Presenting business information in PowerPoint – more smart than art

20th June 2011

In the first part of this short series Simon Hurst, FSN writer, looked at creating and animating charts in presentations using PowerPoint 97 through to 2010. This time he concentrates on some of the new graphics features that were first introduced in Office 2007.

Business diagrams v. SmartArt

SmartArt took over from the rather limited ‘Diagram Gallery’ in previous versions of Office. I’m not sure the description ‘SmartArt’ really does the feature any great favours, not least of all because of the apparent similarity to the text-based ‘WordArt’. SmartArt is actually a very comprehensive set of business diagrams. Although SmartArt is accessible from all the main Office applications, it is perhaps in PowerPoint where it is likely to be most used.

Here we see a slide with a ‘content’ section. Clicking on the ‘Insert SmartArt Graphic’ icon will allow you to choose from the different categories of diagram. Selecting any diagram will show a preview together with a brief text description:


Although it obviously makes sense to choose the right diagram from the outset, one of the features of SmartArt is the ability to swap between different diagrams, even diagrams from other categories, while preserving the information that you have already entered. Here we have started with a ‘Vertical Bullet List’. When a SmartArt graphic is selected the SmartArt Tools contextual ribbon tabs, Design and Format, are automatically displayed. We have chosen to display the Text Pane by clicking the appropriate button on the Design tab. Text can be entered into the pane or directly into the graphic. The graphic will reduce in size automatically to accommodate additional text. We can also move and promote and demote lines of text by using the buttons in the ‘Create Graphic’ group:


To demonstrate the flexibility of SmartArt, we can choose another layout from the same category directly from the gallery of layouts in the Layouts group of the ribbon, or we can click on the drop down to access ‘More Layouts…’ allowing us to choose from the graphics in the other categories. In this case we have chosen one of the hierarchy diagrams:

3-SmartArt- heirarchy.jpg

Having looked at the layout options, we can also use the tools in the SmartArt Styles group to choose different colours and different styles of presentation for our graphic:

4-SmartArt style.jpg

Adding shapes

A key aspect of working with SmartArt is adapting the default graphic to particular requirements and the ‘Add Shape’ button in the Create Graphic group of the Design ribbon allows you to enter shapes wherever you need them. For those graphics that are hierarchical, such as the various organisation charts, this copes with ‘Above’, ‘Below’ and ‘Assistant’ shapes.

Animating a graphic

In the first part of the series we looked at how the more recent versions of PowerPoint allow great flexibility over the animation of almost any object on a slide, including the individual elements of a chart. In fact, animating a SmartArt graphic is very similar to animating a chart. Using the 2007 and 2010 Animation ribbon tab we have selected our graphic, applied an animation effect and chosen to display the Animation task pane. From the animation pane, we can click the drop down for the animation effect we have applied and choose ‘Effect Options’. For our SmartArt graphic there should be a SmartArt Animation tab. The ‘Group Graphic’ drop down allows us to choose how the elements of our graphic will be grouped together for animation:

5-SmartArt animation.jpg

Alternatively, in PowerPoint 2007 and 2010 the animation effect options are available directly via the Effect Option button of the animation group, with the element options in the ‘Sequence section’.

Just as for a chart, where an animation has multiple elements, it is possible to apply different effects to the different elements as well as change the options – such as the speed – of each animation. The animation task pane will show the animations for all of the elements of the graphic and each can be selected and changed individually.

PowerPoint 2010 and pictures

Although SmartArt was introduced in Office 2007, it has already been enhanced in Office 2010. At the bottom of the list of different SmartArt categories is the 2010 addition – Pictures. This includes a range of diagrams, all of which incorporate pictures as part of the graphic elements. When you choose one of the Picture diagrams, each graphic element displays a small icon at its centre, clicking on this icon lets you choose a picture file and then fits it into the graphic shape. Text boxes are included to act as captions or descriptions. Displaying the text pane can make it easier to work with text:

6-SmartArt picture.jpg

When you are using the Picture SmartArt graphics, you have two sets of contextual tabs to cope with: the SmartArt Tools Design and Format tabs and, when you click on a picture itself, the Picture Tools, Format tab. This latter tab includes a whole range of features introduced in Office 2007 to work with Pictures – including the ability to change the colour of a picture to match your colour scheme or even to apply a range of ‘Artistic Effects’. For the moment, we’ll just consider one of the less obvious options – the ‘Change Picture’ button in the Adjust group that allows you to easily choose a different picture for your graphic.

In spite of the use of pictures in these graphics, it is still possible to change an existing graphic to a completely different layout:

7-SmartArt picture 2.jpg

Converting to SmartArt

Another useful feature of SmartArt is the ability to convert existing slide text into a SmartArt graphic with a couple of clicks. Right-clicking in a text box shows a menu including a ‘Convert to SmartArt’ option. Clicking on this will allow you to select which SmartArt graphic to use, providing a live preview so you can see what it will look like before you make your decision. Your text will then be turned into the descriptions or captions of the SmartArt.

You can also convert existing pictures on a slide to the new picture SmartArt layouts. Use Control+Click to select each of the pictures to be converted and then choose the appropriate layout from the Picture Tools ribbon, Picture Styles group, Picture Layout button.