Editing shapes in your presentation

Advanced Microsoft Office Documents 2007 Edition Inside Out cover image

This article was excerpted from Advanced Microsoft Office Documents 2007 Edition Inside Out by Stephanie Krieger. Visit Microsoft Learning to buy this book and CD set

In this article


Changing Shapes

Edit Points to Create Virtually Anything

WordArt as a Powerful Design Tool


For a human being to change can take years of study, education, or travel. Or, we might undertake more materialistic types of change, such as going under a plastic surgeon’s knife.

Shapes, on the other hand, have it easy. If you were a shape, you could change and grow practically at will. In some cases, shapes can morph into different forms just by moving their yellow diamond reshape tool. Most shapes can use the Change Shape tool to become different shapes, and all shapes can use the new Convert To Freeform tool to become anything they want to be.

Okay, so shapes don’t have it quite that easy. They need a human being with a mouse pointer to change their characteristics. But, while your shapes aren’t self actualized, they do make your work easier when you need custom graphics.

Change your shapes whenever and however you please. No plastic surgery, no Botox, not even a trip to the dermatologist — and certainly no need to recreate your graphics from scratch just to change shapes. Remake your shapes in just a few clicks.

Changing Shapes

There are three ways to change the shape of a built-in shape.

  • Many shapes have one or more reshape tools (the yellow diamond that appears on the perimeter of the shape when selected) that you can drag to alter the shape.

    Some reshape tools handle fairly basic changes, such as the depth or thickness of an arrow or the size of a pie slice. Others can dramatically change shapes. For example, look at the new Teardrop shape in three different forms. On the left is the default shape, and the other two options are created by dragging the reshape tool in opposite directions.

    Teardrop shapes

    Similarly, the 4-Part Star becomes an octagon when its reshape tool is moved as far as it can go.

    4-Part Star and octagon

    Some reshape tools also provide useful details that you might not know are available to you. For example, the two reshape tools on the Right Brace shown in the following image change the curve of the brace and the position of the pointer on the brace, respectively, as you see here.

    The two reshape tools

  • You can change any shape (other than connectors) to other built-in shapes by using the Change Shape tool, such as if you want all of the rectangles in a SmartArt organization chart to be diamonds instead (or, if you just want one of the shapes to be different from the rest). You can even change your own shapes that you create with the Freeform tool into built-in shapes.

    To access the Change Shape tool, first select the shapes you want to change. Then, under Drawing Tools, on the Format tab, in the Insert Shapes group, click to expand the Edit Shape options, point to Change Shape and then click to select the shape you want. (Change Shape is also available under SmartArt Tools, on the Format tab, in the Shapes group.)

    One of the best things about this tool is the fact that it doesn’t work on connectors. So, you can select an entire diagram or other graphic at one time and change the shape of all of the primary shapes without worrying about any connectors included in your selection.

  • For those times when there is no built-in shape to suit your needs, and the reshape tool doesn’t give you enough flexibility, you can now convert any built-in shape (other than connectors) to freeform objects and then use Edit Points (discussed under the next heading) to create absolutely anything you want.

    To do this, select one or more shapes to convert and then, under Drawing Tools, on the Format tab, in the Insert Shapes group, click Edit Shapes and then click Convert To Freeform. The shape doesn’t visibly change when you do this, but it becomes a freeform drawing. So, when you use Edit Points, you can literally turn that shape into any type of drawing you need. Also, as mentioned earlier in this chapter, you now have the ability to format freeform shapes just like built-in shapes, such as adding text to a freeform shape — so you don’t lose functionality when you make this change.

    The only oddity you’re likely to encounter when changing your shape to a freeform shape is that the internal text area gets larger. So, formatting of text already in the shape when you make this change might be altered. See the Troubleshooting tip “The text area changed when I converted a shape to a freeform drawing,” which is located under the WordArt topic in this chapter because the difference is most dramatic when your text uses certain types of WordArt formatting.

Edit Points to Create Virtually Anything

Okay, so you’ve converted your shape to a freeform drawing. Now what? When you enable Edit Points, you can literally edit each point in the shape independently. For example, look at the rectangle in the following image. This is how a selected shape looks when Edit Points is enabled. Each black square is a point that you can manipulate.

A rectangle with Edit Points enabled

After a few clicks, that rectangle now looks like the image that follows.

A rectangle after moving the points

Using Edit Points is quite easy to learn, but if you’ve used it in the past, there are some changes in behavior. Following are key points to help you master this feature and even have some fun with it.

  • To enable Edit Points, right-click any freeform drawing and then click Edit Points. Or, under Drawing Tools, on the Format tab, in the Insert Shapes group, click Edit Shape and then click Edit Points.

  • If you click anywhere on the slide outside of the shape being edited, Edit Points automatically turns off.

  • Edit Points is one of very few features for which most elements are exclusively available when you right-click.

  • When hovering over an object in Edit Points mode, if your insertion point looks like a box inside a cross, your insertion point is over a line segment. If it looks like a box surrounded by four triangles, your insertion point is over a point. Right-click for the options available in either case.

  • If you see the insertion point that indicates a line segment, you can drag to add a new point to the shape. Alternately, you can right-click anywhere on the perimeter of a shape and then click Add Point.

  • To delete a point, right-click the point and then click Delete Point.

  • When you right-click anywhere on the shape perimeter, you see the option Open Path. Or, if you right-click on a freeform drawing that’s an open line, you’ll see Close Path. Open path separates segments to form a line; close path joins segments to turn a line into a shape. Note, however, that your freeform drawings can use Shape Fill and Shape Effects whether or not the path is closed.

  • When you click a point, you see two blue handles with white boxes on the end. These handles control the curve of the segments on either side of the point. If you change the type of point (available when you right-click a point), the appearance of the segments on either side of the point may change, but the behavior of the point handles does not.

This is a change in the 2007 release. For example, in the previous version, smooth points would cause a change to the segment on one side of the point to affect the segment on the other side of the same point. This is no longer the case. Segments on either side of the point operate independently regardless of the type of point you choose.

Instead, when you change the point type, the segments on either side adjust (if applicable) to match the point type you’ve requested. For example, if you have a corner that looks like this:

A corner image

And you change the point to a straight or smooth point, it will look like this:

A corner image with a straight or smooth point

However, once you begin to move the handles again, they behave exactly the same and allow you to create whatever shape you need.

  • Similarly, you can right-click a segment and then click Straight Segment to immediately remove the curve from a segment. However, you are still free to manipulate the handles on the points adjacent to that segment to once again add a curve if needed.

  • To control the size of the curve in a segment, drag the white box at the end of a point handle closer to or further from the point. The shorter the handle, the tighter the curve; the longer the handle, the looser the curve can be.

  • Each handle only controls half of a given segment. Use the handles on either side of a segment to control the full bend of a curve.

    To get a feel for the angles you can create with the handles on any point, drag a handle in a variety of directions to see how the curve changes. Remember that you can press ESC before releasing your drag on the handle to cancel the action.

  • In addition to using Edit Points to create custom drawings, it can be a very useful editing tool. When you use single or multi-segment freeform lines (instead of connectors), you can enable Edit Points to shorten, lengthen, or change the angle of a given line segment.

    Note: If you want to create your own freeform drawing (or multi-segment line) from scratch instead of converting a shape to a freeform, start with the Freeform option under the Lines category in the Shape gallery. To use this tool, don’t drag to draw. Instead, just click each time you want to turn a corner and then double-click to end the drawing. Remember that you can turn corners into curves later by using Edit Points.

WordArt as a Powerful Design Tool

If you’ve read the section of this chapter on formatting shapes, you already know most of what you can do with WordArt. As mentioned earlier, WordArt is functionality that enables you to format text as you do shapes — with fills, outlines, and graphic effects. However, with WordArt, you can use Font formatting (such as the Character Spacing functionality that’s new to PowerPoint) along with WordArt formatting for even more flexibility.

The beauty of WordArt is that the ability to format text as shapes adds tremendously to your options for using PowerPoint to create the types of business graphics you might never have imagined you could do on your own, such as creating your own logo.

You can apply WordArt formatting to any editable text in a PowerPoint object by using the WordArt Styles group under Drawing Tools on the Format tab or under SmartArt Tools on the Format tab. Or, you can insert a WordArt object — which is now just a text box that comes with placeholder text.

Take a look at a few options for what you can do very simply with WordArt effects and Font formatting combined.

WordArt effects and Font formatting

When you apply WordArt formatting or Shape formatting to a shape and don’t seem to be getting what you need, check to make sure that you’re using options from the correct tab group. The Shape Styles and WordArt Styles options look very similar. But, Shape Styles affect the shape area and not the text; WordArt Styles affect only the text (so that, if your shape contains no text, it won’t appear altered).

The Text Effects for WordArt don’t include the Soft Edges options available to Shape Effects. However, WordArt also offers the unique Transform set of effects that are not available to shapes. Transform effects curve or warp the appearance of the text. When using Transform settings, notice that the curve or warp will change based on the size of the text area and the amount of text. See the Troubleshooting tip in this section for information on how Transform is affected by converting shapes to freeform drawings.

Overall, the range of effects for WordArt has increased over previous versions. But the biggest change is surely the fact that you can apply WordArt formatting to any text and no longer need a separate object to use these effects.

Notice that the Text Fill and Text Outline options in the WordArt Styles group have the same range of options as Shape Fill and Shape Outline, including the ability to use picture, gradient, or texture fills for text. Also notice that WordArt Styles have their own set of Quick Styles. And remember, when you want to use the new font formatting options (such as Small Caps or Character Spacing) along with WordArt, on the Home tab, in the Font group, click the dialog launcher.

Troubleshooting — The text area changed when I converted a shape to a freeform drawing

When you convert a built-in shape to freeform, the internal text box area typically becomes a bit larger, so the text wrap on existing text in the shape may change when you make the conversion. With basic text formatting, the primary difference you’ll see is where the text wraps, because the text box will be wider.

However, when you use WordArt Transform settings (curving text within the shape), you might see a much more significant change (such as between the two shapes shown side by side in the image that follows).

An example of WordArt Transform settings

WordArt text with applied Transform settings doesn’t behave the same with internal text box margins as standard text. And, changing the size of the text box relative to the amount of text can dramatically alter the way a Transform setting affects your text. When the conversion to a freeform object changes the size of the text area, the WordArt Transform setting adjusts to use the new, larger text area.

Changing text box margins when this happens isn’t likely to give you the result you want. For the easiest, best results when this happens, change the Transform setting to No Transform and then use Live Preview with the Transform options to see which setting works best with the new text area.

About the author

Stephanie Krieger is a Microsoft Office System MVP as well as author of the books Advanced Microsoft Office Documents 2007 Edition Inside Out and Microsoft Office Document Designer. As a professional document consultant, she has helped many global companies develop enterprise solutions for Microsoft Office and taught numerous professionals to build great documents by understanding how the Office programs “think.” Stephanie writes regularly for several Microsoft Web pages and frequently delivers Office Webcasts. Visit her blog, arouet.net, for Microsoft Office tips as well as information about new and upcoming publications and Webcasts.

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