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Motion Path Animations in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows -- Open and Closed Motion Paths

Learn about the open and closed Motion Paths in PowerPoint 2013.

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Product/Version: Microsoft PowerPoint 2013
OS: Windows 7 and 8

Motion paths are essentially the paths (or lines) through which slide objects animate. These motion paths are just like any other line with curves, points, etc. If you are familiar with the drawing tools in PowerPoint (Line, Curve, Scribble, and Freeform), you know that paths can be either open or closed. A circle is a good example of a closed path, whereas an arc is an open path -- look at Figures 1 and 2 to view some samples of closed and open paths respectively.

Closed Motion Paths
Figure 1: Closed Motion Paths

Open Motion Paths
Figure 2: Open Motion Paths

So, how is the concept of open and closed paths relevant to Motion Path animations in PowerPoint?

Any animation that plays on a closed Motion Path gets back to the original starting point of the animation -- thus the starting and ending points of such an animation are the same.

On the other hand, animations that play on open motion paths have distinctly different starting and closing points -- examples of these are animations that play on a line or a curved path from one part of the slide to another.

If you know how to edit points of paths using PowerPoint's capable drawing tools, you can easily convert open paths to closed, and vice-versa. Even if you are not too familiar with the drawing tools, you can quickly convert an open path to a closed one, or the other way around using the options that we explain next.

Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Select the slide object that you want to animate -- you can select any object on a slide although animation works best on text and shapes.

    Alternatively, if you just want to follow this tutorial step-by-step, launch PowerPoint 2013. Within the Presentation Gallery, select the Blank Presentation option. PowerPoint will open a new presentation with a Title slide – PowerPoint 2013 users can change the slide layout to Blank by selecting the Home tab | Layout | Blank option. Then, insert a shape and select it.

    Now duplicate this existing shape so that you end up with two similar shapes.

  2. Apply Motion Path animations to both the shapes. For the first shape, add a closed Motion Path such as a Circle; for the second shape, add an open motion path, such as a Decaying Wave, as shown in Figure 3. Alternatively, just download this sample presentation -- play the presentation, and observe the animations. Press the Esc key on your keyboard to get back to Normal view.

    Shapes applied with open and closed motion paths
    Figure 3: Shapes applied with open and closed motion paths

  3. If you closely observe two motion paths in Figure 3 above, you will find that the Circle has only one arrowhead (the green one), but the Decaying Wave has two arrowheads (green and red). This is PowerPoint's way of telling you that the first one is a closed motion path, and the other is an open path -- closed motion paths show only one green arrowhead whereas open motion paths show both red and green arrowheads.

  4. Select the shape that has the Circle Motion Path animation applied. Then select the motion path, and carefully right-click the dotted line and choose the Open Path option from the contextual menu, as shown in Figure 4. The immediate result of choosing this option is that you will now see both green and red arrowheads in this Motion Path (see Figure 5). Additionally you will see a preview of the End Animation state of the Motion Path.

    Open Path option to be selected
    Figure 4: Open Path option to be selected

    Both green and red arrowheads are visible
    Figure 5: Both green and red arrowheads are visible

  5. You can now right-click the Motion Path again, and choose the Edit Points option from the in the resultant contextual menu (refer to Figure 4, shown earlier on this page). You'll immediately see vertexes on the path, as shown in Figure 6. You can now select any of these vertex points and drag them around to create something that does not resemble a Circle anymore! We cover the editing of these vertex points in our Motion Path Animations in PowerPoint 2013 -- Edit Points tutorial.

    Vertexes on Motion Path
    Figure 6: Vertexes on Motion Path

  6. Click anywhere on the empty area of the slide to exit the Edit Points mode.

  7. Now, select the other shape on the slide, and then select its Decaying Wave Motion Path, as shown in Figure 7. Carefully right-click the dotted line and choose the Close Path option from the resultant contextual menu (see Figure 7 again).

    Close Path option to be selected
    Figure 7: Close Path option to be selected

  8. This will result in a segment being added to your Motion Path that connects the closing point back to the starting point, as shown in Figure 8. Note that you no longer see two arrowheads, but just the green one (compare Figures 8 and 7).

    Open path converted to closed path
    Figure 8: Open path converted to closed path

  9. If you don't like the plain straight line that PowerPoint adds to close the path, you can right-click the Motion Path and choose the Edit Points option in the resultant contextual menu. Thereafter, click anywhere in the line segment (make sure you don't click a vertex point). This adds a new vertex at the clicking position. Now, drag the new vertex down or up to create a curve in the line. Similarly, you can add more vertexes and bend the line segment to meet your requirement. In Figure 9, you can see the edited line segment that looks smoother and more organic (compare Figures 8 and 9).

    Curved Line
    Figure 9: Curved Line

  10. Save your presentation often.

Note: There's no limit to what you can do with the Motion Paths as long as you open and close paths, and edit points within the path. Combine this with the option to draw your own custom motion paths, and reversing them -- and the possibilities are almost endless!

Note: Do some motion paths have the Open Path, Close Path, or Edit Points options grayed out? Yes, that can happen with paths that are essentially straight lines (see Figure 10). Also the Custom Motion Paths that are straight lines drawn using any of the Line drawing tools will have these options grayed out.

Grayed out options
Figure 10: Grayed out options

See Also:

Motion Path Animations in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac -- Open and Closed Motion Paths
Motion Path Animations in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows -- Open and Closed Motion Paths
Motion Path Animations in PowerPoint 2002, 2003, and 2007 for Windows -- Open and Closed Motion Paths


PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts and Sequences:
PowerPoint 2013, 2011, 2010, 2007 and 2003

Have your ever used keyboard shortcuts and sequences in PowerPoint? Or are you a complete keyboard aficionado? Do you want to learn about some new shortcuts? Or do you want to know if your favorite keyboard shortcuts are documented?

Go and get a copy of our PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts and Sequences E-Book.

PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts and Sequences E-book


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