The Smart in SmartArt

I use Office every day to communicate – email, documents, presentations, spreadsheets. I like to use visual aids to improve my communication -- it’s invaluable to reinforce your ideas with graphics, and if it looks cool, even better. How do you take a textual concept and quickly show your meaning in a graphic that is memorable, relevant, and beautiful?


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With Office 2008 for Mac, I do it with SmartArt graphics: a new set of tools for creating attractive, effective visuals. With SmartArt, a list becomes a colorful sequence array, a roster becomes an organization chart, or a numbered list awakens as a simple, bold process diagram.

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Choose a layout in the Elements Gallery and enter your data in the SmartArt text pane (we added the genie effect when showing/hiding the text pane; not only is it a cool touch, but it highlights the relationship between the SmartArt object and the text content you're bringing to life in the diagram.) In PowerPoint, you can select a bulleted list already in your presentation and click on a SmartArt layout to convert the list into a graphic.

What’s so “smart” about SmartArt graphics? The graphics automatically update and adjust as you add data, creating new diagram parts, moving existing parts to fit, resizing the contextual elements that show relationships.

Wine making, for example, is a continuous process of growing and harvesting grapes, fermenting, storing and aging, and finally tasting and enjoying. Describing this in your latest newsletter or school project? There’s a Continuous Cycle layout in the SmartArt gallery. Click in the Gallery to add the graphic, type in your stages of wine production, and click a SmartArt style in the Formatting Palette to add a splash of color. Done, and it looks great!

There are over 80 layouts built-in to Office 2008, and you can flip between them, updating your graphic in the document as you click, until you find the one that best expresses your idea. Add or remove data at any time and the graphic will adjust.

SmartArt graphics you create in Office 2008 for Mac are compatible with Office 2007 and vice-versa; we use the same SmartArt engine underneath. SmartArt graphics are part of the OfficeArt family, and inherit the powerful formatting and document theme awareness of other OfficeArt graphics. Use the Formatting Palette to customize SmartArt graphics, including 3D effects, reflections, transparencies, glows, and shadows. Explore your options willy-nilly; the Reset button takes you back to the crisp default SmartArt Graphic that you started with. SmartArt graphics automatically match your document, spreadsheet, or presentation color scheme, though that too is customizable. Roger Baerwolf and I will talk more about document themes in an upcoming sneak peek blog post.