  4. To make the arrow pulsate continually, we need to set a timing option, so display the Animation Pane (if necessary, by clicking Animation Pane in the advanced Animation group).
  5. Double-click the Arrow: Right 2 animation and click the Timing tag in the resulting dialog.
  6. From the Duration dropdown choose 1 Seconds (Fast).
  7. From the repeat dropdown, choose Until Next Click (Figure B). Depending on the effect you’re going for, Until End of Slide might be more appropriate.
  8. Click OK.
  9. If you want the animation to be automatic, choose With Previous from the Start dropdown (in the Timing group). Otherwise, you must click to trigger the animation.

Figure B

Add timing options.

To see the arrow pulsate, press Shift F5. The pulse is subtle, but it definitely works. Now, let’s look at our second technique: Circling an item.

How to circle an item in Microsoft PowerPoint

Making the arrow pulsate was easy, but now let’s look at a technique that looks more difficult, but really isn’t. We’ll animate a circle to encircle an item. First, insert an oval AutoShape around the Purge closet item. With the oval selected, use the contextual Shape Format tab to set the Shape Fill to nothing and the Shape Outline color to red and the weight to around 3. Now, let’s set the animation:

  1. Click the Animations tab.
  2. From the Animation gallery, choose Wheel in the Entrance section. PowerPoint’s preview will give a quick show!
  3. From the Effect Options dropdown, you can see that 1 Spoke is the default. That means one continuous line starts from top center, to the right, around and back to the top center. Choose a few other spoke options to see the difference, but return it to 1 Spoke before continuing.

Run the show by pressing Shift F5 and click. We must click to see the circle and stop the arrow. When the arrow stops pulsating, PowerPoint starts the circle animation (Figure C). Next, let’s look at a teetering arrow.

Figure C

Use a wheel effect to animate encircling an item.

How to make an arrow teeter in Microsoft PowerPoint

Our last animation will display an arrow to draw attention to the last item about keeping better records. This one allows for the most variation, so don’t stop with this simple example. Experiment with replacing, resizing, flipping, and even using the arrow to pull two items together.

First, insert an arrow AutoShape–specifically, the Arrow: Curved Down option. Drag to size and position so that the arrow is near the last item. Now, let’s add some animation.

We don’t want the arrow visible until we’re ready for it, so click the Animations tab and choose Fade from the Entrance section. Set the Start property (in the Timing group) to After Previous. Doing so will hide the arrow until after the circle animation is complete.

Now, let’s add a second animation to make the arrow teeter a bit. With the arrow still selected, click the Add Animation dropdown (in the Advanced Animation group, do not use the gallery). From this dropdown gallery, choose Teeter from the Emphasis section. Then, set the Start property to After Previous (it won’t teeter until it’s visible). Double-click the Arrow: curved animation (the last in the list in the Animation Pane) and click the Timing tab. Choose Until Next Click from the Repeat dropdown.

Figure D shows all three animations in slide view. There are four animations: The first two items require only one animation each. The teetering arrow requires two: Fade and Teeter.

Figure D

The three effects require four animations.

When you run the show, the red arrow will pulsate until you click. Then, the oval will encircle the closet item. When that animation completes, the teeter one will kick in. As is, the teetering arrow is my least favorite, but I think it would be an excellent way to relate two items (which I haven’t done here). I used On Click and After Previous Start options so you can see how they work. You’ll usually apply one or the other unless you have some custom animations with some interesting timing effects.

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