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TechNote #139: Last modified: 09/29/2010

Equations on animated PowerPoint slides are low quality images

The information in this document applies to:

  • MathType, all versions (Windows)
  • Microsoft Equation Editor
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
    2002, 2003, and 2007 (Windows)


In Microsoft PowerPoint slide show view, equations on slides with any animation present are of low quality and look pixelated when shown in Slide Show view, whereas equations on slides with no animation are of normal high quality. Text looks fine in both cases.


In order to prevent delays when displaying the slide on the screen in Slide Show view, the graphics rendering engine in PowerPoint displays a lower-quality equation image, which is smaller and can be drawn faster by the computer. On slides that are not animated, this is not an issue, and equation objects display at full resolution. Compare these two expressions, both of which are screen shots taken from Slide Show view in PowerPoint 2007:

equation with animation equation without animation
Expression from a slide with animation present Expression from a slide with no animation


The only real solution to this issue is to upgrade to PowerPoint 2010, since this issue has been fixed in that version, but clearly this is not an option for everyone. In the meantime, there are two workarounds we can suggest, each of which offers its own advantages. You can use both techniques in the same presentation if you want, but that generally won't be necessary. On slides with no equations present, use animation the way you normally would. To handle equations on slides that contain any animation, whether text, equations, drawing objects, or anything else, we recommend one of these two methods:

Method 1 -- Simulating animation with multiple slides

This method doesn't use animation at all; rather, it uses slide transitions. (Animation refers to the movement or appearance/disappearance of objects within a single slide. Transition is the animated effect of transitioning from one slide to the next.)

  1. We will be using slide transitions to simulate animation. For this reason, this technique will not work if you are using "movement" animations/transitions, such as "fly from left", "zoom in", or "wheel". It will only work with "appear" animations/transitions, such as "appear", "fade", and "dissolve".
  2. As you begin to create the new presentation, choose your design template or theme, then choose the Transitions tab on the Ribbon (PPT 2007: Animations tab; PPT 2002 and 2003: in the Slide Show menu, choose Slide Transition). Choose the Dissolve transition for this example, and click the Apply to All button.
  3. Build the presentation just as you normally would, up to a point just prior to the first instance of an equation on an animated slide. Since we used the Dissolve transition, you'll need to use the Dissolve animation. Here's our example presentation up to this point, created in PowerPoint 2010 and saved in .ppt format so you can open it in any version of PowerPoint.
  4. From this point of the presentation (slide 3 in the example), until you finish building the current "slide" (which will actually be several slides), each item on the slide requiring simulated animation must be added to a separate duplicate of the slide. To duplicate the current slide, right-click the slide in the Slides pane, and choose Duplicate (or use the Ctrl+D shortcut):

duplicate the current slide

  1. Before you go further, you'll need to delete the animation on this duplicate slide. On the Animation Task Pane, there is a Remove button. Select all the animation on your slide and click Remove. (If you're using PPT 2007 or 2010, this is not the same as the Animation tab. The Animation Task Pane is to the right of your slide.) On this slide of our example presentation, we've added an equation:

the slide after adding an equation

  1. We have a couple more lines of text we want to add after this matrix equation, so duplicate Slide 4 by following the procedure in step 4. Any subsequent text or objects of any kind may go on this slide unless the new items need to appear animated. If there are more animations to follow, you'll have to continue duplicating slides. Here's our example after the latest additions.

Note: This method has the disadvantage of taking 3 or more slides to do what 1 slide should be able to do, but the equations don't require any special treatment like is required in Method 2, and it looks nice to the audience.

Method 2 -- Using normal animation techniques and inserting equations as GIF images

If you need actual -- as opposed to simulated -- animation on your equations, and the "pixelated" look shown in the screen shots at the beginning of this article isn't how you want your equations to look, this is the method for you to use. For this method, you create your slides and apply the slide transitions & animations that you normally would. The only thing you do differently from normal is how you create the equations for your slides.

  1. You're probably accustomed to opening MathType from the MathType toolbar or Ribbon Tab in PowerPoint, but we won't do that for this method. Open MathType from the Start menu.
  2. Set the MathType Style to the same font as you're using in PowerPoint (Style > Define), and also the Size (MathType Size > Define). This is normally either Calibri 32pt or Arial 32pt.
  3. Set the GIF resolution by choosing Web and GIF preferences from the Preferences menu, and set it to 384.
  4. Create the equation in MathType, and save it (choose Save from the File menu), remembering where on your computer you saved it.
  5. In PowerPoint, choose the Picture command from the Ribbon's Insert tab (PowerPoint 2002 and 2003: choose the Insert Picture From File icon on the toolbar).
  6. Insert the MathType image you just saved, then while it is still selected, change the size to 25% of the original (choose Size and Position from the right-click menu, and set the Scale to 25% -- for PowerPoint 2002 and 2003: Right-click > Format Picture > Size > Scale).
  7. Follow these steps for each equation that's on an animated slide and then proceed as you normally would to complete your presentation.

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