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Saturday, April 9, 2016

What Are Flowcharts?

A flowchart is an easy to understand diagram of any process that uses simple graphics to represent a beginning, an end, and the different stages that follow a logical order. Each step in the process is represented by a unique symbol with a brief label of the process step. The flowchart symbols are linked together with arrows showing the direction of the process flow. As you can see from the diagram below, each symbol is standardized for the specific process.

Shape Name Description
Flowchart Line.svg Flow Line
An arrow coming from one symbol and ending at another symbol represents that control passes to the symbol the arrow points to. The line for the arrow can be solid or dashed. The meaning of the arrow with dashed line may differ from one flowchart to another and can be defined in the legend.
Flowchart Connector.svg On-Page Connector
Generally represented with a circle, showing where multiple control flows converge in a single exit flow. It will have more than one arrow coming into it, but only one going out. In simple cases, one may simply have an arrow point to another arrow instead. These are useful to represent an iterative process (what in Computer Science 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. For additional clarity, wherever two lines accidentally cross in the drawing, one of them may be drawn with a small semicircle over the other, showing that no connection is intended.
Flowchart Annotation.svg Annotation
Annotations represent comments or remarks about the flowchart. Like comments found in high-level programming languages, they have no effect on the interpretation or behavior of the flowchart. Sometimes, the shape consists of a box with dashed (or dotted) lines.
Flowchart Terminal.svg Terminal
Represented as circles, ovals, stadiums or rounded (fillet) rectangles. They usually contain the word "Start" or "End", or another phrase signaling the start or end of a process, such as "submit inquiry" or "receive product".
Flowchart Decision.svg Decision
Represented as a diamond (rhombus) showing where a decision is necessary, commonly a Yes/No question or True/False test. The conditional symbol is peculiar 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 "predefined process" symbol. Decision can also help in the filtering of data.
Flowchart IO.svg Input/Output
Represented as a parallelogram. Involves receiving data and displaying processed data. Can only move from input to output and not vice versa. Examples: Get X from the user; display X.
Flowchart Predefined Process.svg Predefined Process
Represented as rectangles with double-struck vertical edges; these are used to show complex processing steps which may be detailed in a separate flowchart. Example: PROCESS-FILES. One subroutine may have multiple distinct entry points or exit flows (see coroutine). If so, these are shown as labeled 'wells' in the rectangle, and control arrows connect to these 'wells'.
Flowchart Process.svg Process
Represented as rectangles. This shape is used to show that something is performed. Examples: "Add 1 to X", "replace identified part", "save changes", etc....
Flowchart Preparation.svg Preparation
Represented as a hexagon. May also be called initialization. Shows operations which have no effect other than preparing a value for a subsequent conditional or decision step. Alternatively, this shape is used to replace the Decision Shape in the case of conditional looping.
Off page connector.png Off-Page Connector
Represented as a home plate-shaped pentagon. Similar to the on-page connector except allows for placing a connector that connects to another page.