You may have read other posts on this site where I've talked about this same concept: flawless is faster than fudging. In fact, there's going to be a bit of overlap here with at least two other articles that already exist on this blog...
So what's this about? The purpose of this article is to offer quick access to tips for each step in creating PowerPoint diagrams using AutoShapes.
Okay, first question you might be asking: Why use AutoShapes to create diagrams when PowerPoint (as well as Word and Excel, for that matter) provide a Diagram and Organizational Chart tool on the drawing toolbar? Well, if you like that tool and you're happy with the results -- go for it. In PowerPoint, at least. (Check out my earlier post on Using PowerPoint as a Word Document Tool to learn more about why not to use that tool (or AutoShapes, for that matter) in Word, if you can possibly help it.) Personally, I find that tool to be inflexible, and I'm never thrilled with the results. Whereas, using AutoShapes to create diagrams always gives me flawless results (and exactly the result I was hoping for) with very little time and effort.
Okay then, without further ado ... check out some tips for fast and flawless PowerPoint diagrams ...
Getting it right the first time:
- When you're going to create an organization chart or other type of diagram that uses several of the same shape with different text (and perhaps different formatting) in each ... save time by taking a bit of time to plan:
-- if possible, decide what you want your diagram to look like and what text it will contain before you start to create it
-- create one shape first (choose the one that will have the most text inside it). Add the text, format the text and the shape, and then duplicate the shape (Ctrl+D) as many times as you need to make sure you'll have the room for all the shapes you need.
For example: say you're creating an organization chart. The top row will have 1 shape (for the CEO), the next row will have 3 shapes (for the VPs), the third row will have 7 shapes (for department managers). Duplicate your initial shape several times to make 7 shapes -- to make sure that 7 shapes can fit across one row.
(Note: using the shape that will contain the most text ensures that the font size and formatting you use will work for all shapes in your diagram.)
Taking the time for this step will save you ages of resizing (and ensure that all of your shapes that should be identical in size, actually are).
Perfect Alignment: No Chiropractor Required!
- The Align Or Distribute tools available from the Drawing toolbar's Draw menu, are the single most useful feature PowerPoint has! Even though PowerPoint slides have a grid that makes nudging for alignment much easier ... it's exponentially easier and faster to align objects with the Align Or Distribute tools.
-- Using the same example as above with 7 shapes on one row of an organization chart: Place one of the shapes at the far left edge of the space allotted to the org chart and one of the shapes at the right edge of the allotted space. The remaining five shapes can be anywhere between the outermost two -- don't waste time nudging them to be where you want! Then:
1. Select all 7 shapes and go to Draw, Align Or Distribute, and select Distibute Horizontally.
2. Keep the shapes selected and go to Draw, Align Or Distribute, and select Align Top.
In those two quick steps, you vertically aligned the shapes perfectly and created an identical amount of space between each. Fast and flawless!
- Use Guides where Align Or Distribute won't do.
-- Be careful, when using Align Or Distribute, that you don't overuse them. Once shapes are distributed, for example, distributing just some of them can throw off the work you just did. Instead, if you need to align something to shapes that have already been aligned and distributed -- use the drawing guides to help you do that quickly without undoing any work.
-- Press Ctrl+G to open the Grid And Guides dialog box, and select the option to display drawing guides on screen.
-- Once you turn on the guides, you can Ctrl+Click and drag to duplicate guides (make as many as you need) and just drag duplicate guides off the slide to remove them. And, use the guides to measure position on the slide (when you click and drag on a guide it automatically shows you its position relative to the center of the slide).
If you're new to guides, you might also find it handy to know that you can hold down the Shift key when you click and drag on a guide to have its position display start at zero regardless of where the guide is positioned (so that you can easily measure the distance between objects).
Connect The Dots
- Use connectors whenever possible instead of drawn lines.
-- Connectors save time and help you make your diagrams precise, because they automatically grab on to appropriate connection points of a shape and stay with that shape when it's moved. You can also just right-click on an existing connector to change it to a different connector type (change an elbow connector to a curved connector, for example) ... avoid having to redraw or reformat lines.
-- To use a connector, select the desired connector type from the AutoShapes menu. Then, when you move your mouse pointer over a shape, you'll see little blue boxes wherever the connector can grab on. Click on the desired connection point -- then move to the shape where you want your conector to end and click on the desired connection point for that shape.
Notice that many connectors have the same yellow diamonds than many AutoShapes have -- which allow you to click and drag the yellow diamond to change the active shape.
-- Note that, since Office 2000, you can overlap connectors when needed and the overlap won't be visible in your final diagram.
Be A Chameleon
- If you find that you do need to resize like shapes in your diagram, select them all and resize at once. Though the spacing and distribution might need adjustment, the size will remain identical.
- If you want to change the shape used for your diagram (such as changing rectangles to octagons or rounded rectangles) you can select the entire diagam and change all shapes at once by selecting the new shape from Draw, Change AutoShape. My favorite things about this terrific feature is that any lines or connectors in your selected diagram will be ignored.
Keep It Simple
I'll conclude this article with two super-simple tips for getting it perfect and keeping it perfect:
-- The accuracy of what you see on screen in PowerPoint increases dramatically when you zoom in. To zoom in on a specific object without trial and error -- select the object and then change the zoom from PowerPoint's Standard toolbar. The screen will zoom right to your selection.
-- Once you have a perfect diagram, keep it perfect by grouping it. Just select the whole diagram and then select Draw, Group from the Drawing toolbar. This keeps all of your alignment and distribution in tact, and keeps the diagram all together in case you need to move or copy it.
... for more tips on using the simplest solutions in PowerPoint and throughout Office, check out my earlier post titled Finding the Simplest Solution Is What Office Is All About!
Posted by Stephanie
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