PowerPoint 2010 gives users a function to combine separate shapes into one object. If you’re using PowerPoint 2007, you can’t do that. If you need an object in the shape of a combined square, circle, and triangle you have to build in in a program such as Adobe Illustrator, export that to a metafile, import the metafile to PowerPoint, ungroup it, and so on; or you can engage in the challenging and addictive game of using PowerPoint 2007’s free-form shape tool to approximate the combination shape and editing the individual points.
Note that I did not say that game was fun. It is a short cut to Witt’s End. There is a Pirate there.
Today I accidentally found another option. By grouping different shapes and by applying one of the Preset shape effects in PowerPoint 2007, you can kinda sorta cobble together something that looks like a unified shape, as shown below. Some Preset effects work better than others. Translucent effects will show the separate objects.
You can adjust the bevel depths. Also, you can select each object while they are still grouped if you need to turn off certain effects such as drop shadows.
Neat little trick to have in a pinch.