Free Your Diagrams From the Clutches of Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office can be used to make charts and diagrams in their office suite. While useful, it’s been traditionally difficult to free them from the clutches of Office. Your creations often end up being converted to images, leading to a drop in quality.

So, what do you do if you want to use your Charts and SmartArt in your EPUB or website? Fortunately, there’s a solution that promotes portability and flexibility in the final design.


Inkscape, is an open-source vector image editor that saves images as SVG. An image format that:

  • Is supported by 98.9% of all browsers.
  • Sees wide application support, including Microsoft Office.
  • Supported by EPUB Version 3.


For media that doesn’t support SVG, your diagrams can be exported to PNG. You’ll need to make sure the image’s resolution is sufficient to support printing or viewing on high-density displays.


There are two methods available:

Images can also be altered after they’ve been imported into Inkscape. You can even create composites from different diagrams to create something new. For example, the following diagrams were used:

microsoft word,inkscape,microsoft office,images,diagrams,smartart,svg
Diagram 1. Source diagrams used for final project. Note the additional colouring around shadow effects.

To create the following:

Diagram denoting the steps taken for the Spiral Development in the Literary Word loop.
Diagram 2. Final product with shadow effects redone to negate the introduction of additional colours.


This process does have flaws. Here are caveats that you should be aware of:

Shadow Effects

As shown above in Diagram 1, the shadows don’t account for transparencies. Diagrams imported into Inkscape with this feature have additional colour in the shading. This phenomenon becomes visible when used against a non-white background.

To correct this defect, it’s recommended that the image be created without shading and the effect added in Inkscape.


Inkscape has the option of integrating effects to the object directly or to create the effect only. While the latter results in the loss of the original shape, integration can’t be reversed later on.

It’s recommended to duplicate the shape and generate the effects on the copy. That way, they can removed or hidden without reverting to earlier versions of the diagram.

Object Labels

Objects imported into Inkscape don’t have meaningful names. If you plan on editing the graph, it’s recommended that you sort, group, and name the content to simplify edits.


Font selection is important for graphs and diagrams. However, fonts are not available on all systems. You should convert the text elements to paths (Path -> Object to Path) prior to release to ensure a consistent look and feel. Be sure to keep the original image around to make future adjustments easier.

That’s it!


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