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(Note: Creating and combining custom shapes is a tool introduced in PowerPoint 2010 that lots of presenters find useful. We first published this post in February 2010 and ever since then people have been looking it up so here it is again.)
PowerPoint has a lot of great preset shapes, but sometimes what you really need is a custom shape tailored-made for your presentation. If you’re looking to go beyond the Freeform Tool to create more complex custom shapes, we’ve created a new feature in PowerPoint 2010 called Combine Shapes to help you do just that! Using the principles of Boolean Geometry, the Combine Shapes tool allows you to create new shapes by combining multiple shapes in one of four ways: Union, Combine, Subtract, or Intersect. This is a relatively advanced feature, so it doesn’t appear by default on the Ribbon. To enable Combine Shapes, add it to your Ribbon via the PowerPoint Options dialog: PowerPoint Options > Customize Ribbon > Commands Not in the Ribbon > Combine Shapes. (For more information on how to add items and customize your Ribbon and QAT, see this post).
In just a few clicks, you can quickly and easily create intricate and unique geometries by combining simple shapes in various ways. Here’s an example where we create a key shape using only ovals, rectangles, and triangles. Step 1: Draw the silhouette of a key using several basic shapes, and merge them using “Shape Union” to create the body of the key:
Step 2: Draw shapes to represent the negative areas (i.e. the “holes” in the key). Select the body of the key first, then select the “holes”, and use “Shape Subtract” to cut them out:
Want even more control over the shape’s geometry? Custom shapes created using the Combine Shapes tool are freeforms, so you can take advantage of the Edit Points feature to further fine-tune your shape:
Add a gradient fill and some 3D effects to turn your custom shape into an eye-popping graphic!
With PowerPoint 2010, you no longer have to worry about not being able to find the perfect shape or Clip Art… if you can’t find one, create one yourself! Here are a few more examples of custom graphics created by PowerPoint’s Product Planner, Tal Krzypow, using the Combine Shapes tool:
Download the Office 2010 Beta today and try your hand at creating your own custom shapes. We’d love to hear what you think!
Chris Doan Program Manager, Office Graphics
Updated (Feb 2): Changed the instructions to reflect the location of this feature in the PowerPoint 2010 Beta. Originally we posted instructions on how to find this feature in the released version.
Its "Shape Combine", not "Combine Shapes" but nonetheless, excellent feature.
Excellent feature! I have been wanting something like this for so long in office. OXML supports very nice vector graphics but vector graphic design and vector graphic import is a little limited in Office (compared to, say, Adobe Illustrator). There are very few programs that can create (or translate) complex vector graphics in native DrawingML to import into MS Office. Up to now the only solution to import vector graphic in Office documents was to use legacy eml or vml (not all progams export correctly in this format), or eps (which deos not render very well on screen and needs a PostScript printer to print correctly). I think this is an excellent step forward to have good vector graphics in Office. I would love to see more advance features of this kind. Adding an eps to drawingML or eml to drawingML converter would be another excellent thing. One question, is this feature going to be available in other Office products like Word? Also, why do you consider this an advanced feature and hide it from the default ribbon? I have been testing PPT 2010 for a little while and this great feature is so hidden I wasn't aware of it until I read this blog post.
I tried to find this in the beta and it doesn't appear to exist. I guess we have to wait for the Production version?
Hi Jerry, We’ve made a small correction to the post. In the Beta, the four commands appear individually and can be found under: PowerPoint Options > Customize Ribbon > Commands Not in the Ribbon > Shape Combine, Intersect, Subtract, Union. For the production version of PowerPoint 2010, we’ve made a change to group all four commands into one dropdown button to facilitate adding them to the ribbon. This new option will show up under: PowerPoint Options > Customize Ribbon > All Commands > Combine Shapes. Sorry for the confusion!
There is an EPS -> DrawingML conversion in Office 2007. First import an EPS image. This converts it to an EMF image. Then right click and select Ungroup. This will convert each path to a DrawingML freeform shape. I'm sure it won't produce perfect results, but it will let you manipulate shapes stored in EPS as if they were DrawingML.
@- Thank you for the tip. The problem is not actually manupulating the image, but more printing because EPS requires a post script printer.
Hi Gio, For Office 2010, this feature will only be available in PowerPoint. However, if you have thoughts or suggestions about the inclusion of this tool in our other applications, that feedback is certainly welcome! Note that while this feature is only available in PowerPoint, the resultant custom shapes you've created *can* be copied and pasted into Word/Excel/Outlook and will behave like any other freeform shape. -Chris
Chris, Thank you for your answer. My feedback is that all Office apps need better vector graphic support. I am aware that Office is not an illustrator program, so I understand that features like this are not on the ribbon by default. However, if vector graphics cannot always be created in Office, its import features should be improved. Office is not a suite for publishing books or technical documentation, but it is no secret that companies use it on a regular basis for technical reports and engineers for presenting scientific content. The problem with this kind of content is that there are many vector figures that are usually done in Adobe Illustrator, Matlab or CAD (diagrams, tech drawings, plots) that are typically saved in EPS because this has been the de facto standard for many industries (the alternatives are SVG and EML, the first cannot be imported in Office except for Visio and the second is a legacy format that does not always export consistently in all apps). Unfortunately, EPS renders very badly on screen and requires a PostScript printer to print correctly. Having a better EPS (or SVG, EML, etc.) translator into drawingML would allow for better fidelity and printing for all these graphics that can't be easily created in office. Another idea would be to convert XPS or PDF into drawingML as most applications can save these two formats natively or through Windows. This would allow importing high quality vector content in any Office app from almost any application.
This is a great feature deeply hidden, i hope there will be more "hidden" features that will be revealed as normal users would not likely to find them easily. ONE GREAT SUGGESTION:
How about combining text arts and shapes?
for example i want a shape with a hole in it shaped like the word GOOD so that the resulting hole will be the word (whatever the font is) How about combing text arts, pictures and shapes?
with this i can manipulate shapes, text arts, and shapes. i can subtract a word in a picture, or a shape and text art over a picture and the other ways around. With all of these graphic editing will be more powerful in powerpoint.
Nice feature, but I prefer to prepare the graphics in a vector specific application, like illustrator or Inkscape - it' their job - and then, possibly, import the final vector image in Powerpoint.
SUGGESTION: Powerpoint 2010 should support SVG import.
Hi. Good feature, but why hide it completely? Do you believe PPT users are not smart enough to use it? You created the ribbon to ease discovery of features and now you are hiding them from there again. Sorry to say so, but that is a stupid move. Marc
This is one of the most useful thing I never knew I wanted and one of the best additions in 2010. For all those designers who want to show complex concepts this would ensure they are not limited to the standard shapes. Great work. Is there a way to add custom shapes to the 'Insert Shapes' gallery?
Hello! PPT 2010 is amazingly cool. Love this feature! Please add 300+ templates!! Thanks.
Great upgrade for sure! Check our first vid on youtube using PPT 2010..just look for peakmanagement. I would like to echo the suggestion of combining text shapes in addition to overlapping pics just like photoshop and also wrapping text around objects. Excellent job MS!!
This is sooo kewl!!...
Love the simplicity by which we can create shapes..
One problem that i've faced in creating custom shapes is that if you stop in the middle of a complex custom shape then you can't continue creating the shape from the point where it was left out. The path has to be closed and then we've to painstakingly add each and every point in the middle of that line and move it to their respective positions. With this new option i can create a separate shape and just combine it with the incomplete one.. awesome!!