Microsoft Office documents can always benefit from some visual chutzpah. Icons can sometimes be a better alternative to generic stock photos and staid text. After all, Microsoft Word is a desktop publishing tool while Microsoft PowerPoint is a visual communication aid. With the right icons, Word and PowerPoint documents can do better than plain text letters and bulleted presentations. And when we are speaking about letters, an email signature created with simple icons can help you say something more with your Outlook mails.
So, let’s look at where to use them and how to insert and use icons in Microsoft Office documents.
Where Can You Use Microsoft Office Icons?
Remember Microsoft Clipart? Icons are not exactly a replacement, but they are a tasteful alternative. You can use individual icons to combine them to create:
- Simple logos.
- Email signatures.
- Flyers and pamphlets.
- PowerPoint graphics.
- Copyright symbols.
Insert Icons in Microsoft Office Documents
Icons help you visually communicate with symbols. All Microsoft Office applications include a rich set of icons you can use at the right place. The icons are in the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format and can be easily rotated, resized, and colored without any loss of quality.
Also: Icons and SVG files are only available to Office 365 subscribers.
- Go to Ribbon > Insert > Icons. The placement of the icon button is common across all Microsoft Office applications.
- The Insert Icons box is displayed.
- Scroll through the icons or drill down to the right one with the help of categories on the left.
- Select the right icon and then click Insert on the lower right. You can also use multiple icons at the same time by clicking each of them before clicking Insert. In presentation slides, Microsoft PowerPoint will also give you a few design ideas when you place an icon on the slide. You can accept one of the ideas or close the design ideas bar.
- You can also use third-party icon engines like The Noun Project and IconFinder to insert icons in Microsoft Office documents. Drag and drop the file from Windows File Explorer into your document.
Microsoft Office supports both PNG and SVG icons. PNG is not a vector format, so you must choose an icon of the right size and color that will not grain when the document is printed. SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) is an open vector standard that can be resized and customized in your document.
How to Customize the Icons in Microsoft Office
You can customize the icons in many ways. Microsoft Office gives you an entire Format tab to play around with the look of the graphic. The process is common across all Office applications, so let’s look at Microsoft PowerPoint for a change.
- Click on the inserted icon and the contextual Format tab is displayed on the Ribbon. You can also right-click on the icon to use the contextual menu.
- Graphic Styles are the quickest way to change the look of the icon. You can use the pre-defined styles to remove the fill or to add a different colored fill to the icon. Hover your mouse over each graphics style in the gallery to see a preview of what your image would look like with that style.
In the illustration below, I have used a graphic style to remove the default fill and give it an orange fill with a green border. Next, I can go to the Graphic Fill and Graphic Outline in the Format Toolbar and use the options to tweak the icon to the desired look. For instance, I have increased the width of the icon border.
- Use the Eyedropper to pick any color from your document. You may want to match the look of the icon to a specific color theme on your document or slide. Go to Format > Graphics Fill or Graphics Outline. Select the Eyedropper tool and point it at any object in your document, on your slide, or worksheet. A small box above the dropper will fill with the selected color of that object. Click your left mouse button to “pick” the color and your selected SVG shape will be filled with that color.
- Graphic Effects can help you add more effects to your icons. Access Graphic Effects from the Format tab or the Format Graphic sidebar on the right. For instance, add a drop shadow or a perspective shadow to an icon for a stylized look. Most of the effects have Presets you can use to shortcut the process.
Convert Your Icon to a Shape
Your creative options will expand when you take an icon and convert it into a shape.
- Insert an icon in your document.
- Go to the Insert tab and click the Convert to Shape button in the Change group. You can also just right-click the SVG image in your document and select Convert to Shape from the context.
- The icon converted into a shape can then be disassembled into individual elements. For instance, you can color some part of it to suggest a different meaning to the symbol.
Icons are Powerful: Use Them Carefully
Microsoft Office gives you the ability to personalize the icons and use them in your projects. They are wonderful replacements for garish clipart which dominated the Office space for some time. But with this power comes a bit of responsibility. The ubiquitous nature of icons makes them instantly recognizable, so you must use them right. Pick the right icon to convey the appropriate meaning.
Have you explored the potential of Microsoft Office icons yet?
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