Adobe InDesign CC: Basic Animation

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

a decorative list of the various animations you can add to adobe indesign documents

One downside regarding animation in Adobe InDesign is that it’s not that great. It sounds much more exciting than is actually is. Generally it’s meant to allow an InDesign user to create the same kind of animation you’d find in Microsoft Power Point.

The other downside is that if you want to export an animation, you either have to do as a Flash movie (SWF), or as a fixed-page ePub.

Nobody wants Flash any more, due to the many security issues. Even Adobe have effectively dropped it, having renamed ‘Flash’ as ‘Animate’ which allows people to export their work in HTML5 format, much safer. Which leaves ePub – but unfortunately, very few people have the software required to view an ePub file.

the publish online button in adobe indesign

The alternative is to use ‘Publish Online’, a button found near the top right corner of the InDesign screen, which allows you to export animations and just about everything else to an online location...which belongs to Adobe. You can’t download the files for yourself, and therefore if you want to direct a client to the page, you’ll have to give them an Adobe address.

There is a way around this, sort of. Go to ‘’ where you can create the URL you want, with your own branding, and then give that out to your clients. The Adobe address will still be up there on the page when they arrive, but at least you don’t have to use it in what you give them.

So, fairly major good points, and fairly major bad points.

Anyway. Animation...

Let’s say you want a rectangle containing a block of text to move onto the page from the left, as soon as the page loads.

the object to be animated - a blue rectangle with a word inside it

The first thing to do is create the rectangle and the text. Having done that, put it where you want it to end up on the page, and keep it selected with the Selection tool. Then choose ‘window > interactive > animation’.

Click ‘choose’ and select your animation preference from the list. In this case, it would be ‘Fly in from Left’. Then choose the event that’s going to trigger this action. Be careful! You can have more than one event, which might get confusing. In this case, I’m leaving it on ‘On Page Load’, so that as soon as the page loads, the object flies in.

the animation panel showing a list of basic animation presets

As soon as you select 'Fly in from left', a green line appears on the left side of the object. This is the flight path, and like all other vector paths in InDesign, you can edit it. So it doesn’t matter if the path looks as if it’s too short.

the green 'flight path' showing the path the object will move along when animated

Not only can you change its length, you can add ‘anchor points’ and create curves or sharp corners. To do any of these, first switch to the Direct Selection Tool.

the same path, but now adjusted to a curve

A word of warning: the flight path is a sensitive little soul. If you mess things up and keep having to undo and so on, it probably won’t work. You need to decide exactly what you want to do first, and then do it – no mess, no fuss. Then it will (probably!) work.

Click just once on the path. This wakes it up. Then carefully click and drag the left-hand end of it to the point from which you want the object to start moving.

If you want to add anchor points, curve the path etc, switch to the Pen tool. If you’re familiar with the Pen tool, great. If you’re not, this isn’t really the time or place to try it out. Make another page, and get familiar with it. Then it might be OK.

To see your animation, click on tiny icon in the bottom left corner of the Animation window. This is the ‘preview spread’ button, and selecting it opens up a view of your page in which the animation will play. You can drag on a corner to make it as large as you want. You can only see the page, so you won’t see the object where it begins to move. But you should see it arrive. There are ‘video’ controls along the foot of the window so you can play it again, as many times as you want.

So that’s basically it. There are, of course, a bunch of other settings in the Animation window. Here's a few of them:

‘On Roll Over (self)’ is one of the events you can assign to activate the animation, and ‘Reverse on Roll Off’ means it runs in reverse once the cursor moves off it.

‘Duration’ allows you to change the duration of the animation.

‘Play’ allows you to choose the number of times it will repeat. ‘Loop’ means it keeps repeating.

‘Speed’ mostly refers to ‘ease’ settings. ‘Ease In’ means speeding up. ‘Ease out’ means slowing down. ‘Easy ease’ means doing both. These can make the movement of animated objects seem more natural.

If you click on ‘properties’ there are quite a few more options, most of which are self-explanatory. Two which I find very useful are ‘hide until animated’ and ‘hide after animation’. These allow you to get away with some really good tricks. If you combine these with layers, so you have a copy of the animated object on each. If all are set to be invisible until they’re called into action, after which they become invisible again, it’s possible to extend single event into a continuous animation that goes through multiple stages – but still looks like a single object.

The default setting for opacity is that objects start out transparent and then fade into being, as the animation runs. That one is sometimes useful, sometimes not.

And that’s about it! Animations are OK, so long as you can work with their limitations.