About SmartArt graphics in Office 2016 for Mac

In this article

Overview of SmartArt graphics

What to consider when choosing a layout

About the SmartArt Text pane

Style, color, and effects for SmartArt graphics

Animation for SmartArt graphics

Overview of SmartArt graphics

A SmartArt graphic is a visual representation of your information and ideas. You can create SmartArt graphics by choosing from among many layouts to quickly, easily, and effectively communicate your message. SmartArt graphics, especially combined with other features such as themes, help you create designer-quality illustrations with only a few clicks of your mouse. You can create a SmartArt graphic in Excel 2016 for Mac, PowerPoint 2016 for Mac, and Word 2016 for Mac.

You can change the look of your SmartArt graphic by changing the fill of its shape or text; by adding effects, such as shadows, reflections, glows, or soft edges; or by adding three-dimensional (3-D) effects, such as bevels or rotations.

Because PowerPoint presentations often contain slides with bulleted lists, when you are working in PowerPoint, you can convert text to a SmartArt graphic and vice versa in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac. In addition, you can add animation to a SmartArt graphic in your PowerPoint presentations.

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What to consider when choosing a layout

When you choose a layout for your SmartArt graphic, you are prompted to choose a type, such as Process, Hierarchy, or Relationship. A type is a category of SmartArt graphic that contains several different layout options.

Because you can quickly and easily switch layouts, try different layouts (from different types) until you find the one that best illustrates your message. The table below offers suggestions for the best SmartArt types to consider for different uses.

To do this

Use this type

Show nonsequential information.


Show steps in a process or timeline.


Show a continual process.


Create an organization chart.


Show a decision tree.


Illustrate connections.


Show how parts relate to a whole.


Use pictures to convey or accent content.


Show proportional relationships with the largest component on the top or bottom.


Also consider the amount of text that you have, because the amount of text and number of shapes that you need often determine the layout that will look the best. Do the details carry more weight than the summary points, or vice versa? In general, SmartArt graphics are most effective when the number of shapes and the amount of text are limited to key points. Larger amounts of text can distract from the visual appeal of your SmartArt graphic and make it harder to convey your message visually. However, some layouts, such as Trapezoid List in the List type, work well with larger amounts of text.

Some layouts for SmartArt graphics contain a limited number of shapes. For example, the Counterbalance Arrows layout in the Relationship type is designed to show two opposing ideas or concepts. Only two shapes can contain text, and the layout cannot be changed to display more ideas or concepts.

Counterbalance arrows

If you need to convey more than two ideas, switch to another layout that has more than two shapes for text, such as the Basic Pyramid layout in the Pyramid type. Remember that changing layouts or types can alter the meaning of your information. For example, a layout with arrows pointing to the right, such as Basic Process in the Process type, has a different meaning than a SmartArt graphic with arrows going in a circle, such as Continuous Cycle in the Cycle type. Arrows tend to imply flow or progression in a certain direction, whereas a similar layout with connecting lines instead of arrows implies connections, but not necessary flow.

If you can't find the exact layout that you want, you can add and remove shapes in your SmartArt graphic to adjust the structure of the layout. For example, the Basic Process layout in the Process type appears with three shapes, but your process may need only two shapes, or it may need five shapes. As you add or remove or shapes and edit your text, the arrangement of the shapes and the amount of text within those shapes is updated automatically—maintaining the original design and border of the layout.

When you select a layout, placeholder text (such as [Text]) appears. Replace the placeholder text with your own content. Placeholder text is not printed and does not appear during a PowerPoint presentation, but the shapes that contain placeholder text are always displayed and printed, unless you delete them.

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About the SmartArt Text pane

Use the SmartArt Text pane to enter and edit the text that appears in your SmartArt graphic. The SmartArt Text pane appears to the left of your SmartArt graphic when you insert it. As you add and edit your content in the Text pane, your SmartArt graphic is automatically updated—shapes are added or removed as needed. You can expand or collapse the pane by clicking the arrow on the left of your graphic placeholder.

Using the SmartArt Text pane

To create a new line of bulleted text in the SmartArt Text pane, press RETURN. To indent a line in the SmartArt Text pane, select the line and click Demote Demote button or press TAB. To unindent a line, click Promote Promote button or press SHIFT+TAB.

Note:  Depending on the layout that you choose, each bullet in the SmartArt Text pane is represented in the SmartArt graphic as either a new shape or a bullet inside a shape. For example, notice how the same text is mapped differently in the two SmartArt graphics below. In the first example, the sub-bullets are represented as bullets in the shape. In the second example, the sub-bullets are represented as separate shapes.

Comparing text in two SmartArt styles

Tip:  If you do not want all of your text in separate shapes, switch to a different layout that shows all of the text as bullets.

If you use an organization chart layout with an Assistant shape, a bullet with a line attached indicates the Assistant shape.

SmartArt Text pane with organizational chart

You can set character formatting, such as font, font size, bold, italic, and underline, on the text in your SmartArt graphic by applying the formatting to text in the SmartArt Text pane. This formatting is not displayed within the SmartArt Text pane, but it is reflected in your SmartArt graphic.

When the font size in one shape shrinks because you add more text to the shape, all of the other text in the remaining shapes of the SmartArt graphic will also shrink to the same size to keep the SmartArt graphic looking consistent and professional.

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Style, color, and effects for SmartArt graphics

The SmartArt Design tab (which appears when you click on a SmartArt graphic) includes two galleries for quickly changing the look of your SmartArt graphic: SmartArt Styles and Change Colors.

SmartArt Styles may include shape fills, edges, line styles, gradients, and three-dimensional (3-D) perspectives, depending on your graphic.

SmartArt styles

Change Colors provides a range of color options for a SmartArt graphic, each one applying one or more theme colors to the shapes in your SmartArt graphic.

SmartArt theme colors

When you insert a SmartArt graphic into your document without specifying a theme, the graphic theme matches that used by the rest of the content in your document. If you change the theme of the document, the look of the SmartArt graphic is updated automatically.

If the built-in galleries don't give you the look you want, almost all parts of a SmartArt graphic are customizable. If the SmartArt Style gallery does not have the right combination of fills, lines, and effects, you can apply an individual Shape style or fully customize the shape yourself. If the size and position of a shape are not the way you want them, you can move the shape around or resize it. You can find most of the customization options on the Format tab.

Even after you customize your SmartArt graphic, you can change to a different layout, and most of your customizations will be kept. Or, to remove all formatting and start over, on the SmartArt Design tab, in the Reset group, click Reset Graphic.

Reset Graphic button

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Animation for SmartArt graphics

In PowerPoint, you can add animation to your SmartArt graphic. For example, you can make a shape fly in quickly from one side of your screen or slowly fade in.

For more information about adding animations to a presentation, see Animate text and objects in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac. Animation of SmartArt graphics is available only in PowerPoint.

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Related information

Convert text to a SmartArt graphic and vice versa in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac

Create an organizational chart with SmartArt in Office 2016 for Mac

Add shapes in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac

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