Flowchart is the process flow diagram to draw any process with sequence of steps. It consists of standard symbols as defined by Internal Standards Organization (ISO) though some application uses custom symbols. If you are frequently draw flowcharts, then it is necessary to understand the meaning of all flowchart symbols. This will help you to apply the correct symbol without mistakes.
There are around thirty symbols used in standard flowcharts. However, many people use only few frequently symbols to make the process flow simple. Generally, flowcharts start with an oval symbol indicating the start of a process and ends with the same symbol. Each step in the process is indicated using a proper symbol and multiple processes are connected to draw a complex process flow diagram.
Complete List of Flowchart Symbols
Below table shows the complete list of flowchart symbols with their names and purpose when using in the process flow diagram.
|Alternate process flow
|Arrow or flow lines
|Indicates the direction of the process flow
|Data stored in a card
|Used for collating details into a standard format
|Comment or annotation
|Used for inserting a comment or annotation in the process flow for leaving a note for reference
|Database or Data
|Standard database symbol where data is stored in a structured manner and can be accessed asynchronously
|Multiple decision making step in a process, generally used for yes or no decisions
|Delay in the process flow
|Direct Access Storage
|Data stored in a direct access like hard disk
|Symbol for a step that displays information in the process like an information shown in a monitor screen
|Symbol for extracting information
|Initialize or Prepare
|Initialize or preparation symbol used for starting another process from the current flow
|Input or Output
|Any input for next steps or output as a result of the previous steps
|Internal storage of data like data stored in memory in software programming process flow
|Symbol for manual input in a process where human input is needed
|Manual Operation or Manual Loop
|Symbol indicates where a step is a manual operation like an action needed to stop the loop of steps
|Merging of two of more subprocess
|Multiple documents used in a step
|Off Page Connector
|Used for connecting when the process flow terminates on a current page and continue on a different page
|On Page Connector
|Used for connecting the flowchart when it flows across multiple places on the same page
|Logical OR indicating process step leads to two branches
|A process or action in the process flow
|Data stored in a punched tape
|Sequential Access Storage
|Step to indicate a data storage in sequential manner
|Single document used in the process
|Used for sorting of the process steps based on criteria
|Start or End
|Beginning or end of the process flow, usually first and last symbols in any flow start for a single process
|Data is stored in that step
|Subprocess or Predefined Process
|Predefined or subprocess that is part of the current flow. Details of subprocess can also be found in a separate flowchart
|Meeting of multiple processes and flow as a single process
Example of a Flowchart
Here is an example of a simple flowchart some of the frequently symbols.
Insert Flowchart in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint
Sometimes you need to insert a quick process flowchart when using Microsoft Word document or PowerPoint presentation. The best option to insert a flowchart in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint documents is to use the in-built shapes.
- Go to “Insert” menu and click on “Shapes” icon.
- You will see shapes grouped under different categories.
- Scroll down and find the symbols under “Flowchart” category.
- Click on any symbol to insert on your document or presentation.
- You need to use arrow symbol to connect the steps in your process flow.
Though manually creating flowcharts is easy, you also have many software applications that do the job perfectly for you. Microsoft Visio is the best flowchart application available with both web and desktop access. However, Visio is not part of Microsoft 365 Personal subscription. You can purchase the app separately as a standalone application for a monthly subscription of $5. Alternative, you can upgrade to purchase Microsoft 365 Business subscription to get Visio web access as part of the package.
There are hundreds of flowchart templates and shapes available for general purpose, networking, floor plans, mind maps, organization charts, Program Evolution and Review Technique (PERT), IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), pivot diagrams, value stream maps and engineering diagrams. You can reuse one of the templates and complete your process flow quickly instead of creating from scratch.
Flowchart Symbols in PDF
You can bookmark this page in your browser, if you want to remember the above flowchart symbols. However, you can also download the flowchart symbols in PDF format for keeping it offline. Below is the list of all flowchart symbols in an image which you can also use for offline reference.