Use PowerPoint animation to assemble puzzle pieces

Simulate solving a puzzle with AutoShapes and animation.

Puzzles can represent a problem that needs solving, so it's an interesting concept that you might want to animate in a PowerPoint presentation. Although the technique sounds complex, the details are actually very simple. By assigning a fly-in entrance to each puzzle piece, you can give the illusion of snapping puzzle pieces into place. Of course, the number of fly-in positions limits the number of individual pieces you can have, but a few puzzle pieces is all you really need.

The first thing you'll need are a few puzzle pieces. You can be creative as you like, but keep in mind that adding complexity will most likely distract from your technique. I'm going to use just a few simple AutoShapes to create a composite, in order to keep the example as simple as possible. The figure below shows two squares and two rectangles forming a rectangle.

To animate solving the puzzle, assign a fly-in entrance for each piece as follows:

  1. Select the square in the top-left corner. That'll be the anchor piece.
  2. From the Slide Show menu, choose Custom Animation. Then, Click the Add Effect button and choose Entrance and then choose Fly-in. In 2007/2010, click the Animation tab. Click Fly-In in the Animation group.
  3. Make sure the Start option is On Click. In 2007/2010, you'll find this option in the Timing group.
  4. Choose From Top-Left from the Direction dropdown. In 2007/2010, click the Effects Option in the Animation group.
  5. Choose any option from the speed dropdown. I don't recommend the slower speeds though.
  6. Repeat steps 1 through 6 for the remaining three AutoShapes and set the following options:
  • Top-right rectangle—Start: With Previous; Direction: From Top-Right.
  • Bottom-left rectangle—Start: With Previous; Direction: From Bottom-Left.
  • Bottom-right square—Start: With Previous; Direction: From Bottom-Right.

To see the puzzle-solving technique in action, press [F5] to run the show. Click to start the action—clicking executes the fly-in for the square in the top-left. The remaining pieces are all set to With Previous, so they'll all seem to fly-in simultaneously. You could, just as easily, use clicks to assemble the puzzle, piece-by-piece.

Because the puzzle has no inter-locking parts, a great deal is left to the imagination. Of course, you could create inter-locking pieces. If you use a fast speed, the fact that the pieces don't actually snap into place won't be noticeable.

By Susan Harkins

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.