Pictures and images of all types make lectures more memorable and easy to follow. Provided that the pictures themselves are not so completely overwhelming that the audience is confused at first glance

Animating pictures allows for complex ideas to be introduced one bit at a time so as to minimise confusion.

The secret to animating pictues is often simply to have an unlabelled version of the picture and to add labels and remove labels one by one as you explain things.

BTW, I just happened to have a spare brain lying around for this demonstration. It makes no difference at all to the demo whether you are familiar or not with cerebral anatomy.


Reasonably stepwise instructions on how add animated labels to a picture.

How to animate labels

First, import or paste a diagram for lableling. For each label, use the drawing tools in powerPoint to add arrows and text. Click here for detailed instructions.

Alternatively, a Blue Peter version is here.

Now For the animating bit

Click on the text of your label and then on "ANIMATIONS" and then "Fade".

Click on the arrow next to your label and then on "ANIMATIONS" and then "Wipe". Under "Effect Options", choose a direction that makes the arrow lead from the text to the diagram. For example, if your label is directly above the diagram then choose "From Top"

Repeat for every label and you will end up with something like the demo below

Click anywhere on the slide to start labels appearing one at a time.

Athough the animated version is not quite as scary as the almost unusable not-animated version, it isn't that much of an improvement.

Two things will massively improve the presentation

  1. Removing as well as adding labels as you move through your explanation of the figure so that all of the labels are not present at the same time
  2. Grouping labels to appear or disappear on a single click.

There are two ways to remove labels

  1. Use an "Exit" animation. Click on the text and arrow you want to vanish and then on "ANIMATIONS" and then "Add Animation" and then choose "Fade" from the "Exit" collection. The alternative keystrokes, having selected one or more objects are: <ALT>AAAXFF<ENTER>
  2. Duplicate the slide, delete all the existing labels labels and add addtional ones

Grouping animation events is fairly straightforward, but does require familiarity with the "Animation Pane". Click "ANIMATIONS" and then "Animation Pane" or <ALT>AC to toggle the Animation pane on or off.

The Animation Pane shows the animation events in the order in which they will occur. To change this order, click on an event and drag it up or down the list. Generally, the name of the object shown in the animation Pane isn't that helpful, but if you click on an animated oject on the slide, the appropriate animation event(s) light up. This is where you can see clearly that objects are allowed to be associated with more than one animation event. The image (left) shows that two animation events are associated with "TextBox 36: ce...". The green one is an entrance animation and the red one is an exit animation.

The numbers to the left of the animation event indicate "clicks". The sequence of numbers, 1-8 indicate that each of these events is triggered by a separate mouse click. Notice that no additional numbers shown after 9. The rest of the events (all of the exit events) are all tied to one mouse click. These events may set to occur simultaneously ("with previous" or sequentially ("after previous")

Click on any of the animation events and play with the triggering, using either the display above or by clicking the drop-down list.

To return briefly to the brain animation, this is a diagram of two halves. The first is to label major anatomical landmarks on the diagram to allow the audience to orient to the cartoon. Once this is accomplished by having all of the appropriate labels appear simultaneously, there is no need for these labels any more, so they can all vanish. A second part of the diagram introduces the components of "Medullary Rhythmicity Area"... so these may be animated together and then the cells of these areas ("Dorsal Respiratory Group") and so on. Each click in the well organised corresponds to the next part of the explanation. This is where animating pictures becomes really useful. Compare this well structured animation to either the not animated version or the individually animated versions shown above.

The final complex-seeming animation is available for download here.

Diagrams drawn in powerPoint

The drawing tools native to powerPoint are pretty limited and it is not easy to originate complex diagrams within powerPoint itself. However, diagrams that require only basic shapes are possible. The example below introduces and explains a timetable using animated rectangles.....

This demonstration, which may be downloaded here, also includes examples of animating groups, which is where several objects are selected and grouped (<ALT>JDAGG) and when the egroup is animated, they all move together.

Complicated Concepts

Here is another diagram that illustrates some reasonably challenging aspects of stimulus-secretion coupling in salivary gland acinar cells using only the most simple of animation techiques.

This demonstration, which may be downloaded here, introduces a cartoon of the salivary cells (drawn using corelDraw) and orients the audience using anatomical landmarks before displaying two independent signal transduction pathways. The diagram is complex in its entirety, but simple when introduced one piece at a time.