07 March 2014

A Better 5-Minute Timer (Requires PowerPoint)

Over the life of this blog, few posts have been more popular than Need a 5-Minute Countdown Timer? Look No Further!

That post links to an animated .gif I made a long time ago, when I was a lot more tolerant of mind-numbing procedures. As I have gotten more automation-minded, I have learned better methods of doing things, and making timers is no exception.

With some guidance from the folks at PPTAlchemy, I have created this macro-enabled PowerPoint presentation. Simply follow these steps, and you'll be cooking up a fresh 5-minute timer in no time! And unlike the previous timer, this approach allows you to customize the color, the font, and even the duration of the timer.


  1. Make sure that you have Microsoft PowerPoint and that macros are enabled. If you aren't sure how to enable macros, go here.
  2. Open the file in PowerPoint.
  3. Change the slide design as desired.
  4. Select the text field.
  5. Run the macro called "Timerize". For more on how to run a macro, look here.
  6. Save the file as a PowerPoint presentation (if you do "Save As" instead of "Save", then you can use this file as a template for future presentations as well.
  7. Run the slideshow on the new file to be sure it displays OK. (It may take a while to start, depending on your machine's speed - each tick of the timer is an individual image that is being displayed, and it takes a while to initialize all of those.)
Additional Notes: 
  • Be sure that the text field has as many characters as you will want to display. (e.g., for a 5:00 timer, it should have 4. For a 10:00 timer, it should have 5. For a 1:00:00 timer, it should have 7.)
  • Be sure to select the entire text field you want to turn into a timer. If you don't do this, the macro won't run correctly. 
  • You can modify the macro to update the duration of the timer, as well as how long between "ticks" and a number of other variables. Refer to the PPTAlchemy article for more information on this.
  • Feel free to post any other tips in the comments below. 

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