SmartArt - think of it as a text box with a purpose!
Word as a Graphic Tool
Smart Art is a function of Microsoft Word that allows you to quickly create graphic elements that will enhance a written presentation. One might think of Smart Art as a text box with a purpose.
Do you have a list; need to show a process or cycle? How about a relationship or hierarchy? Describing some of these ideas in written form can be hard for the writer and confusing for the reader. Smart Art can help clear up all of that confusion and make any document more appealing (not to mention more user friendly).
This is the second installment of a series of Hubs that explore ways to exploit the graphic capabilities of Microsoft Word. Word offers a lot of features that make it possible to graphically enhance a document without using any other outside programs. You can also easily copy those graphics and use them on a website or in another document.
Smart Art - It's About Relationships
With Microsoft Word "SmartArt," it is all about relationships. Smart Art is specifically tailored toward charts and diagrams that explain a plan, process or hierarchy. You can take Smart Art one step further by inserting additional graphic elements (such as a photo) into the Smart Art element. Even simple lists look better with Smart Art. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that this is purely a graphic device. If you want a chart that actually depicts data (from an Excel file, for example) then you should be using “Chart” and not “SmartArt”.
So what is that main advantage of using Smart Art?
Let’s say you want to insert a simple flow-chart into a document. How would you go about creating that chart? Option #1 would be to go to some other graphics program, create the chart and then insert it into Word. If you wanted to modify that element, you would have to go back into the graphic program, make the modifications and then re-insert the chart back into word. Option #2 would be to create the chart in Word using text boxes, shapes, arrows and other Word graphic elements. This option has some advantages over the first option but would still require a substantial amount of work because you would be creating the chart from scratch. Option #3 is to select a pre-made chart from Smart Art. With this “out-of-the-box” solution, the simple flow chart can be created in a few minutes and updates or changes can be made right in Word.
Smart Art Categories
The Smart Art Menu is divided into a number of categories. Each category offers a different type of graphic and each has its purpose. One of the simplest ones is “List” . . . use it to create a better set of bullet points. In the diagram below, I used one of the Smart Art "List" Graphics to create the actual list of the categories found in the Smart Art menu.
Smart Art Features
Like other graphic features of Word, Smart Art can easily be manipulated for both content and graphics even after it has been created.
- You can change the type of graphic at any time. To do this, simple click on your graphic and then go to Smart Art and select a new one. This is especially useful if you are not sure where to start. Go ahead and select what you think is the best choice for your information. If you realize later that the choice you made was a mistake, just go back and select another look (or even a different category).
- Typical Word functions like text manipulation work (font style, font size, font color, etc.). For example, you can grab the whole graphic and change all of the text at once.
- The “Design” and “Format” tabs on the Word Ribbon give you a number of formatting options to enhance your graphic. Once the initial graphic has been inserted, select it and these menus will appear.
- Right-clicking on the graphic will show you some shortcut menus for formatting and modifying.
Smart Art offers an unlimited amount of graphic manipulation and design. My advice, however, is to keep it simple, at least initially. You can really get bogged down with all of the formatting and design elements available. If you are just starting out, create simple graphic charts and learn the basics first.
Creating a Smart Art Graphic
If you read my first Hub "Word as a Graphic Tool," (see link at beginning of this hub) then you will know the basic steps for inserting and manipulating graphics in Word. If not, don’t worry, I will walk you through the steps again.
- Go to the place in your Word document where you want to insert a graphic.
- Select the insert command on the ribbon.
- Select the SmartArt command. Once you do this a new dialogue box will open showing all of the various SmartArt graphics available to you.
- Select one of the categories and scroll around until you find the type of graphic you want. Remember, if you decide later that you do not like the selection, you can go back and select another one.
Once the graphic is in place, the real work begins. First, you will add the text and then you may want to manipulate the graphics. When you click on the graphic, two menus appear under a "SmartArt Tools" umbrella on the Word Ribbon.
- The Design Tab on the Ribbon will give you some easy, pre-made choices to make the graphic look better.
- The Format Tab on the Ribbon will allow you to change specific items and the position of the graphic in your document.
Remember, you have to select the graphic for those tabs to appear. Keep in mind that most of these formatting and design options are similar to the options given for any graphic element inserted into Word. So as you get familiar with graphics, in general, you will find that it gets easier since the menus will start to look very similar.
Tip: most Smart Art graphics do not have the exact number of boxes or the exact relationship that you may want to show. Use the “Create Graphic” sub-menu on the Design Ribbon to add and move shapes. This is probably the most important set of commands you will use when creating Smart Art.
Let's Make a Simple SmartArt Graphic
The Steps Involved
In the example above, I created a simple "Hierarchy" chart. When first inserted, the graphic came into the document “generically” and after a few simple manipulations, the final result is a sharp and refined graphic. Here it is step-by-step:
- Select “Insert” on the ribbon and then select “SmartArt”
- Go to “Hierarchy” and select a graphic. I chose the very first one (called: "A Simple Look").
- Next I deleted one of the boxes form the third row (click on the box and hit delete).
- Then I added a box below one of the third row boxes (click on the box and select: "Add Shape After").
- Next I typed the text into each box (click on the text and modify).
Now for the graphic changes. Remember my advice, keep it simple. To get the final look, I made just four graphic changes (tip: hover over the menus to see the names of the styles that I listed below). To start, click on the graphic to get the editing commands to appear on the ribbon.
- Click on the “Design Menu” go to the “SmartArt Style” area of the ribbon and change the design (I chose the 7th option from the left called: “Inset Effect”).
- Also, in the “Design Menu” change the color by selecting "Change Colors" (I chose the 3rd option down – “Accent One” – “Colored Outline”).
- Now go to the “Home Menu” and change the text color. Select each box (hold down the shift key to select multiple boxes) and pick a pre-formatted color (I chose one of the blue colors: "Blue, Accent 1, Darker 25%").
- Also in the “Home Menu” change the font size. The font size will change automatically as text is inserted but after the graphic is finished, you can still change the text manually, if required.
As you can see (above and below), this simple graphic can be created / inserted into a document quickly and easily. The graphic conveys a relationship between parties in a way that is easier to understand then if written-out in plain text.
One final thought - remember that you can make these graphic elements in Word and use them elsewhere, such as on a website. You might be able to copy and paste them (depending on where they are going). They can also be clipped right out of Word using the snipping tool which is essentially a short cut screen shot. When using the screen shot method (or snipping tool), make the graphic as large as possible on your screen by zooming in Word, then snip and you will have a nice crisp jpeg.
Tip: the "Snipping Tool" is a newer windows function that makes it easy to get a screen shot of just part of the screen. Go to the "Start" menu, select "All Programs" then go to "Accessories" and select "Snipping Tool." A small menu will appear; drag your mouse to make a box around the item you want to snip. From there, you can save the snip to a file and you will have a jpeg. This is a great tool for making precision screen shots and it is fast.
Please let me know if you find this useful or if you have any questions - I would be happy to help - and look for my other Microsoft Word graphic tutorials, coming soon . . .
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Bruce (author) from Chicago, Illinois on October 25, 2012:
Thanks for the comment - I think the graphic capabilities of Word have been a well-kept secret but after 2007 / 2010 with the new "ribbon" menu system, they are now more front-and-center and the capabilities are more apparent. Also, on a more personal note - hope to see a hub from you soon . . .
Panagiotis Tsarouchakis from Greece on October 25, 2012:
Amazing, never thought i could all these with Word!
Bruce (author) from Chicago, Illinois on October 25, 2012:
Thanks for your words of encouragement. The more I use Word for graphics the more I like it. It is really the simplicity of it – and don’t have to learn another program . . . yet at the same time, as you stated, it has some powerful features.
Peter V from At the Beach in Florida on October 25, 2012:
Great hub! Word is such a powerful tool that many people underutilized so I am glad you are helping to share this information! Smart Art and other graphics in Word can make a document go from average to excellent in no time. Keep these hubs coming!
Bruce (author) from Chicago, Illinois on October 24, 2012:
Speaking for both Randi and myself, I have to disagree. There is a learning curve, as with anything, but I think they have done about as good a job as anyone at making the process as simple as possible. It just takes a little practice. Like I said in the hub, start with a simple graphic – it doesn’t have to be an extravaganza . . . of course that may be easier said than done . . . I gravitate toward graphics and you are a writer . . . yes, I still think you can do it.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 24, 2012:
Sorry, I was thinking of someone else when I typed this....obviously you are not Randi! lol
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 24, 2012:
Randi, I have no doubt that these are great features, but I may not be smart enough to do this. I look at a list of instructions about techie stuff and my eyes cross and I break out into a cold sweat! lol I'm being serious! I know you have done a great job of presenting this, and it is visually very pleasing (look how far you have come) but I don't think I can do it. :)