Add an exit strategy to bullet points in a PowerPoint slide

It's easy to display bullet points one at a time. It's just as easy to get them to disappear, if you know the right properties to alter.

Animating a bullet list in a PowerPoint slide is so easy that even a novice can do it. Animating the text to display one bullet at a time is where most of us start and, often, that's all you need. Further emphasizing each point by hiding previous point(s) is also a breeze, but sometimes users apply the wrong tools and work harder than necessary or, even worse, they give up.

Follow this tutorial to learn how to display and hide bullet points one at a time the easy (and the correct) way. You can also download the sample demos (PowerPoint animated bullet list demo.ppt and PowerPoint animated bullet list demo.ppt) to see these tips in action.

Add a bullet list in PowerPoint

You need a bullet list similar to the one in Figure A. To create a list, insert a text box and add the list items, using a hard return at the end of each item to wrap to the next line. After you add all the text, you're ready to add the bullet format.

  1. Select the text box control. If the border is a dashed line, click the border to make it solid. Or, you can click inside the box and press [Ctrl]+A to select all of the text. In PowerPoint 2003, change the border from the slash lines to dots.
  2. Click the Home tab.
  3. In the Paragraph group, click the Bullets option. In PowerPoint 2003, you'll find this option on the Formatting toolbar.

Figure A



Make an entrance in PowerPoint

Let's add an entrance effect that displays each bullet point, in turn, when you click the slide.

  1. Select the text box control.
  2. Click the Animations tab. In PowerPoint 2003, choose Custom Animations from the Slide Show menu. 
  3. In the Advanced Animation group, click the Add Animation dropdown. In PowerPoint 2003, choose Entrance from the Add Effect dropdown.
  4. Click Appear in the Entrance section (Figure B). In PowerPoint 2003, you might have to click More Effects to access Appear. (It doesn't matter which entrance effect you choose.) PowerPoint will display numbered animation tips next to each item (Figure C). The number represents the order in which PowerPoint will execute the entrance effect.
  5. There's an extra step in PowerPoint 2013: From the Effect Options dropdown in the Animations group, choose By Paragraph.

Figure B



Figure C



You're ready to run the slideshow by pressing [F5]. Click the slide four times to display each bullet point, one at a time. In Figure D, you see that I clicked the slide twice, displaying the first two items. A third click will display the third item, and a fourth click will display the fourth (and last) item in the list. This is a sophisticated effect for so little work.

Figure D



A timely exit in PowerPoint

If you add the Disappear exit effect expecting PowerPoint to hide the current item when it displays the next item, you'll be disappointed. PowerPoint will add the disappearing effect to subsequent fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth clicks. In other words, PowerPoint will hide the list items one at a time after displaying all four items.

You can fiddle with the triggers and timing, but it's unnecessary. The Entrance effect has everything you need. To hide each item as PowerPoint displays the next, do the following:

  1. In the Animation Pane, click the Entrance effect's dropdown list. In PowerPoint 2003, it's the Custom Animation pane.
  2. Choose Effect Options (Figure E).
  3. In the resulting dialog, click the After Animation dropdown and choose Hide On Next Mouse Click (Figure F).
  4. Click OK.

Figure E



Figure F



Run the slideshow by pressing [F5] and start clicking to display the bullet items. Each time you click, PowerPoint displays the next item and hides the previous item (Figure G). That's certainly a lot easier than trying to customize the exit timing for each item.

Figure G



If completely hiding bullet points is more intense than you want, you might consider changing the color of the previous item.

  1. In the Animation Pane, click the Entrance effect's dropdown list.
  2. Choose Effect Options.
  3. In the resulting dialog, click the After Animation dropdown and choose one of the color thumbnails at the top of the options list. If you don't see the color you want, click More Colors, select one, and then click OK. The control now displays the color you chose (Figure H).
  4. Click OK (Figure I).

Figure H



Figure I



Run the slideshow by pressing [F5]. When you click the slide to display the next bullet point, PowerPoint changes the color of the previous item instead of hiding it (Figure J). You accomplished all of this by modifying the original entrance effect, not by adding a new effect.

Figure J




I encourage you to explore PowerPoint's other effect options. You can add even more emphasis by displaying/hiding each item by the word or the character. In most cases, you won't need this much change, but the ability is there when you need it. The Sound options work similarly, but you'll find they become annoying fast, so use them sparingly.

What's your favorite PowerPoint effect option? Let us know in the discussion.