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.