Activating an Excel workbook during a presentation

Categories: PPT 2002-2003, PPT 2007, and PPT 2010.

Clients and others occasionally ask how to open an Excel file by clicking on it from within a presentation. Of course, they can always open the Excel file in the background and use Alt+Tab to switch to it. Or they can add a hyperlink to the Excel file and click the link when they’re in slide show view.

These will both work but they’re not always perfectly seamless, so my favorite way to do this is to use an OLE Action animation to activate the workbook on top of the presentation. Here’s how to do it.

Insert the Workbook
The workbook can be embedded or linked – it doesn’t really matter. If you’re linking, it’s generally better to keep the Excel file in the same folder as the PPT file, and of course you must have the Excel file available when you present.
To insert the workbook, do the following:

  1. Choose Insert | Object.
  2. In the dialog box, choose Create from File and click Browse to navigate to the workbook.
  3. Tick the Link box if you wish to link to the file as opposed to embedding it. Click the Display as icon box if you want.

(This process and dialog box is the same in all versions of PowerPoint.)

Apply the Animation
In PowerPoint 2010, do this:

  1. Select the worksheet or Excel icon on the slide
  2. On the Animations tab, click the More button to expand the animations gallery
  3. At the very bottom of the gallery, choose OLE Action Verbs, then choose Open

In PowerPoint 2007, do this:

  1. Select the worksheet or Excel icon on the slide
  2. On the Animations tab, click the Custom Animation button to open the Custom Animation pane
  3. In the Custom Animation pane, click Add Effect | Object Actions | Open

In PowerPoint 2003, do this:

  1. Select the worksheet or Excel icon on the slide
  2. Right-click and choose Custom Animation
  3. In the Custom Animation pane, click Add Effect | Object Actions | Open

Set up a Trigger Animation
You can skip this step if you want. If you do skip it, then the Excel workbook animation will work like most other animations – it will start when you click the mouse. That means the Excel workbook will open when you click the mouse.
Creating a trigger animation means you must click on the spreadsheet to activate it. A random mouse click – that is, one that doesn’t click on the spreadsheet – will simply advance the slide as usual.

In PowerPoint 2010:

  1. On the Animations tab, click Trigger | On Click of | <the Excel Object>

In PowerPoint 2007 and 2003:

  1. Right-click the Object Animation in the Custom Animation pane and choose Timing
  2. On the Timing tab of the OLE Action dialog, click the Triggers button
  3. Choose Start Effect on Click of |<the Excel Object>

Be sure to test the animation. Run your presentation and then move your mouse over the spreadsheet or Excel icon. If you set up the trigger animation, your mouse should turn into a hand when it’s ready to activate the Excel file. Click, and the workbook should open so you can add data, explore the pivot table, whatever.



  1. ray

    Would you know a way of being able to “use”animation to change details while in presentation mode. I created slicers in excel 2010 and have them within a page in my presentation. but when I switch to presentation mode, I can’t click on the slicers to effect the change. Best effort is to switch in an out of presentation mode which kills the effect. Any ideas??

  2. FatCompo

    Fantastic, I was scratching my head and had a few minutes to fix this. I was then asked “how do you do that?” and I looked like an expert :-)

  3. Ken

    Please advise how to return to the power point presentation after I have used the icon to activate the Excel file. Would like to return to the ppt file and on to a second Excel file.

  4. Echo Swinford

    Hm. Alt+Tab will let you tab through all open programs and take you back to your presentation.

    I don’t have time to test this right now, but maybe try hitting Esc. Or just close the workbook.

  5. Sanni

    If my excel file has many sheets,how I’m able to insert all of the sheets into different slide one by one? Because everytime I try it can only insert one sheet,
    Please help..thanks

  6. MaryS

    This is very helpful. I tried on PowerPoint 2013 and it worked perfectly. Thank you for sharing this information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.