PowerPoint 2007When I was using the early versions of Microsoft PowerPoint to create training content for my corporate students, I spent a lot of time creating my own graphic images to organize the concepts I wanted to get across. That meant taking the time to think about how to organize my thoughts into procedural steps to lead students through a process for the purpose of reaching a desired goal, and then designing the images to be used to help make sense of what I meant. For example, when wanting to show students that a process required completing a series of steps, I often used either the built-in arrow shapes and then formatted them to the style and color I wanted, or ended up creating graphics images from multiple default shapes. This can be a little time consuming, and may require more time than available in a teacher’s fast paced world.

The natural solution for me back then was simply to save my uniquely created graphics images in a special presentation file I called Graphics, which acted as a library of images I could quickly insert into my presentations. While that is still a good idea, and may serve you well when creating your own images, I’d like to point out that, for those of you using Office 2007 applications, a handy pre-built library of many organizational graphics images are available to choose from, making it very easy to quickly put together a useful slide. This is great news for educators with very little time. It can mean creating a great looking handout for a lesson and getting 25 copies ran off in less than a couple of minutes.

In Office 2007 feature containing this collection of graphic images is called SmartArt. To view the library of SmartArt graphics organizers available, click the Insert tab and click the SmartArt button in the Illustrations section. In the left pane of the Choose a SmartArt Graphic dialog window, you can choose a category of the type of organizer you’re looking for, or choose to view “All” items. Hovering the mouse cursor over an item in the List pane displays the name of the item in bubble help. Clicking or selecting an item in the List pane displays a larger and colored preview of the item in the right pane, along with its primary function and suggestions on how to use it. When you find the organizer you like or that best meets your needs, click the OK button to insert it into your document, slide, or spreadsheet. Fire up Word and take a look at these right now. You may be amazed at how many there are to choose from.

What do you do if you can’t find a SmartArt graphic organizer that meets your need? I’ll discuss that in the next article, “Modifying a SmartArt Graphic”. Earlier versions of Microsoft Office, at least back to Office XP, and maybe 2000, had a similar feature called Diagrams, and it’s accessible from the Drawing toolbar which usually displays along the bottom of the application window.

Although this article explains using a feature of Microsoft Office 2007 applications, other productivity applications may have a similar feature, so be sure to look for it. If you don’t see it right off, try using Help (press the F1 key) and search by entering keywords like organizer, shapes, symbols, diagrams, or flow charts. So… if you are using Office 2000 or above, take advantage of the tools you already have at hand to make life easier for yourself. Get started creating your own handouts without having to use scissors, glue, or tape. Experiment all you want because you can always choose Undo (from the Edit menu, or Ctrl+Z key combination) if you make a mistake.

Richard Thomason
Madison Campus Elementary
“Tools for Education”