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 Symbol: Shows the process’ direction. Each flowline connects two blocks.
2. Terminal Symbol: 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 Symbol: Shows a step that decides the next step in a process. This is commonly a yes/no or true/false question.
5. Input / Output Symbol: Indicates the process of inputting or outputting external data. This is indicated by the shape of a parallelogram.
6. Annotation / Comment Symbol: Indicates additional information regarding a step in a process.
7. Predefined Process Symbol: Shows named process which is defined elsewhere.
8. On-page Connector Symbol are pairs of on-page connecter are used to replace long lines on a flowchart page.
9. Off-page Connector Symbol: An off-page connector is used when the target is on another page. Read our flowchart connector guide for more information on how on-page and off-page connectors work.
10. Delay Symbol: Any delay period that is part of a process
11. Alternate Process Symbol: An alternate to the normal process step. Flow lines to an alternate process block is usually dashed.
12. Data Symbol: Data input or output
13. Document Symbol: A document
14. Multi-document Symbol: Multiple documents
15. Preparation Symbol: A preparation step
16. Display Symbol: A machine display
17. Manual Input Symbol: Data or information into a system
18. Manual Operation Symbol: A process step that isn’t automated
All of these symbols are pre-made in our flowchart maker. Users will only need to drag & drop components into the digital canvas.
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 Symbol:
Process Symbol represents a step in a process. This is the most common component of a flowchart.
2. Terminal Symbol:
Terminal Symbol indicates the beginning or end of a flowchart. This symbol usually has the text “Start” or “End”.
3. Flowline Symbol:
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 Symbol:
Decision Symbol indicates a step that decides the next step in a process. This is commonly a Yes/No or True/False question.
Flowcharts are an easy way to visualize a process or procedure. They can be used in many different areas such as teaching, business, or even in science experiments. To put flowchart symbols to use, follow these steps and guidelines to get started.
1. Start with a Terminal symbol. Often this Terminal symbol has the word "START" in this. This way, viewers of your flow chart can quickly identify where the flowchart begins.
2. Insert a Process symbol connected by flowlines.
3. Insert a Decision symbol whenever there's a choice to be made.
4. Build out the rest of the flowchart using the same principles.
5. End the chart with another Terminal symbol with the word "END" in it.