What Happened to My Animation??

Lori Gauthier is with St. Clair County Community Health in Port Huron MI. She shared her latest angst with us:

I have created a complex animation in version 2003. A group of photos appears in a grid and then the date of an event fades in next to the photos. When I click the Play button in the Animation task pane, the date appears as expected. However, when I view the full slide show it doesn’t appear. I have a lot of animation on the page and this is the last one to appear before the show transitions to the next slide. Is there some kind of limit to the number of animations on a slide? But even if there were, why would it work with the Play button but not in full screen?


Lori gave two important clues here to the problem:

  • The animation in question behaves properly when viewed by the preview button in the animation task pane, but not when the slide is played.
  • The animation is the last one scheduled to play on the slide before the slide transitions away.

First, if there is a limit to the number of animations that can appear on a slide, no human has reached it without first being felled by his or her own sanity limit. We have literally seen hundreds of animations placed on a slide. So that’s not it. If the animation previews properly, it almost certainly means that Lori created it correctly. But what is different about previewing a slide and running a show? In the case of the former, you only watch one slide’s worth of animation. In the case of the latter, you watch the concert of slide business and transition business, and as Lori points out, the slide is designed to transition away to the next automatically.

Lori has been victimized by PowerPoint’s inconsistent behavior when slide transitions are set to Automatic instead of the more typical On Mouse Click. They become TOO automatic—the entire slide marches down the street, without waiting for anything. When a slide’s transition is set to Automatic, any animations set to On Click behave like After Previous, and any duration time that the slide is supposed to wait for before transitioning is often ignored. Lori thought she was covering her bases by adding five seconds to the slide transition:

The Slide Transition task pane

This should have allowed the final animation to do its thing and have its affect before the slide changes. However, PowerPoint 2003 is prone to failure. Slide advancement set to Automatic is just too automatic.

Lori’s animation of the date actually does play; it’s just that the slide transition happens at the same moment so nobody sees it. She could see this for herself by setting the slide transition back to On Mouse Click.

Lori needs to outsmart PowerPoint and its tendency to not wait before transitioning. This is a job for the “invisible rectangle” strategy:

  1. Set the slide transition wait time to 0 (because every so often, that setting is honored, and then it becomes even more infuriating).
  2. Draw a small rectangle off the slide.
  3. Animate it with Appear, After Previous, and a delay of five seconds.

No matter how impatient PowerPoint is, it won’t transition away from a slide until all of the slide’s business has been conducted. Therefore, this slide will not transition away until the rectangle “appears” and while PowerPoint waits for it to appear, the event date will have its five seconds of fame. Instead of asking PowerPoint to wait the five seconds AFTER all of the slide elements appear, PowerPoint waits the five seconds BEFORE the final animation takes place. That final animation is invisible, taking place off the slide, seeming to us to be a delay before transition.

You’ll find many useful purposes for the invisible rectangle. It can be used to great effect within a series of animations set to With Previous when careful timing is required. Slip in these rectangles just like a carpenter adds shim to a home project.

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