How Do I Create a Tree Diagram in Word?

Just like a forest full of trees, tree diagrams have many paths, and like real trees, they come in many forms. Although Microsoft Word isn't a fully featured tree diagram maker by any means, the software is fully capable of making basic tree diagrams, whether you're diagramming a complex math problem or want to draw a family tree. So, get ready to plant some digital diagram seeds.

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What Is a Tree Diagram?

Tree diagrams are visual representations of a series of events, showcasing a variety of outcomes based on different sequences of potential events. That's where the "tree" part comes in; each potential path looks like a different branch of the tree.

Because tree diagrams so efficiently deal with a wide variety of possible outcomes, they come in handy when dealing with probability exercises.

SmartArt: Tree Diagrams in Word

If you're planning on making a tree diagram in Word 2016 or Word 2019, both part of their respective Office 365 software suites, SmartArt is the feature you're looking for. Think of SmartArt as interactive, editable clip art that you can insert into your Word doc. A collection of tree diagram templates gives you plenty of options for making an organizational chart.

To get started, click "Insert" on Word's toolbar and click the "SmartArt" button to open a SmartArt graphic gallery. From here, you can choose from more than 200 starting templates that include list charts, process charts and hierarchy charts. In particular, the hierarchy charts are a good place to start a tree diagram. Select one and add text to each box on the diagram by clicking the box, typing the text and selecting "Enter."

Tips and Tricks

There's a good chance the tree diagram templates in SmartArt won't have exactly the number of branches and boxes you need, which means a little editing is in order. To make tweaks, select a box on your diagram, then go to "SmartArt Tools" under the "Design" tab in Word, or select the Smart Art Design tab, depending on your Word version. To insert a box following the one you've selected, click press "Add Shape After." To add one before it, choose "Add Shape Before." "Add Shape Above" and "Add Shape Below" add boxes above and below the current selection. Similarly, you can move the selected box around by clicking options such as "Move Up," "Move Down," "Promote," "Demote" and so on.

From the same Design tab, selecting "Layout" allows you to change how the selected box hangs on the tree trunk, so to speak, enabling you to align boxes to the left or right. You can even click "Change Colors" to add a little visual flair to your creation.

SmartArt isn't exclusive to Word – the feature is also available in Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint – so feel free to branch out a little with your newfound diagramming skills.