Create Your Own Infographics with Build-a-Graphic

One of the questions I get asked most often is how can an average user create professional-looking infographics in PowerPoint. There are very good sites like Diagrammer, Canva and Infogram that can all help with providing and assembling elements of an infographic. And yes, you can always resort to PowerPoint’s own SmartArt, but unless you use it simply as a starting point, it’s going to look like…well, SmartArt. The disappointing truth is that to produce a professional looking infographic, you generally need to hire a professional. Enter Mike Parkinson and his brand new Build-a-Graphic add-in for PowerPoint.

Mike Parkinson runs Billion Dollar Graphics and is one of those professionals that has been creating custom infographics for high profile clients for years. He’s got an excellent book on infographics and a brand new one on PowerPoint, but he has also just introduced Build-a-Graphic, a killer add-in for PowerPoint that allows any user to call upon a massive library of pre-made (professionally designed!) vector graphics all from within PowerPoint. If SmartArt is a tricycle, Build-a-Graphic is a Ferrari.

But it gets even better. Because while you can simply search through the catalog of ready-to-use graphic and insert them onto your PowerPoint slides, the tool can also examine your slide’s content for you, automatically convert bullet points to more readable visual chunks and then suggest specific graphics relevant to your material. The quick demo below shows all this in action.

And all graphics are made up of pure PowerPoint shapes and vectors which means they are completely customizable, recolorable and can be taken apart however you like.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that now that anyone can have professionally designed customized graphics with just a few clicks of the mouse.

The Build-a-Graphic add-in is a $99/year subscription which includes ongoing updates and additions to the graphic catalog. PC only for right now.


Yes, Virginia…There Is A Cross-Platform PowerPoint Add-in

The majority of PowerPoint users probably have no idea that the program can work much better than what Microsoft gives you out of the box through the use of third-party add-ins. Corporate clients can have complex and custom functionality created for them including content libraries, charting macros, branding tools and much more. But the same people who create those corporate add-ins also create commercial tools for the average user. And unlike some plugins for other programs such as those by Adobe, PowerPoint add-ins tend to be relatively dirt cheap.

On the Presentation Podcast, we recently did a two parter, interviewing three of the industry’s leading PowerPoint developers, Jamie Garroch of YOUpresent, Gil Segal of ToolsToo and Steve Rindsberg of PPTools.

In those episodes, we barely talk about PowerPoint add-ins for the Mac because historically they have been nearly non-existent. But now, Jamie Garroch has developed his brand new YOUtools add-in to work and updated his to work on BOTH Mac and PC. In fact, it’s not even two separate files, but a single file that you can choose to install on either platform you choose. That alone kind of baffles me.

Jamie is continuing to refine the tools, but they are now on sale. And if you consider your time to be as valuable an asset as I do, the $29 price tag is a no-brainer. The Setup Guides tool can now do in seconds what once took 30 minutes or more.

Any catches? Yes, unfortunately there are a few items that are not currently supported on the Mac because Microsoft hasn’t opened up the required features on that platform. And that awesome Setup Guides tool is the major feature that will not appear in your toolbar when installed on a Mac. For now…

Below are the ribbons you’ll see on the PC…

and on the Mac…

In addition to much more powerful alignment tools, you get Table tools which can help with sorting and conversion to text, Text to Outline which quickly turns live text into shapes and Export tools which includes a feature I have been wanting for years: Export to Webinar. This allows you to create a new, webinar-friendly version of your presentation that strips out and identifies items such as animation, transitions, video and more.

The two most powerful tools are undoubtedly (1) Setup Guides which allows you to set margins like a pro and add those margins as PowerPoint guides with absolute precision.

And (2) Theme Colors which gives you incredible granular control of creating and editing your color palette. This is going to be a lifesaver for anyone who regularly creates custom templates. I just used it yesterday and probably saved 10 minutes.

There’s more in the suite than even I’m mentioning here, and I have no doubt that the toolset will get more robust in time.

And as I said, at $29, it’s beyond a bargain.

Categories: PowerPoint.

Gilfoyle’s Crypto Currency PowerPoint Slides

We only caught a few glimpses of Gilfoyle’s presentation on crypto currencies in the last episode of Silicon Valley, but posted the entire thing. Take a look here!

Categories: PowerPoint.

The Visual Storytelling of Factfulness

Factfulness by Hans Rosling is significant attention as well it should be. Of course, Bill Gates saying it is “one of the most important books” he’s ever read doesn’t hurt.

Like any reader, I imagine, I had my eyes opened continually about misconceptions about the world–which is the intent of the book. But, I’ll always remember Hans Rosling not only for what he said, but how he said it. His TED Talks are famous for his energy, but also for the demos of his Gapminder software that animates bubble charts. Rosling was able to visualize data in such an accessible way, and I wanted to point out two of my favorite examples of how he implemented visual storytelling in Factfulness.

The Chimpanzee

The book is premised on the survey results to a series of questions that Rolling asked audiences all over the world. Predictably, no matter what their education or background, people fundamentally have misperceptions about the world and facts. Each question only has three possible answers, and he makes the point over and over that even a chimpanzee answering the quiz will get on average 33% correct answers. But as we see, even the most educated audiences often score lower than a random guess because of bias. And so, Rosling will add in on the x-axis a “Chimp Point” showing were random correct responses should lie. Here’s an example.

The Picture Superiority Effect in Action

Much of the book revolves around the four income levels as defined by the World Bank which breaks down essentially as:

Level 1: $1/day
Level 2: $4/day
Level 3: $16/day
Level 4: $64/day

You could chart or describe with words these four levels in a million different ways, but Rosling breaks it down to the simplest explanation with pictures of what it means at different levels to
sleep or eat or brush your teeth. Here’s a grid showing just what it means…

It’s a good and fast read, and I definitely recommend it.

And if you want to make animated bubble charts a la Rosling, you can do so in PowerPoint with this hack.

visual training presentation