PowerPoint is widely regarded as an application that is relatively easy-to-use and accessible to all with a fairly simplistic animation system that anyone can use to add some visual spark or structure to their presentations. But sometimes the PowerPoint defaults just aren’t enough, and even the most casual of PowerPoint users are left wishing for a bit more functionality. No clearer is this the case than with the Wheel animation: it goes one way, from one point. Or does it?

In this article we’ll briefly dip into the realm of combining and customising animations to open up new possibilities, which would otherwise be impossible to achieve with the default animation presets, and we’re going to use the Wheel animation to show you just how this works.

We’re going to solve a problem that previously defeated my colleague Chris, but with a bit of outside-the-box thinking, you can manipulate the wheel animation to do just what you want.

Setting the scene

First of all, to make life a little bit easier we should reveal the Animation Pane and the Advanced Timeline feature built into the pane.

Wheel animation in PowerPoint

There’s no reason to feel overwhelmed by the Advanced Timeline, since there is hardly anything advanced about it. It will just give you a clear visual representation of what’s happening and when. This is extremely helpful when fiddling around with more complex animations.

Sometimes 12 o’clock is not enough

If you’ve ever used the Wheel animation before you might have noticed that you can’t really choose where the animation starts. It always starts from 12 o’clock and goes clockwise. But what do you do when you need the animation to start, let’s say from 4 o’clock? Luckily there is a way to achieve this by combining two animations to act as one. All you need for this is a basic understanding of maths!

Wheel animation in PowerPoint

Right, let’s add a donut to the slide and put a Wheel animation on it. The next thing we want to do is add a Spin animation to the same object. We can do this by clicking on the Add Animation button in the Animations tab (it’s next to the Animation Pane button). If we don’t use the Add Animation button to add the second animation, we’ll see that our original Wheel animation has been replaced with the Spin animation. We should now have two animations showing up in the Animation Pane.

Wheel animation in PowerPoint

When adding new animations, PowerPoint will automatically set the animations to happen when you click your mouse. To make them go off simultaneously, select the two entries and right-click on them to reveal the Start With Previous option. The mouse icons should disappear and we’re ready to dive into the effect settings. Double-click the yellow Spin animation to open up it’s Effect Options window. This can be done for any entry in the Animations Pane and is essential when manipulating animations in this manner.

Wheel animation in PowerPoint

So what should we do now to make the animation start from 4 o’clock?

Basically we want the Spin animation to do two things – rotate the object, and do it fast enough that we don’t actually see it happening. This will effectively shift 12 o’clock to be 4 o’clock and makes the Wheel animation start from 4 o’clock. Let’s go ahead and change the rotation to 120° clockwise.

Now, in the Timing tab of the same window we can edit the duration of the animation. We should change the duration of the animation to 0.01 seconds, this will make it happen so quickly that PowerPoint doesn’t even have a chance to display the animation happening. This brings us to what we we’re after: the Wheel animation now starts from 4 o’clock. Naturally you can change the rotation to whatever you like to start the animation from wherever you please.

Wheel animation in PowerPoint

Now, combining animations and manipulating shapes with them will put some limitations in place. In this example we’ve used a completely circular donut, and on this shape the trick works flawlessly.

If we were to use a star as our shape, we wouldn’t get the result we were initially after. This is because we rotate the star and unfortunately it’s tip will end up at 4 o’clock, leaving us with something that looks different from our original design. So this trick doesn’t really work if you’re using non-round shapes.

Wheel animation in PowerPoint

Make it go counter-clockwise

As we explored before, the Wheel animation goes clockwise by default and the Effect Options window does not include an option to change it’s direction. Happily we can change this with yet another Spin animation. So let’s go ahead and add another Spin animation to the donut and change the animation to play With Previous. We now have three entries in the Animation Pane.

Wheel animation in PowerPoint

Another thing to keep an eye on is that the green animation’s always above the yellow ones. The order here literally dictates the playback order for the animations. By reversing the order, we’ll make the donut abruptly appear before the start of the Wheel animation. This is something to avoid for a smooth playback.

Alright, heading back to the matter at hand. Let’s open up the Effect Options window for our new Spin animation. We want this animation to do a full counter-clockwise 360°. This essentially should do what we were after.

It is important to note that the duration on the new Spin and the original Wheel should be the same. PowerPoint creates both animations with a default duration of 2 seconds. According to common sense this should make the animation look smooth, yet one end of the donut keeps slightly rotating along. If common sense won’t help, then trial and error will.

By changing the Spin duration to 1.75 seconds we end up with a neat counter-clockwise animation. We can derive the Spin duration value by multiplying the Wheel duration value by 0.875, this gives us the desired animation with every possible duration value for the Wheel.

Wheel animation in PowerPoint

Effectively this allows us to animate circular shapes in ways which were not possible before. As with the previous workaround, limitations apply. Using this with anything, but a perfectly round shape will end up with the shape frivolously spinning around on the slide.

Think outside the box

These tricks are great to have in your PowerPoint animation arsenal. You might need to use them if you’re animating time on a clock face, or how about if you’re creating a complex process? And hopefully you’re convinced that the PowerPoint defaults aren’t your only option when making exciting animation sequences.

Do you have any impossible PowerPoint animation problems that you can’t possibly solve? Post them in the comments and we’ll get to work!

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Written by

Taavi Drell

Senior design consultant

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  1. Image of Bruce Bruce says:

    What about rotating log towards viewer

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