PowerPoint interactions #4: Sliding Tabs

Here’s another example of dynamic Articulate Presenter output that doesn’t use Engage or Flash – just three images, and PowerPoint.


Here’s template #4 in the series. The technique moves away from the linear logic used for the first three examples, allowing the learner to select arbitrarily from a set of three tabs. It’s not pixel-perfect and there are many free Flash versions of this kind of thing around on the web, but I wanted to show how it can be done using no programming.

First, View the Presentation. Screenshot of the output

I decided to move away from the “Big Five” content I used for the first three examples – so here’s something a bit more business-oriented.


It works like this:

  • It’s a series of 6 hyperlinked PowerPoint slides.
  • The hyperlinks are in the PowerPoint, so this can be presented as a “single slide” in the Articulate output.
  • There are three images on each slide, which animate right or left in the six possible combinations of three. There are two hyperlinks on each slide to allow the learner to choose from the two slides available (given that they are already viewing one of them on any given slide).

If you want to jump in and see what’s going on for yourself, download the PPTX file. I’ll provide full instructions in a couple of days.


These are three stock images of 770×485 pixels, created for this purpose, with a feathered fill and a vertical title bar. There’s no particular reason for this size or ratio, it just worked for me.

Tab background image

The reason I haven’t used a set of PowerPoint elements for each Tab (text, graphic, gradient and so on) is because once the items are grouped to facilitate the animation, the group can’t be broken for editing without losing the painstaking animation work. Which is really no fun! You can of course export groups of elements as images from PowerPoint and then reimport them, I just prefer to use a graphics program like Photoshop.


Motion Path animations are not the easiest thing to do in PowerPoint, so I used some time and dead-reckoning to get one tab shape to go left (on one slide), then the same shape to go right, back to its original position (on another slide). Then I copied the shapes to get clones – three sliding left (on one slide) and three sliding right (on another slide). These became the “animation library”, if you like. From these two slides, I could select the mix of tabs I wanted – which one (#1, #2 or #3), and with which animation it should appear (the “going left” version, the “going right”, or none at all). This is easier to see in the PowerPoint file than it is to explain ;-)

The next step was a bit of a headache – iterating through all the combinations. Luckily there are only six. The number of slides you need can be worked out using:

Slides needed = (number of tabs x number of tabs) – number of tabs

This is 6 slides, because (3×3)-3 = 6. (The “minus” number of tabs is because the user is already viewing one of the three Tabs on whatever slide they are on). This gave the following combination of animations:

Slide #     Transition (Tab X to Tab Y)       Ending state displays:

1                   3 to 1                                                              Tab 1
2                   1 to 2                                                              Tab 2
3                   1 to 3                                                              Tab 3
4                   2 to 1                                                              Tab 1
5                   2 to 3                                                              Tab 3
6                   3 to 2                                                              Tab 2

The hyperlinks were easy to work out from this table – if you’re on Slide 1 showing Tab 1, then there’s a hyperlink on Tab 2 leading to Slide 2 (transition 1 to 2), and a hyperlink on Tab 3 leading to Slide 3 (transition 1 to 3). And so on…

It was necessary to put in a yellow line at the left edge of the PowerPoint “stage” to achieve the illusion of the tab “accordioning” (squashing down) rather than disappearing off the edge. The display text (two instances – one for each of the two times the ending tab is showing) is simply faded in after the transition animation is done.


There are a couple of potential traps:

  • Watch the hyperlinks when pasting. If you paste this set of slides into another presentation, you may need to redo the hyperlinks (because “Slide 2”, “Slide 4” etc. will no longer be in those positions in the new presentation, unlike the previous examples which used “Next slide” and “First slide”).
  • Don’t group things. You’ll lose all of your individual animations…
  • Watch the file size – you may need to play around with the Articulate image Quality settings a little.



  • No need for Flash, other authoring tools, or programming skills.


  • Difficult to expand – the number of slides increases exponentially according to how many tabs you want to display. (E.g. 5 Tabs would be (5×5)-5 = 20 PowerPoint slides.
  • The animation isn’t a “pixel perfect” version of the PowerPoint slideshow – some tiny positioning differences do creep in when exporting it to Articulate output.
  • The animations struggle a little until all 6 slides are loaded – possibly something to do with the size of the images…

Again, whatever you do with this – have fun! And if you need something like this done to order, please contact me.

COMING NEXT: Hmm… I’ll think of something else!

6 thoughts on “PowerPoint interactions #4: Sliding Tabs

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