Shapes is one of the more underutilized features in Office for Mac 2011, and in this week’s Power Tip I will show you why it should be used more often.
In presentations and documents (and in spreadsheets, but to a lesser extent), quality graphics can often convey a wealth of information in a minimal amount of space. A well-done graphic can also really impress the reader, and a poorly designed or poorly executed graphic can, at best, confuse the reader or, at worst, lower their opinion of the author.
While Office for Mac is not designed primarily as a graphics authoring environment, Office does include graphical tools like SmartArt, picture formatting, and Shapes that can make the creation of well-executed graphics easy, even for those who are artistically-challenged, like me.
“Shapes” is the term applied to the set of features in Office involved with the creation and formatting of geometric objects like circles, triangles, lines, arrows, and other simple shapes. (There are 172 such simple shapes in Office.) PowerPoint, Word, and Excel all have Shapes functionality, although Shapes are probably most widely used in PowerPoint, so that is where I will create all the figures and movies for this blog posting. Shapes enable you to create graphics like these four samples:
and to some extent, you can consider SmartArt to be sets of shapes together with dynamic behavior that enables the shapes to change their structure to fit a set of ideas the author is trying to convey. SmartArt is “shapes with intelligence” that enables you to easily create graphics like these:
(The Tabbed Arc and the Word Snake SmartArt layouts can be downloaded from Loki3.com and added to Office for Mac 2011.)
In this short movie, you can see one way to add a new shape to a presentation – via the Shapes menu – and see how easy it is to format the new shape:
and in this short movie, you can see another way to add a new shape – via the Media Palette: (Both movies also give you an impression of the wide variety of shapes that are easily available in Office.)
Sets of shaped can be more than just a loose collection of geometric primitives. Shapes have connectors that maintain their relationships, even when the shapes are moved or scaled, as you can see in this movie:
Since the graphical connectivity of connectors is preserved, the task of later modifying the position or size of the shapes, without disturbing the overall structure of the complete graphic is much easier.
I hope this background on Shapes helps you create great-looking graphics you want to add to your presentations, documents, and spreadsheets.
New week I will tell you about an undocumented feature of Shapes which will give you the ability to create an even wider set of shapes.
-Kurt Schmucker, Office for Mac Evangelist