All the most common flowchart symbols you need to know, and how to use them.
Flowchart is a very intuitive method to describe processes. As such, in most cases, you don’t need to worry too much about the standards and rules of all the flowchart symbols. In fact, a simple flowchart, constructed with just rectangular blocks and flowlines, can already get most jobs done.
However, if you want to get technical and precise, there are preset rules and standards you can follow. Specifically, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) set standards for flowcharts and their symbols in the 1960s. Afterwards, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted the ANSI symbols in 1970. In general, flowcharts flow from top to bottom and left to right.
1. Flowline: Shows the process’ direction. Each flowline connects two blocks.
2. Terminal: Indicates the beginning or end of a flowchart
3. Process: Represent a step in a process. This is the most common component of a flowchart.
4. Decision: Shows a step that decides the next step in a process. This is commonly a yes/no or true/false question.
5. Input / Output: Indicates the process of inputting or outputting external data.
6. Annotation / Comment: Indicates additional information regarding a step in a process.
7. Predefined Process: Shows named process which is defined elsewhere.
8. On-page Connector: Pairs of on-page connecter are used to replace long lines on a flowchart page.
9. Off-page Connector: An off-page connector is used when the target is on another page.
10. Delay: Any delay period that is part of a process
11. Alternate Process: An alternate to the normal process step. Flow lines to an alternate process block is usually dashed.
12. Data: Data input or output
13. Document: A document
14. Multi-document: Multiple documents
15. Preparation: A preparation step
16. Display: A machine display
17. Manual Input: Data or information into a system
18. Manual Operation: A process step that isn’t automated
Although there are many flowchart symbols that can be used, there are 4 main symbols that are most important. In fact, you really need only these 4 in most cases:
Process Symbol represents a step in a process. This is the most common component of a flowchart.
Terminal Symbol indicates the beginning or end of a flowchart. This symbol usually has the text “Start” or “End”.
Flow lines indicate the process’ direction. Each flowline usually connects two blocks. Flowlines can be straight lines, uni-directional arrow, or both-sided arrows, representing different kinds of connections between the steps.
Decision Symbol indicates a step that decides the next step in a process. This is commonly a Yes/No or True/False question.
This article is also available in Indonesian language: simbol flowchart