Use triggers to create an interactive slide show in PowerPoint

Power User Corner

By Shellie Tucker

Here's a Power User column for teachers. Want to involve your students more in a presentation? Set up "triggers" for them to click as they go through the show. Triggers (related to animations) let you add surprise to your slides while inviting your viewer to take part and have fun.

Applies to

Microsoft Office PowerPoint® 2003

Microsoft PowerPoint 2002

Let's get past the term, first: A trigger is nothing more than an item on your PowerPoint slide — it could be a picture, a shape, a button, or even a paragraph or text box — that sets off an action when you click it. The action might be a sound, a movie, or an animation, such as text becoming visible on the slide.

Another use of triggers: You can create a set of questions and answers on a slide for a student, and set up the answer choices to be triggers that reveal the correct or incorrect answer. For example, in an "Introduction to my class" presentation, you could invite readers to make guesses about you:

Which one is true?  My house pet is a:

  1. Cat named Garbo.

  2. Boa constrictor named Elvis.

  3. Ferret named Ferdinand.

Whatever answer the student clicks, text or a picture bubbles up in response, such as, "You guessed it: my cat is more Garbo than Garbo." Or, a sound goes off that makes the wrong or right answer clear.

Triggers help you get a two-way interaction going with your students, inviting them to guess, laugh, ponder, learn, engage in total silliness, or whatever.

Trigger basics

A couple of points about triggers:

  • Any time you have an animation effect, movie, or sound on a slide, you can set up a trigger for it. Or, another way to think about it is: You have no access to the Triggers feature unless one of these effects is on your slide.

  • You must click a trigger directly (as opposed to just clicking the slide) for its related effects to play.

Try it out

The steps below tell you how to create an effect similar to what's shown in the slide sample above. Imagine that you're creating a slide for a presentation of teacher biographies. You need to set up a picture (presumably of the teacher) so that it triggers a little text biography when it's clicked.

Set up the slide

Start with a layout that combines a picture with text:

  1. Start PowerPoint; it opens with a new, blank presentation. There's just one slide so far, as you see in the Slides tab on the left of the window.

  2. Insert a new slide.

  3. In the Slide Layout task pane, find a layout called Title, Content and Text, which has room for a picture on the left and a list on the right. (Rest the mouse pointer on the layout options to see ScreenTips that show you the names of the layouts.) Click that layout to apply it to the new slide.

Insert the trigger

For now, you'll just insert the item that will serve as the trigger — in this case, a picture or photo. Later, you'll make it behave like a trigger.

  1. On the slide, in the left placeholder, insert a picture. (For the following effects and this layout, a picture with a vertical orientation works best.) Your method for doing this is up to you; the icons on the slide help you insert a picture from Bing Images or from a file on your computer.

    Note: ClipArtDeprecation_2007-2010

  2. Using the Text Box button Button image on the Drawing toolbar, put a caption below the photo that says something like, "Click the photo for a bio."

  3. Type the teacher's name in the title (top) placeholder on the slide.

Create an animation

Now apply an animation effect to text in a list. This effect is the action that the trigger will set off.

  1. In the placeholder on the right side of the slide, type a bulleted list of points that tell something about the teacher.

  2. Animate this text:

    1. Open the Custom Animation task pane. (Quick way: Right-click the text on the slide, and then click Custom Animation.)

    2. On the slide, click within the bulleted list of text.

    3. In the task pane, use the Add Effect button Button Image to apply an Entrance effect, such as Color Typewriter.

      On the slide, you should see consecutive numbers next to each bullet point, indicating that the bullets will play in sequence. In the task pane, the effect looks something like this:

      Effect in the task pane list

      The effect has been applied to each bulleted item (or paragraph) in the slide placeholder, but it's showing in a collapsed list in the task pane, so you only see the first bulleted item that has the effect. As indicated by the mouse icon, each bullet point will "play" (or appear) when you click the mouse.

  3. Since this will be a self-guided presentation, it's best if the animation effects play automatically. To change how they start, in the task pane, click the arrow on the right of the effect, and then click Start After Previous.

    Modify the animation effects to start after previous action

    On the slide, the numbers next to the text all become zeros. And in the task pane, there's now a clock icon next to the effect.

  4. To see how this looks in a presentation, click the Slide Show button Button Image within the task pane. The bulleted list items play automatically in the presentation. (To return to normal view, press ESC.)

Hook up the trigger

Now you'll hook up the animation effect to the picture so that when you click the picture, the animation starts playing.

  1. Looking at the effect again in the task pane, click the arrow on the right to display the drop-down menu, and then click Timing.

  2. Click the Triggers button on the lower left.

  3. Click Start effect on click of. You'll see a list that looks something like this:

    timing options, showing a list of possible triggers

    The list shows the various items on the slide, starting with title text.

  4. Select the art file that represents the picture you inserted. In the example above, it's a piece of art file named j0178808. Then, click OK.

    The animation is now set to play when you click the photo, and the effect looks like this in the task pane:

    effect listed under the trigger bar

    The main difference is that the effect is now under a trigger bar (the bar that says Trigger: j0178808[1]), and the bar shows you what the trigger is (the picture's file name). On the slide, there's a hand icon icon image next to each bullet, indicating that each bulleted item has a triggered effect.

  5. Check this out in Slide Show view. In the presentation, point to the photo; the pointer becomes a hand. Click the photo, and the text effect plays.

Spice up the action

To make more happen when you click the trigger, animate the picture and add a sound.

  1. On the slide, click the picture, and use the Add Effect button to add an Emphasis effect. Choose the Grow/Shrink effect.

    In the task pane, this effect shows at the top of the list, above the trigger bar. To make it play as part of the triggered sequence, drag it under the trigger bar, above the text effect that's already there. The effect sequence looks like this:

    list of effects with the emphasis effect added

  2. To control how much the picture grows, click the emphasis effect that you just moved into the list, click the arrow on its right to display its menu, and then click Effect Options.

    effect options command

  3. Click the arrow next to the Size box. Next to Custom, change 150% to 125%, press ENTER, and then click OK.

  4. Add a sound effect by applying one that's built in to the text effect you added earlier (Color Typewriter, the entrance effect that has the ascending stars as an icon):

    1. Click the text effect in the list. (You still see just the top item with the rest collapsed.)

    2. Click the arrow on its right, and then click Effect Options.

    3. In the Sound list, select the Typewriter sound.

    4. Click OK.

      Note    The bulleted list items might play faster than you'd like (the default time is 0.08 seconds). With the Color Typewriter text effect selected in the task pane, if you look at the Speed box above it and click the box's arrow, you'll see other timing options (Fast, Very Fast, and so on). However, these might play it too slowly. To set a specific number of seconds for the list to play, click the arrow on the Color Typewriter effect, click Timing, and in the Speed box on the Timing tab, change the number to something a few seconds longer. That will slow down playing time slightly.

Go for it

You've got the essentials for giving students an interactive experience with PowerPoint. They'll appreciate the results.

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