How to Easily Animate Text in Keynote

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Today I’m going to show you how to make words “drop in” point by point next to a photo in Keynote*.  This is a classic, basic animation that you’ll want to have in your toolbox of skills.  But don’t let the word “animation” scare you! It’s easier than you might imagine. In fact, if this is your first ever animation, you’re gonna be thrilled!  (*Keynote is essentially the Mac version of Powerpoint.)

Getting Ready


You’ll want to start by finding an image that fits whatever point(s) you are making, and download it onto your computer.  I got my photo from for free, and it doesn’t even require attribution. (And I’m not even getting a perk for promoting them, lol.)  My slide is about body language to avoid, so I chose a guy looking nervous and touching his face.

You’ll also want to have at the ready whatever text you’re going to use.  A word or short phrase for each point is  best. Remember, less is more here.

Adding the Photo


In Keynote,  open a blank slide in the template you’ll be using for your presentation.  In the menu bar, go to “insert” and then “choose” and then click on the image you saved earlier.   Position it on the left or right side of the slide, centering it vertically. If necessary, change its size by clicking on the image and then using the little white boxes on the perimeter to reduce or enlarge it.  Don’t worry too much at this point about getting the placement and size perfect - you can always adjust it later.

Adding Your Text


Click on the “T” in the menu.  This will give you a text box. Move it outside of your photo and paste in your first word or phrase.  Repeat with the next phrase, moving them along the photo but not worrying yet about exact placement. Repeat until you have all of your points in their own box.


If you’d like to adjust the size of the font, click on “format” in your menu bar.  Then, click on the text and in the dialogue box to the right, click on “text” and font options will appear.  To change the font of all the phrases all at one time, click on one, hold down the command key, and click on the rest.  Now whatever change you make in the dialogue box will apply to all of your text.


As you can see, I increased the size of my text until it felt both balanced and easy to read.   I also moved my text boxes around, taking advantage of the green lines that pop up, to place them evenly around the photo.   If you want, you can add a text box with a title, as I did. 

Animating Your Text


Now let’s consider how we want the text to appear.  I’d like to start with just the “Don’t” phrase. I’d probably say a few words about how even though these seem like really obvious things you don't want to do when you're standing in front of a crowd, they are common mistakes made by inexperienced speakers, mostly because they're done unconsciously.  Unfortunately, they can be distracting and reduce your credibility, so a little consciousness raising is a good idea here.  I'd also probably be playing with my hair the whole time,  just to get the laugh when the "play with your hair" line” drops in, 'cause, you know, that's kinda funny.

So here are all of my text boxes:       Title text: DON’T

  1. touch your face a lot

  2. pace nervously

  3. clench or clasp your hands together

  4. fiddle with jewelry or clothing

  5. play with your hair


We’re not going to animate "Don't",  because I want it to be there from the start, so I didn't number that one.  But after "Don't"  I want #1- #5 to drop in one by one when I click the mouse.


I start by clicking on “animate” in the menu bar.  Now I click on the text of #1. In the “build-in” option, I click on “add effect”.  Then I choose “appear.” Can I make it "swoosh"  in dramatically? Yes. Do I want to? NO. Remember, we're going for clean and simple here, not bling.  After I click on "Appear" the dialogue box changes, and I see the settings for "Appear."  The order is 1, which is correct - it’s the first item I want dropping in. And the delivery style is “all at once” which means the whole phrase is going to pop in, all at one time.


Now I click on my next text box, which is #2, choose  “add an effect” , choose “appear, and leave the order and delivery style as is.   I repeat with the rest of my text boxes. The default is for the text to drop in “on click”, which is what you want.

Watching Your Animation

Now for the fun part!  Click “play” in the menu bar.  You’ll see your photo and any text that you didn’t animate.  In my case, it's the word, “DON’T”. Press your space bar, or click on your mouse, and your first phrase will appear.  Click again, and your second text will appear, and so on. You did it!


With your animation complete, now it's time to practice!  Introduce your topic/the title of the slide, talk about it a little bit, and then click once and transition into your first point.  Say whatever you want to say about it, then click again and transition into your second point, and so on through the list.  This process works much better than simply presenting all the points all at one time because as soon as your audience has read the next point, their attention will be back on you, where you want it.  Another option if you're presenting to a smaller group or class is to have them guess what some of the "don'ts" are before you click on them.  This will keep them quite focused sine they'll be waiting to see if their guess shows up on the list.


So, you’ve just learned another way to avoid boring bullet points . If you found this post helpful, pin it, and help your friends out, too! 

And now, go forth, animate, speak, and change the world!