Freeform PowerPoint AutoShapes for quick custom objects

PowerPoint lets you draw your own shapes, but freeforming an AutoShape in PowerPoint 2007 might get you where you want to go quicker.

It's not uncommon to need an unusual shape or graphic element on a PowerPoint slide. You can use specialized software, of course, but you might be able to get the job done quicker in PowerPoint 2007. First, there are a number of AutoShapes that might prove up to the challenge. If you can't find an AutoShape or a combination of AutoShapes, there's always freeform -- just draw the shape yourself! Admittedly, freeforming is difficult to master, so here's a nice compromise: Freeform an AutoShape. For instance, the graphic below resembles an evergreen tree. It consists of two AutoShapes: a freeformed arrow and a trapezoid. Creating this simple graphic was easier than you might think (in PowerPoint 2007).

  1. With a new blank slide current, choose Notched Right Arrow from the Shapes drop-down list in the Illustrations group on the Insert tab.

  1. Use the rotation handle to turn the arrow's point upward.
  2. Then, use one of the sizing handles to vertically stretch the arrow's body slightly. You might want to widen the arrow a bit too -- that's all up to you and the finished look you want.
  3. Before you start freeforming, display grid lines. Right-click the slide's background and check Grid And Guides. In the resulting dialog box, uncheck the Snap To options and click OK. Grid lines aren't required, but they are useful when symmetry is part of the design.

  1. Select the arrow object and click the Format tab.
  2. In the Insert Shapes group, select Convert To Freeform from the Edit Shape drop-down list.

  1. Right-click the arrow and choose Edit Points.

  1. In this mode, you can move edit points independently of one another.
  2. Pull the bottom-right flare point to the right. Then, repeat the process on the left, using the grid to balance both flares.

  1. Just add the trapezoid and you're done!
The process is easy enough that it's no big deal to try again if you don't get it just right the first time. In addition, you can switch between normal edit and freeform. Just be sure to save often as you go. Granted, this is a simple shape and there are easier ways to get a better-looking evergreen tree in a presentation, but converting to freeform is a helpful feature that can serve you well.