Sprucing up presentations with SmartArt

SmartArt is one of the great features in Office 2007 and 2010, which turns boring bullet points into slick graphics. It employs figures such as blocks, circles, arrows, gears and lines to do the job of conveying the process, hierarchy or relationship you’re describing in bullet points.

Sprucing up presentations with SmartArt

There were more than 50 different types of SmartArt released with Office 2010, and Microsoft has recently released 17 new diagram types through the Office website.

Provided your computer is connected to the internet, they will automatically appear when you click Insert | Illustrations | SmartArt | Office.com in Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Outlook.

There were more than 50 different types of SmartArt released with Office 2010, and Micrsoft has recently released 17 new diagram types through the Office website

Working with SmartArt is easy. From Insert | Illustrations | SmartArt, pick the diagram type that you think best fits the scenario you’re trying to explain.

How to start

Don’t worry about getting it exactly right because you can change your mind later. The types are broken down into categories called List, Process, Cycle, Hierarchy, Relationship, Matrix and Pyramid. There are further categories for diagrams that contain pictures, or for those from Office.com.

Within each category you see pictures of the different types, and clicking on one of these shows a preview of the diagram, with a short description. These will tell you whether the diagram type is best with a small amount of text, or works with lots of words.

It will also mention any restrictions, such as only having room for four items. (Any text or levels that can’t be displayed using the chosen diagram type are still preserved behind the scenes, so you don’t have to worry about losing data by choosing the wrong diagram type.)

Take a look at all the options available and once you’ve picked one, click OK and your SmartArt is created. Wherever you see the [Text] placeholder in the graphic you can click and start typing, but it’s often easier to type or paste your bullet points as text.

If the Text Pane isn’t shown, click the “flyout arrows” on the left of the light-blue frame, or click SmartArt Tools | Design | Create Graphic | Text Pane. The Text Pane contains a bullet list where you can type your text: press Return to create a new bullet point, and Tab and Shift-Tab to change the indentation of the text.


You can also copy an existing bullet list and paste it into the Text Pane. To replace all the placeholders with your list, click into the Text Pane and press Ctrl-A to select them all before pasting.

If you’re using PowerPoint, there’s an even quicker way. Click into the text block that contains your bullet list and click Home | Paragraph | Convert to SmartArt, and you’ll see a mini-gallery of possible diagrams. Run your mouse over this gallery to see a preview of your text in the diagrams, then click to select one and your text is instantly replaced by the diagram.

As you alter text in the Text Pane, the SmartArt diagram updates itself, growing or deleting shapes, rearranging shapes, and increasing or decreasing the font size to fit the space available. You can reorder the items in your bullet list by using the Move Up, Move Down, Promote and Demote buttons on the SmartArt Tools | Design tab of the Ribbon. There are also buttons there to add a new shape to the diagram, instead of editing the bullet list.

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