How to Create Maps in PowerPoint

By David Weedmark

PowerPoint 2013 offers a variety of shapes and lines that can be used to draw just about any map you might need. To access these tools, click PowerPoint's "Insert" tab and then click the "Shapes" icon located in the Illustrations group. The selection includes rectangles, ovals, lines and connectors, as well as a Scribble tool for drawing freehand. The free online version, PowerPoint Live, has fewer available options and doesn't include connectors or the Scribble tool.

Drawing a Basic Map

To draw basic shapes, like rectangles, ovals and lines, select them from the Shapes options and move them as needed by dragging them across the slide. Formatting options appear in the toolbar to change the color and style of each shape. To draw complex shapes, such as buildings, you can use the Freeform option or superimpose two shapes. To draw freehand lines, like curved streets and roads, use the Scribble tool. Simply drag the Scribble tool on the slide to draw your lines, just as you would draw with pen on paper. Change the thickness and color of the line using the formatting options that appear in the Options bar.

Drawing Advanced Geographic Maps

One technique for drawing your own geographic maps to scale in PowerPoint is to use a map from a source like Bing or Google Maps as a template. Locate the area you need using an online map, then take a screenshot of the map's window by pressing "Alt-PrtScn." Click on a blank PowerPoint slide and press "Ctrl-V" to paste the map into the slide. Resize the map as needed by dragging the corner anchor points -- holding down the "Shift" key so you don't distort the map's scale. Draw your own map over the image using the Scribble tool, using only the roads and landmarks you need. When you're done, delete the backgound map, which then leaves your map behind without the clutter of unnecessary details.

Showing Directions

To provide directions, just add arrowheads to each road. Simply select the line representing a street or road, click the "Format" tab, then select "Shape Outline" from the Shape Styles group. Hover the cursor over "Arrows" and select the arrow you want, or select "More Arrows" for additional options. You can also make a travel route more prominent by using a different color or thicker lines for the roads on the route.

Adding Street Names

PowerPoint's Text Boxes make it quite easy to add street and road names. Just click "Text Box" after selecting the "Insert" tab, and type a name into the box. Highlight the text to change its formatting and select a clear background without an outline to leave only the text. After you move the text near a road, drag the circled arrow above the text box to rotate the name until it's parallel to the road.

Adding Road Numbers

To add road numbers, insert an oval shape onto your finished map, then drag it over a road. Hold down the "Shift" key as you resize the shape to lock it in the shape of a circle. To add a number to the circle, click it in the middle and then type the appropriate number. To change the color, size or font, highlight the text and use the text formatting options that appear in the options bar.

Drawing Buildings and Landmarks

You can add distinctive buildings or landmarks to a map as is an effective way to guide people. Merging shapes is one way to illustrate a landmark. Two rectangles can depict an L-shaped building, for example, or a triangle on a square can depict a church with a steeple. To merge two shapes, arrange them as you want them to appear -- overlapping or adjacent to each other -- then click each shape while holding down the "Ctrl" key to select them. Select "Merge Shapes" from the Drawing Tools Format tab and then select the Merge option you want, such as "Union" or "Combine."