Flowchart Symbols - A Complete Guide

Flowchart Symbols
Flowchart Symbols

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.

Flowchart Symbol - Flowline
Flowline

1. Flowline: Shows the process’ direction. Each flowline connects two blocks.

Flowchart Symbol - Terminal
Terminal


2. Terminal: Indicates the beginning or end of a flowchart

Flowchart Symbol - Process
Process

3. Process: Represent a step in a process. This is the most common component of a flowchart.

Flowchart Symbol - Decision
Decision

4. Decision: Shows a step that decides the next step in a process. This is commonly a yes/no or true/false question.

Flowchart Symbol - Input Output
Input / Output

5. Input / Output: Indicates the process of inputting or outputting external data.

Flowchart Symbol - Annotation
Annotation / Comment

6. Annotation / Comment: Indicates additional information regarding a step in a process.

Predefined Process
Predefined Process

7. Predefined Process: Shows named process which is defined elsewhere.

On-page Connector
On-page Connector

8. On-page Connector: Pairs of on-page connecter are used to replace long lines on a flowchart page.

Off-page Connector
Off-page Connector

9. Off-page Connector: An off-page connector is used when the target is on another page.

Flowchart Symbol - Delay
Delay

10. Delay: Any delay period that is part of a process

Flowchart Symbol - Alternate Process
Alternate Process

11. Alternate Process: An alternate to the normal process step. Flow lines to an alternate process block is usually dashed.

Flowchart Symbol - Data
Data

12. Data: Data input or output

Flowchart Symbol - Document
Document

13. Document: A document

Multi-document Symbol
Multi-document

14. Multi-document: Multiple documents

Flowchart Symbol - Preparation
Preparation

15. Preparation: A preparation step

Symbol Display
Display

16. Display: A machine display

Symbol Manual Input
Manual Input

17. Manual Input: Data or information into a system

Flowchart Symbol - Manual Operation
Manual Operation

18. Manual Operation: A process step that isn’t automated

4 Most Common Flowchart Symbols

Flowchart Symbols
Process Chart

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:

1. Process:
Process - Flowchart Symbol
Process

Process Symbol represents a step in a process. This is the most common component of a flowchart.

2. Terminal:
Terminal - Flowchart Symbol
Terminal

Terminal Symbol indicates the beginning or end of a flowchart. This symbol usually has the text “Start” or “End”.

3. Flowline:
Flowline

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.

4. Decision:
Decision Flowchart Symbol
Decision

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