Create a basic flowchart

Flowcharts are diagrams that show the steps in a process. Basic flowcharts are easy to create and, because the shapes are simple and visual, they are easier to understand than a description in text.

Create a flowchart

  1. Start Visio.

  2. Click the Flowchart category.

  3. Double-click Basic Flowchart.

  4. For each step in the process that you are documenting, drag a flowchart shape onto your drawing.

  5. Connect the flowchart shapes by holding the mouse pointer over the first shape, and then clicking the small arrow that appears that points to the shape you want to connect to. If the second shape is not directly across from the first shape, click and hold the small arrow, drag it to the second shape, and drop the connector in the middle of the second shape.

  6. To add text to a shape or connector, select it, and then type. When you are finished typing, click on a blank area of the page.

  7. To change the direction of a connector's arrow, select the connector, and then, on the Shape tab, in the Shape Styles group, click Line, point to Arrows, and select the arrow direction and style that you want.

Fix alignment and spacing

  1. Press CTRL+A to select everything on the drawing page.

  2. On the Home tab, in the Arrange group, click Position, and then click Auto Align & Space.

If that doesn’t do what you want, press Ctrl+Z to undo it, and then try some of the other options under the Align and Position buttons.

Example of a flowchart showing a proposal process

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What the flowchart shapes represent

When you open the Basic Flowchart template, the Basic Flowchart Shapes stencil opens too. Each shape on the stencil represents a different kind of step in a process. However, there is no standard, universal meaning for the shapes – any shape can carry whatever meaning is agreed on by the people who will create and read the flowcharts. Most flowcharts tend to use only three or four of the shapes, unless there is a clear business reason to use more.

That said, Visio shapes have names that suggest their most common uses. Here are some of the most common shapes:

  • Start/End    Use this shape for the first and last step of your process.

    Terminator shape

  • Process    This shape represents a typical step in your process. This is the most frequently used shape in almost every process.

    Process shape

  • Decision    This shape 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

  • Subprocess    Use this shape for a set of steps that combine to create a sub-process that is defined elsewhere, often on another page of the same document. This is useful if the diagram is very long and complex.

    Predefined Process shape

  • Document    This shape represents a step that results in a document.

    Document shape

  • Data    This shape indicates that information is coming into the process from outside, or leaving the process. This shape can also be used to represent materials and is sometimes called an Input/Output shape.

    Data shape

  • On-page reference    This small circle indicates that the next (or previous) step is somewhere else on the drawing. This is particularly useful for large flowcharts where you would otherwise have to use a long connector, which can be hard to follow.

    On-page refference shape

  • Off-page reference    When you drop this shape onto your drawing page, a dialog box opens where you can create 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

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