ShapeChef 1.3.3 Released

Version 1.3.3 of ShapeChef is now available for download. This update includes the following changes:

  • Added support for Office's “Use system settings” theme option.
  • Updated the task pane's background to match the refreshed look of Office 2021/365 on Windows 11.
  • Fixed several minor display errors on systems with high-DPI settings.

You can download and install the new version from this link. It’s free for everyone who already owns a license.

ShapeChef 1.3.2 Released

We are happy to announce version 1.3.2 of ShapeChef, which you can – as always – download and install from here. This update is free for all owners of ShapeChef 1.x licenses.

Version 1.3.2 is primarily a bug-fix release, fixing several minor issues found since the v1.3.1 release. Here’s the full list of changes made in this update:

  • Fixed user interface issues on systems with high-DPI settings
  • Fixed occasional errors when exporting sub-categories
  • Fixed issue when using control characters in category or shape names

Free PowerPoint Backgrounds Using Unsplash Images

Unsplash is a website offering hundreds of thousands of high-quality photos from photographers all around the world. The photos are provided for free under a “do whatever you want” license, allowing you to use them for commercial and non-commercial purposes without the need to provide credit. This makes Unsplash a great source for material for a PowerPoint presentation.

In this post, I will show how to quickly create a nice-looking presentation with Unsplash photos as background images. See the screenshot below for the end result (and more):

PowerPoint Presentation with Unsplash Backgrounds

  1. The first step is to search the Unsplash website for a photo to use, ideally one in landscape orientation matching the format of your slides.

    Unsplash Search

    Once you have found a photo you like, select it and click the Download free button to download the image in JPEG format.

  2. In PowerPoint, go to ViewSlide Master and select the master slide. Now insert the downloaded image via InsertPictures.

    Insert Image

  3. Enlarge the image to cover the entire slide. If the aspect ratio of the image doesn’t match the size of the slide, select the image and click on FormatCrop to activate the Crop tool. You can now use the black crop handles to remove unnecessary areas of the image.

    Crop Image

  4. Go to FormatCompress Pictures, choose Web (150 ppi), and click on OK to compress the image. This step will significantly reduce the file size of the presentation, without sacrificing much picture quality.

    Compress Image

  5. Add a rectangle shape to the slide (Insert → Shapes → Rectangle) and change its size to cover the entire slide.

    Add Rectangle

  6. Remove the rectangles outline via Shape OutlineNo Outline.

  7. Choose a nice, dark fill color for the rectangle (Shape FillColor).

  8. Perform a right-click on the rectangle and select Format Shape from the context menu. Now change the rectangle’s transparency value to 10% (under Fill).

    Image Transparency

  9. Do another right-click on the rectangle and select Send to Back from the context menu.

  10. Select the image, do a right-click, and select Send to Back from the context menu.

  11. Select Slide MasterBackground Styles and select Style 4 (black background) from the menu. This will change the presentation’s text color to white.

    Background Style

  12. Click on Close Master View and enjoy your new PowerPoint template!

How to Create a Funnel Chart in PowerPoint

Funnel charts are a great way to visualize how sequential data can be broken up into different stages. Unfortunately, the “Funnel” SmartArt graphic included with PowerPoint (InsertSmartArtHierarchy) doesn’t reflect the hierarchical nature of the stages and supports only three inputs. That’s why I decided to write this post to demonstrate how easy it is to make a funnel diagram from basic PowerPoint shapes; just follow the steps below.

  1. Add rectangle shapes (InsertShapesRectangle) that represent the stages of the funnel, like depicted below.

    Funnel Chart Stages

  2. Add a trapezoid shape (InsertShapesTrapezoid); then rotate the shape by 180 degrees (hold Shift key while rotating), and resize it to match the height of the stage shapes.

    Trapezoid shape in PowerPoint Ribbon

    Trapezoid on slide

  3. Delete the first/third/fifth/etc. stage shapes.

    Deleted stage shapes

  4. Select the first remaining stage shape and the trapezoid (in this order), then click on FormatMerge ShapesFragment.

    Merge menu

    Repeat this step for the other stage shapes.

    Fragmented trapezoid

  5. Delete the shapes not needed for the funnel.

    Funnel shapes

  6. Format the funnel shapes just as you like.

    Formatted funnel chart

You can download the resulting funnel chart from this link. The .pptx file also includes some more funnel variations with different numbers of stages.

How to Develop a Captivating PowerPoint Presentation

Designing and delivering a PowerPoint presentation that is both informative and interesting is a challenging task. After sitting through one boring PowerPoint presentation after another, your audience is likely to greet the prospect of yet another slide show with low expectations. Surprise them with an informative presentation that captures their imagination and shares your key messages in a unique and interesting way.

Limit Text

The worst types of PowerPoint presentations are those that contain reams of text on each slide. To make matters worse, people who are guilty of displaying text-rich presentations typically read the content of each slide aloud, leaving the audience bored, frustrated and distinctly uninspired. Brevity is the key here. Limit the amount of text you display to the audience. Include a relevant title for each slide, and list only the important points. Avoid lengthy sentences or paragraphs; instead, use succinct, bulleted lists. Include white space between text to avoid a cluttered slide and ensure the audience’s attention is drawn to the key information.

Use Images

Images are far more interesting to your audience than text. Find images that are relevant to your topic and think about what will entertain and interest your target audience. A generic photo of two business professionals shaking hands is hardly inspiring, but a photo of your employees volunteering at a community event will immediately introduce a human element and communicate the right message about your organization. You do not have to include an image on every slide, but several well-placed photographs or graphics can generate interest in your presentation. Focus on the quality of your images, not the quantity.

A great productivity tool that can help you manage and find images and diagrams for a presentation is ShapeChef. ShapeChef fully integrates with the PowerPoint document window and provides a library for you to store frequently used images and download high-quality graphic collections from the vendor’s server.

Show, Don’t Tell

This adage applies well to PowerPoint presentations. Including a statement about your increased profits in the third quarter is fine, but a bar graph that illustrates that increase is far more effective. Find interesting ways to highlight key data and facts. This will grab the audience’s attention and make your message easier to understand.

Supplement, Don’t Repeat

Your PowerPoint presentation should supplement your discussion. Do not rely on the slides alone to convey your main message. Instead, use the text and graphics to reinforce your key points. Use the Notes feature on each slide to list discussion points. Simply refer to these notes, which your audience are unable to see, to avoid relying on the text alone to deliver your presentation. Remember to include the questions you intend to ask your audience, as this will engage them and get them involved.


PowerPoint presentations might be standard fare in the corporate world, but that doesn’t mean they have to be dull. Think of PowerPoint as an accessory to your presentation as opposed to the platform for it. You want your audience to focus on you and your key points, as opposed to reams of dull words on a slide.

How to Make an Image Transparent in PowerPoint

Unlike shapes, pictures in PowerPoint don't have a transparency setting. As a workaround you can fill a shape with a picture and then adjust the fill transparency. Here's the step-by-step guide for PowerPoint 2010 and later:

  1. Add a rectangle shape to the slide.
  2. Right-click the rectangle and select Format Shape from the context menu.
  3. Select FillPicture or texture fill and click on Insert picture fromFile... to choose an image file.
  4. Use the transparency slider to make the picture as transparent as you want.

Image transparency in PowerPoint

About ShapeChef

ShapeChef is a tool that helps you find and manage graphics and charts for your presentations. Click here for details.
ShapeChef: Graphic and Chart Library for PowerPoint

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