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When it comes to tools for planning a computer program, algorithms and flowcharts are among the most popular ones. Each one has its own advantages and is suitable for different kinds of purposes. Which tool should we pick?
This article will help you with understanding the differences between flowcharts and algorithms.
What Is An Algorithm?
An algorithm is a step-by-step method to solve problems. It includes a set of rules / instructions to be carried out by a computer program.
A flowchart diagram is a graphical representation of the series of steps to run a program. In other words, a flow chart is the graphical form of an algorithm. There are different geometric patterns to demonstrate that set of rules. Flowchart can be particularly helpful in programming.
Using this method, programmers can view the elements of a program individually. This will help with the step analysis and comparison. That way, complex processes will be easier to understand, and the program will have a higher chance of success compared to using only natural languages.
Differences Between Algorithm And Flowcharts
Although algorithms and flowcharts are both used to design programs, they can not completely replace one another. The list below will show you the comparison between them.
Algorithms: An algorithm is a step-by-step method to solve problems. It includes a series of rules or instructions in which the program will be executed.
Flowchart: A flowchart is a pictorial representation of an algorithm. It uses different patterns to illustrate the operations and processes in a program.
Algorithms: Algorithms are complicated to understand.
Flowchart: Flowcharts, with the help of various graphic patterns, are easier to understand and more user-friendly.
Algorithms: An algorithm is just written in plain text. It does not use any kind of geometrical diagram.
Flowchart: This type of diagram makes use of different patterns, shapes, and standard symbols.
Scope of usage
Algorithms: Algorithms are mainly used in mathematics and computer science.
Flowchart: Flowcharts can be used in various domains to illustrate a program.
Algorithms: It describes the concept of decidability.
Flowchart: Flowcharts are used to document, design, and analyze a program.
Algorithms: This method demands the knowledge of a computer programming language.
Flowchart: Users with no knowledge of computer programming language can still use this method.
Algorithms: Debugging errors in algorithms is challenging.
Flowchart: It is easy to debug errors in a flowchart.
Algorithms: No rules are required.
Flowchart: Predefined rules are applied in flowcharts.
Branching and looping
Algorithms: Branching and looping in this method are easy to display.
Flowchart: In flowcharts, it is difficult to show branching and looping.
Algorithms: Solutions are in the semi-programming language (pseudocode).
Flowchart: Solutions are in the form of graphical format.
How To Draw Algorithm Flowcharts?
As we have mentioned above, flowcharts are graphical forms of algorithms; therefore, it is definitely possible to use flowcharts to represent algorithms. First, take a look at the rules on how to do it.
- Connect the shapes and symbols in the diagram with arrows to show the logical order of the process
- Make sure every step flows in one direction, do not make it ambiguous
- Every diagram needs to start with a Start box and end with a Terminal box
- Make sure the use of shapes, symbols, arrows, and lines are consistent throughout the entire flowchart
Example On Using Flowcharts To Represent Algorithms
Let’s see how to apply these rules in a particular example: Algorithm of computing the average of three numbers.
- Step 1: Start
- Step 2: Declares variables num1, num2, num3, and average.
- Step 3: Read values of num1, num2, num3.
- Step 4: Find the average using the formula: average= (num1+num2+num3)/3
- Step 5: Display average
- Step 6: End
To draw a diagram from this information, follow the following steps:
- Determine input and output for Start box and Terminal box
- Gather information. In this example, available information is the three numbers and a formula
- Choose suitable shapes and patterns to design the diagram. Specifically, step 3 and step 5 will be put in a parallelogram; step 4 will be put in a rectangle.
- Use arrows to connect the flowchart symbols. Remember to use them consistently.
To sum up, an algorithm is a group of instructions in plain text. On the other hand, a flowchart is a visual representation of the former method.
Algorithm and flowcharts are useful tools for creating programs. Although their differences are not significant, knowing when to apply each tool appropriately will immensely improve your work efficiency.