If you use MS Powerpoint as I do (for presentations) then you will probably never need this, but if you use it as my girlfriend does (for teaching purposes) then you probably ran into this issue before. You go through few slides and then you want to pause for five minutes (maybe a quick break or quiz time). Wouldn’t it be great if the 5 minutes timer show on the slide so everybody know exactly when the break ends?
I am bit surprised Microsoft did not implement this feature in powerpoint long time ago. There are some workaround, let me try to list few of them here.
1. external programs
I don’t want to touch this too much. It is certainly possible to download application and just run it. There are some nice apps, you can use Yahoo Widget Google or Windows Widgets or even Flash components (no install required). To be honest I don’t like this method because it does not easily fit into powerpoint – it’s not part of it and you cannot easily move the counter with the powerpoint presentation (there is almost always some manual step required when you try to).
2. animated GIF
This is certainly very interesting and I really like it. Animated GIF is basically a movie (if I can call it like that) stored in a picture – you probably saw back in 1999 tons of animated rotating logos on some web pages. That’s exactly what it is. What is great on this solution is the fact that it is part of the powerpoint, stays with it even if you move the presentation to another computer and requires no visual basic code in the powerpoint resentation. John has very nice article about it here
3. transition effect (animation)
The other option is to create separate text boxes for every second – for example 60 seconds would have 60 text boxes with digits 01 02 03 04 … and then show them one by one and create an animation. This is really great if you really want to customize your timer, fits nicely in powerpoint, stays with powepoint presentation on any computer (older MS Powerpoint does not support animation – I believe you need 2002 and above) and does not require any visual basic macro. Here is great example how to do it. There are few drawbacks of this solution. First it’s a lot of work (there are few macros which can use to simplify the creation of the text boxes – here is one excellent example – please note the macro is used to create the textboxes only, not to run the timer). The bigger issue I found is the fact that if you have longer pause (more than 5 minutes) and want to show second by second (yes some people do), you can get a lot of textboxes and my PC was getting slow and funky. If you really have long break maybe you can show only minutes and seconds only for the last minute.
4. MACRO (visual basic)
although I’m not big fan of VBA if you share the presentation (for viruses reason), VBA solutions can be very nicely customized and can fit your needs better than anything else. The macro stays with powerpoint presentation and you can easily move it between computers. I really like this sample
5. POWERPOINT ADD-IN
MS Powerpoint as most of the MS Office programs support add-in model. There are some interesting add-in counters out there. The counters stay on the computer where the add-in is installed, but they very nicely fit in the presentation (is kinda a blend between (1) and (4) without any macro. Here is a nice example.
6. ActiveX component
This is a bit silly solution and kinda overkill. You can download ActiveX component and then place it in powerpoint on a form. I would not recommend this solution since it does not stay with PPT and has to be installed on your PC and probably won’t fit nicely in the presentation. One free sample is here
little conclusion at the end …
So which one would I use? Well if your break is not long and you can use (3) then go for it – it’s very clean nice solution with no macros. With use of the tool I mentioned above, you can create it in few second. If you get jerky Powerpoint behavior because you have too many slides, then (2) or (4) would be good option.