SmartArt is a great way to create diagrams, but you can also use them to create complex, custom graphics. SmartArt is available in PowerPoint 2007 and 2010.
The secret is to use the SmartArt feature as much as possible and then, at the end, ungroup it twice to get individual shapes that you can edit individually.
Let’s say that I have this slide.
I select the bulleted text and choose Convert to SmartArt on the Home tab. Then I choose “Continuous Picture List” as the layout to get this slide.
I click the SmartArt Tools Design tab and choose Colors to choose something more colorful. I also SmartArt Styles and select one of the 3D options to get this slide.
The circles are picture placeholders. If I click them, the Insert Picture dialog box opens. But let’s say that I’ve created some graphics in PowerPoint that I want to use. And perhaps I don’t want the arrow at the bottom to point in both directions. So, I can take these steps:
- Select the SmartArt and ungroup it twice. (A quick way is to press Ctrl+Shift+G twice.) You now have individual shapes.
- Select the 4 circles and delete them.
- Select the arrow and click the Format tab. Choose Edit Shape> Change Shape and choose the plain right-pointing arrow.
- Insert my graphics and space them evenly.
Here’s the slide I created this way.
Do you like it?
Here are some other examples, using more complex shapes available in SmartArt. Sometimes, SmartArt limits you to 3 or 4 items, but by ungrouping, you can add more. For example, the Gears graphic limits you to 3 gears, but by ungrouping, duplicating, and choosing Format tab> Rotate> Flip Horizontal or Flip Vertical, you can get the result you want.
Here’s another variation, using the funnel SmartArt graphic. It also limits the number of items you can include.
The next time you need a graphic, look through the SmartArt layouts to see if you can find something to start with and then see how you can modify it to your needs.