Flowchart symbols guide

New to creating diagrams and process flows? If so, you'll quickly realize they contain many different types of flowchart symbols, each having a specific meaning and context where it should be used. The following shapes are standard format symbols used on every type of diagram in website and software development.

Common symbols
Advanced symbols
Flow lines
Basic symbols

Common flowchart symbols

The following flowchart symbols are the most common shapes used to create simple processes in a typical flowchart diagram.

Terminator symbol

Terminator symbol

Otherwise known as the “start/end symbol”, identifies the beginning or end points of a process. This shape often contains the words “Start”, “Begin”, or “End” within the shape.

Process symbol

Process symbol

Also referred to as the “action symbol”, this rectangular shape is used to to show a process, action, or operation as a single step or entire sub-process. For example, 'Login', 'Reset password', or 'Upload file'.

Decision symbol

Decision symbol

A decision point, often seen in question form like true/false or “yes/no”, must be answered to move forward. This diamond shaped symbol typically starts with one entry point and branches off into two or more paths depending on the answer.

Frequently asked questions

  • What are the most common types of flowchart?

    • Process flowchart
    • Swimlane flowchart
    • Workflow diagram
    • Data flow diagram
    • EPC diagram
    • SDL diagram
    • Process map
    • Process flow diagram
  • How do you organize a flowchart?

    There are a few tips you can use to make your flowchart clear and organized. First of all, make sure you are using consistent shapes, lines and texts. Using consistency eliminates unnecessary distraction and makes the data flow or workflow very easy to follow. It's a good practice to try and keep the flowchart on one page and structure it from left to right. If you want to see some examples of good flowchart designs in practice, take a look at Slickplan's flowchart templates.
  • What are the five basic flowchart symbols

    There are five most common flowchart shapes and symbols: the oval, the rectangle, the diamond, the parallelogram and the arrow. The oval, or terminator, is used to represent the start and end of a process. The rectangle represents any step in the process you're diagramming, like basic tasks or actions. The diamond symbolizes that a decision is required to move forward. It is usually a yes/no or true/false question. The parallelogram represents information that is received or generated like an e-mail or physical product. Finally the arrow is used to guide the viewer along their flowcharting path.
  • What are the lines in a flowchart called?

    Lines in a flowchart diagram are often referred to as connectors. They are used to show relationships between one shape to another. You will often see them with different endpoints like an arrowhead or circle to show process flow.
  • How do you know where a flowchart begins?

    The oval, or terminator, is used to represent the start and end of a process. Flow charts flow from top to bottom and left to right. Remember to use the same symbol to begin and to end your flowchart.

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