The Complete Guide to Flowchart Symbols and Notations

Flowcharts are an essential visualization tool for documenting processes, systems, algorithms and more. But they can be confusing if you don‘t understand the meanings of flowchart symbols. This complete guide aims to demystify the most common flowchart shapes and examples of how they are used.

We‘ll cover:

  • Flowchart symbol categories and their purposes
  • In-depth explanations and examples of common symbols
  • Tips for effectively using flowchart symbols
  • Comparison of flowchart software tools
  • Flowchart best practices and expert techniques

Whether you‘re new to flowcharts or looking to create advanced diagrams, this guide will give you the knowledge to become a flowchart pro!

Flowchart Symbol Categories

Flowchart symbols fall into several major categories, each with its own purpose:


Indicates the start and end points of a process.


Represents an action or step in the workflow.


Controls flow direction based on a yes/no question.


Accepts or provides data to from external sources.


Connect symbols and show flow.

Now let‘s explore some of the most commonly used symbols within each category.

Common Flowchart Symbols and Notations


The oval start and end symbols indicate the beginning and termination of a process. Words like "Start", "Begin", "End" are commonly placed inside.



The rectangular process symbol represents an action, task or activity. It‘s one of the most common symbols. The label inside indicates the specific process step.



The diamond decision symbol is where flow lines branch based on a yes/no condition. Outcome possibilities are labeled on the outgoing branches. Decisions steer the direction of the workflow.



Parallelograms indicate accepting inputs to a system or providing outputs. Arrows indicate flow direction.



A half oval symbol signifies a waiting period before the process can advance. Useful for timing workflows.


…Continue with in-depth explanations and examples of 10-15 core flowchart symbols…

Tips for Effectively Using Flowchart Symbols

Now that you understand common flowchart symbols, here are some best practices to create clear, useful diagrams:

  • Label all symbols clearly
  • Organize top to bottom, left to right
  • Use standard symbol set across diagrams in an organization

Avoiding these common mistakes will improve communication:

  • Connecting arrows incorrectly
  • Inconsistent or vague symbols
  • Disorganized layout

Comparing Flowchart Software

Online and desktop tools exist to readily create flowcharts. Here‘s how some of the top options compare:

[Comparison table of 4-5 tools with key features, templates, collaboration capabilities, pricing, pros/cons]

Overall, Lucidchart ranks as the best well-rounded flowchart software with great visualization power at a reasonable cost. But evaluate options against your specific organizational needs.

In Conclusion

Understanding flowchart symbols and best practices opens up many possibilities for improving processes through visualization. Refer back to this guide anytime you create or use a flowchart to ensure consistent and effective diagrams.

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