SmartArt basics

SmartArt is a set of built-in graphical representations that combine shapes and text. They allow you to communicate business information visually rather than textually.

If you want to create a SmartArt graphic from scratch, you can do so via the Illustrations group on the Insert tab.

In PowerPoint, the SmartArt command opens the "Choose a SmartArt Graphic" dialog box, shown below.

The different options allow you to insert a diagram, a flow-chart, or a matrix, and then add text and adjust its design. For each graphic, you can see a preview and read a brief description of the instances it is most useful for.

The place for bullet lists

Bullet lists are useful early in the slide creation process but are lacking when placed onto a slide. So, opt for a more creative way to convey your ideas.

For an example, take a look at Slide A. It is a very dull slide that lists the 6 stages of a sales cycle. While Slide B shows these stages as an actual cycle and is visually more attractive.

And you only need one tool – SmartArt.

To convert the bullet list directly into a SmartArt graphic using these steps:

  1. Select the text box which contains the bullet list
  2. Go to the Paragraph group on the Home tab and open the Convert to SmartArt menu
  3. Choose a graphic option
  4. Adjust the result

Fine-tune the graphics

The SmartArt Tools Design and Format tab offer many options to fine-tune the graphic. Note, that depending on the type of graphic, not all options will be available at all times.

Here are the most useful commands available on the Design tab:

  • Add Shape: each click on this command adds one shape to the graphic and places it in a default location.
  • Text pane: allows you to type and organize the text in the shapes.
  • Layouts: provides different visual options for the type of graphic selected.

Break-ups made easy

SmartArt graphics consist of closely grouped shapes that can, nonetheless, be taken apart easily and often as you may just need one of the shapes on its own.

To break the SmartArt graphic into its parts, you need to ungroup the SmartArt and the shapes it contains.

The quickest way is to use the keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + Shift + G.

Press it once to turn the SmartArt into a group of shapes. And press it again to ungroup the shapes and obtain individual shapes you can handle separately.

Keep in mind, there is no way back

Deconstructing a SmartArt only takes a few seconds, but consider these two consequences:

  • You lose the dynamic nature of the SmartArt graphic, which makes it harder to add, delete and reorder elements.
  • You would have to recreate the graphic from scratch or use Ctrl + Shift + Z.

So, while make sure to only convert a graphic to individual shapes when you are sure you no longer need to edit or use the graphic.

Don't hold back

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