Basic Flowchart Symbols and Meaning


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Flowcharts are the ideal diagrams for visually representing business processes. For example, if you need to show the flow of a custom-order process through various departments within your organization, you can use a flowchart. This paper provides a visual representation of basic flowchart symbols and their proposed use in communicating the structure of a well-developed web site, as well as their correlation in developing on-line instructional projects. A typical flowchart from older Computer Science textbooks may have the following kinds of symbols:

  • Start and end symbols, represented as lozenges, ovals or rounded rectangles, usually containing the word "Start" or "End", or another phrase signaling the start or end of a process, such as "submit enquiry" or "receive product".
  • Arrows, showing what's called "flow of control" in computer science. An arrow coming from one symbol and ending at another symbol signifies flow passes to the symbol the arrow points to.
  • Processing steps, represented as rectangles. Examples: "Add 1 to X"; "replace identified part"; "save changes" or similar.
  • Input/Output, represented as a parallelogram. Examples: Get X from the user; display X.
  • Conditional (or decision), represented as a diamond (rhombus). These typically contain a Yes/No question or True/False test. This symbol is unique in that it has two arrows coming out of it, usually from the bottom point and right point, one corresponding to Yes or True, and one corresponding to No or False. The arrows should always be labeled. More than two arrows can be used, but this is normally a clear indicator that a complex decision is being taken, in which case it may need to be broken-down further, or replaced with the "pre-defined process" symbol.
  • A number of other symbols that have less universal currency, such as:
    • A Document represented as a rectangle with a wavy base;
    • A Manual input represented by a rectangle, with the top irregularly sloping up from left to right. An example would be to signify data-entry from a form;
    • A Manual operation represented by a trapezoid with the longest parallel side upmost, to represent an operation or adjustment to process that can only be made manually.
    • A Data File represented by a cylinder

    Flowcharts may contain other symbols, such as connectors, usually represented as circles, to represent converging paths in the flow chart. Circles will have more than one arrow coming into them but only one going out. Some flow charts may just have an arrow point to another arrow instead. These are useful to represent an iterative process (in Computer Science this is called a loop). A loop may, for example, consist of a connector where control first enters, processing steps, a conditional with one arrow exiting the loop, and one going back to the connector. Off-page connectors are often used to signify a connection to a (part of a) process held on another sheet or screen.

    A flowchart is described as "cross-functional" when the page is divided into different "lanes" describing the control of different organizational chart units. A symbol appearing in a particular "lane" is within the control of that organizational unit. This technique allows the analyst to locate the responsibility for performing an action or making a decision correctly, allowing the relationship between different organizational units with responsibility over a single process.



    Basic Flowchart
    Business Process Modeling Notation
    Cross Functional Horizontal
    Cross Functional Vertical
    Data Flow Diagram, Process Flow Diagram
    IDEF Diagram
    Hidhlight Flowchart
    List and process, Workflow Diagram
    Work Flow Diagram


    Standard Flowchart Symbols and Meaning

    Flowcharts use special shapes to represent different types of actions or steps in a process. Lines and arrows show the sequence of these steps, and the relationships between them.

    Standard Flowchart Symbols and Meaning

    Pic.1. Standard Flowchart Symbols


    See also alternative flowchart symbols.

    Workflow Flowchart Symbols

    Workflow relationships are where work is done by different departments in a fixed sequence. This means that one department needs to finish its job before work can continue in another department. The development and maintenance of these work flow relationships is very important for managers because they are dependant on the preceding areas for his or her own work, and responsible to managers and workers at different stages further down the chain. Workflow relationships development is reflected in the various regular workflow diagram documents and is critical for traing departments and have work done. Workflow diagram also used for passing standard sertifications to prepare workflow descriptions of job dependencies and work chains.

    Workflow Symbols, workflow diagram

    Pic.2. Workflow Symbols


    Audit Flowchart Symbols

    The following shapes is similar with the basic flowchart symbols but are specially used in the audit flowchart.

    Audit Flowchart Symbols, workflow diagram

    Pic.3. Audit Flowchart Symbols


    Accounting Flowchart Symbols

    Accounting Flowcharts — the set of symbols found in this solution give accountants the tools they need to describe purchase orders, payments, or procurement processes.

    Accounting Flowchart Symbols

    Pic.4. Accounting Flowchart Symbols


    Sales Flowchart Symbols

    Sales Flowcharts can cover interaction between customer and business, or an internal sales process needed to be performed by workers. Management people often use these flowchart symbols for making professional workflow diagram instead of use special workflow diagram symbols described above.

    Sales Flowcharts Symbols, workflow diagram, process flow diagram

    Pic.5. Sales Flowchart Symbols


    HR Flowchart Symbols

    Use HR flowchart symbols to map processes from every aspect of human resource management, including recruitment, the hiring process, payroll systems and human resource development. These symbols are typically used for creating colorful professional workflow diagram which describes internal workflow process in hr department.

    HR Flowchart Symbols, workflow diagram, process flow diagram

    Pic.6. HR Flowchart Symbols


    Process Map Symbols

    Process map symbols help you evaluate and manage quality in a work process chain, placing an emphasis on corporate performance and optimization. A Process Flow Diagram depicts components and their relationships of any system.

    Process Map Symbols

    Pic.7. Process Map Symbols


    Business Process flowchart Symbols

    The aim of BPMN is assist in creating a diagram that is immediately understandable to all business stakeholders, with graphic elements that can be adapted to represent any form of function, decision, work flow or data flow.

    Business process diagram symbols for Business Process Model Notation (BPMN) v2, which is an extension of the standard flowchart notation, and allows users to present complex process semantics and more precise information for any given step.

    Business process diagram symbols occasionally may be used for making professional workflow diagrams or standard describing a business workflow in form of non classic workflow diagram.

    Business Process Diagram Symbols, process flow diagram symbols, workflow diagram symbols

    Pic.8. Business Process Diagram Flowchart Symbols


    IDEF0 Flowchart Symbols

    The IDEF0 Diagrams visualize functional system models using the Integration Definition for Function Modeling (IDEF) methodology. The IDEF0 Diagrams are used for the analysis, development and integration of information and software systems, and business process modelling. IDEF0 Diagrams from ConceptDraw contains the necessary connecting arrows and callouts.

    IDEF0 Diagram Symbols,process flow diagram,workflow diagram symbols

    Pic.9. IDEF0 Diagram Symbols


    Education Flowcharts Symbols

    The Education flowcharts are plane and solid geometric figures, mathematical symbols, and trigonometrical functions to help create mathematical diagrams, mathematical flowchart, tape diagrams, and mathematic illustrations for scientific and educational purposes.

    Education Flowcharts Symbols

    Pic.10. Education Flowcharts Symbols


    Types of Structures Flowchart

    Your flowcharts will look less subject to errors and much easier to understand when you use only a fixed set of structures:

    • Case Structure

      Typically has more than two possible situations. As an example may be used to decide which pizza to order for company of 5.

    • Loop Structure

      This type of flowcharts is based on multiple repeats of steps or actions. As an example the needed quantity of symbols for creating/entering a passwords. Program will not accept it until user won't enter minimum 7 symbols.

    • Decision (Conditional) Structure

      Known as "if","then" chain, used in flowcharts to process further according on decision. A very common in software development. As an example of decision structure flowchart could be a Voice Machine on your phone. If you don't pick a phone after 4 buzzers, voice machine will turn on.

    • Sequence Structure

      Commonly used as a step-by-step guide, which makes flowchart look like a chain of actions used one after another. How to make cookies may be an example. This is because a recipe describes a process or sequence.


    The Flowchart Symbols and Their Usage

    Process represents a step in your process.

    Process Shape

    Predefined process indicate a set of steps that combine to create a sub-process that is defined elsewhere, often on another page of the same drawing.

    Predefined process shape

    Decision indicates a point where the outcome of a decision dictates the next step. There can be multiple outcomes, but often there are just two - yes and no.

    Decision shape

    Terminal point indicates the starting and ending points of a process.

    terminator shape

    Data Shape Indicates that information is coming into the process from outside, or leaving the process.

    stored data shape

    Delay shape Represents a waiting period where no activity is done. In Process Mapping, delays are often important as they may result in adding to the cost of the product or simply delaying its production.

    delay shape

    Database shape Use this shape for a step that results in information being stored.

    database shape

    Step represents a single step within a process, and usually contains the name of a specific action.

    Page symbols refer to individual web pages, which may or may not contain multiple elements.

    File symbols represent those data elements that exist independently of navigational properties outside of that page, e.g., audio sounds, movie clips, or a portable document file (PDF).

    A decision point indicates a sequence in the process at which the end user chooses an option, i.e., a "yes-no", or "true-false" response, and then branches to different parts of the flowchart.

    Arrows and connecting lines diagram the logical progression through the course, subject to the choices made at decision or action points within the process.

    The input/action symbol represents a user response that directs the course flow from that point onwards, i.e., an online test, or questionnaire form.

    manual input shape

    Represents the choice made by the user from mutually exclusive options, e.g., a student choosing among different lesson plans.

    Conditional selector is similar to the conditional branch except that the user has the option to choose from a number of paths that will fulfill the requested conditions, e.g., the results of a search engine request.

    Pages that share one or more common aspects, and are functionally identical may be simplified as a rounded corner rectangle, such as an on-line test or feedback form.

    Annotations provide helpful comments or explanations, e.g. denoting the location where an undeveloped new page/process will fit into the navigational flow structure, or notes for specific team members for further development.

    Flow references and flow areas are symbols for reusable sequences, such as logging in with a specific user id and password to enter the course or to initiate an on-line quiz. The flow reference symbol acts as a placeholder for the flow area sequence in the chart in every situation in which it is repeated.

    Flow area is used as a flow area, it documents sections that share similar components/repeated steps within that flow, and requires the use of the following two symbols: entry and exit points.

    Exit point concludes the subroutine, such as when the proper user id and password are verified, and documents where the user re-enters the master flowchart.

    Entry point documents the place within the master flowchart where the process deviates into a subroutine.

    Reference is used as a connecting point when the flowchart necessitates using more than one page, or refers to a complicated subroutine that would be impossible to contain on the main flowchart page.

    On-page reference Indicates that the next or previous step is somewhere else on the flowchart. It is particularly useful for large flowcharts.

    On-page reference shape

    Off-page reference Use the a set of hyperlinks between two pages of a flowchart or between a sub-process shape and a separate flowchart page that shows the steps in that sub-process.

    Off-page reference shape

    Flowchart Shapes The designers can click this multi-shape to set to any of the following shapes: Data, Document, Decision, or Process. Any text you type onto the shape, or information you add to its Shape Data, remains with the shape.

    Flowchart Shapes

    Document Represents a step that results in a document.

    Document shape

    Flowcharts visualize a process or algorithm of program as step/operation blocks of various shapes connected with arrowed lines showing the process flow direction. They are often used to visualize business and technical processes as well as software algorithms.

    You can also benefit from the set of samples, examples and template included in Flowcharts Solution and available from ConceptDraw Solution Browser.

  • Pic.10. Flowchart — Website Launch

    The Flowcharts produced with ConceptDraw PRO are vector graphic documents and are available for reviewing, modifying, and converting to a variety of formats (image, HTML, PDF file, MS PowerPoint Presentation, Adobe Flash or MS Visio XML).







    Use Products:

    • Flowchart Diagram Software
    • Technical Diagramming Tool
    • Business Diagramming Tool
    • Professional Business Graphics Tool
    • Export to vector graphics files
    • Export to Adobe Acrobat® PDF
    • Export to MS PowerPoint®
    • Import/Export Microsoft Visio™

    Use Solutions:

    Flowcharts
    • Design Flow Chart Diagrams
    • Represents an algorithm or process
    • Illustrates a solution to a given problem
    • Represented process operations
    • Used in analyzing
    • Used in designing
    • Used in documenting
    • Used in managing a process
    • Used in program in various fields
    Cross-Functional Flowcharts
    • Analyzing complex processes
    • Designing complex processes
    • Documenting complex processes
    • Managing complex processes
    • Representing process operations
    • Showing the steps
    • Represented Process operations
    • Helping to visualize a process
    • Helping to understand a process
    • Show pictorial overview of a business, technical or functional process step-by-step
    • Model business process to develop, implement, reuse, analyze, solve problems and improve
    • Simplify process collaboration by showing workflow in chain of people and business units
    • Visualize control and information flow, business process automation, business process re-engineering, accounting, management, and HR tasks
    • Document business processes in 6 Sigma or ISO 9000


    Easy to Create



    Flowchart Knowledge Base



    See also Videos:



    See also Samples:


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