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the best tools for making GIFs

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GIFs are great for bringing emails, documents, or presentations to life. Some can be crazy or cute. Others are useful for illustrating how something works. Read on for a few things you should know about GIFs, whether you’re a beginner or a pro.

3 reasons to consider GIFs over images or videos

GIFs can convey movement and emotion. That can make them more attractive than static images and smaller and easier to send than video files.

GIFs play automatically. Unlike videos that require embed codes and a play button, GIFs just work. They are visible in emails or documents that do not support video.

GIFs are conveniently short. Limited to 15 seconds on platforms like Giphy, people will see your full visual message. Gfycat allows you to host GIFs of up to 60 seconds.

How to make GIFs with Giphy

Giphy is the easiest and most popular tool for creating quick GIFs. I use it as a free library for GIFs I’ve created or collected. To get started, go to the GIF maker page and upload your own video or image files, or paste a YouTube link. (Giphy also has free mobile apps.) Here are some things you can try:

Make a GIF from a series of images. Upload some images to show how something has changed over time, or to create a simple step-by-step explanation. Or make a GIF to show a group. This one shows recent graduates of the Program for journalism makers I lead. Another shows a slide presentation about developing an entrepreneurial project.

(If you have your own newsletter, podcast, or other independent business, this is program promo GIF-made from a series of slides I made on projector.com – shows six reasons to sign up for the next group. Applications open July 18. Reply to this post if you have any questions.)

Turn a video into a GIF. Start uploading your own video. Or attach a YouTube video link. Then choose the 15 seconds you want to turn into a GIF. After that, you can add text captions to the GIF or stickers. Or let the images speak for themselves. Adobe Express has an alternative fast converter to convert a video file into a GIF.

Customize a popular GIF. Make it your own by adding custom text. Or combine it with other images or GIFs.

Share a screenshot as a GIF. Giphy Capture works well for this. It’s only for Mac so here are some Windows alternatives.

Manage your own GIF library. I only make GIFs once in a while, but when I do, I save them in Eagle on my computer or in my free Giphy account online for easy access. By saving them on Giphy, you can easily share your GIFs in different formats and formats, or update them later with new text or images.

Limitations of GIFs

Most GIFs are silent. If audio is critical to your visual, a video will work better. Note that Giphy hosts audio GIFs, and you can make GIFs with audio using Kapwing, a great free video editor I’ve posted about (although it now limits you to three free projects).

GIFs have a reputation for being silly. Some people associate GIFs with memes or images of crazy reactions.

Shortness is difficult. Giphy will cut your GIFs after 15 seconds. It can be difficult to get a subtle, full message across so quickly.

Alternative tools for making GIFs

CloudApp is what I use to capture short screen shots as GIFs. It is a multifunctional tool that also allows you to annotate screenshots or record short videos. One of the reasons it’s so useful is that once you finish a screenshot or capture, a link to the web-hosted result is copied to your clipboard. You can then easily share it with anyone by pasting the actual GIF or a link to the GIF.

Google’s Data GIF Maker let you create small moving charts like this image Soft drink market share in the US.

EZGIF lets you reduce the file size of a GIF or create GIFs with advanced features, such as crossfades or custom timing per image.

Canva Pro has an animator tool that adds movement to your designs. You can download those as GIFs.

Slate is a handy little free web app for creating simple text GIFs.

Tenor, like Giphy, has a huge searchable collection of GIFs and lets you create your own GIFs. Simple, free and easy to use.

Keynote, PowerPoint, and Google Slides can also be great for making GIFs. Make a few slides. Then, in Keynote, go to File > Export To > Animated GIF. You can export any slide you want and set the speed. PowerPoint has a similar option. To make a GIF from Google Slides, use the free Studio for creators. It’s a Google Slides add-on that lets you export your slideshow as a GIF, video, or sequence of images.

I like making GIFs with Keynote because it’s easier to edit slides than it is to use complex design software. If you’re already familiar with slide software, you don’t need to learn anything new.


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