Introduction to Flowcharting

Welcome to Lucidchart! This flowcharting tutorial will introduce you to flowcharts and help you make your first flowchart in Lucidchart.

This article contains the following parts:

    1. An overview of flowcharts and their elements
    2. Instructions for making your first flowchart in Lucidchart
    3. Common flowchart use cases and examples
    4. An introduction to swim lanes
One of the most universal diagram types, flowcharts help people develop, document, and improve processes, systems, and algorithms.

In its most basic form, a flowchart is made up of shapes and arrows. The shapes, which include rectangles, triangles, and ovals, represent the steps of a process. Arrows are used to connect these shapes to depict the path, or flow, through the process.

Here are some of the common objects that you will see in a flowchart:
  • Arrows show the direction of the chart's flow.
  • The Decision shape is a diamond that indicates a question to be answered, such as yes/no or true/false.
  • The Process shape is a rectangle that represents a process, action, or operation.
  • The Terminator shape is an oval representing the start or end points of the flowchart.
You can make a flowchart in Lucidchart from scratch or from one of our templates.

To make a flowchart from scratch, open a blank document and follow these steps:
  1. Drag a shape from the flowcharting shape library to the canvas.
  2. Click on the red connection point on the shapes border to draw a line out of the shape.
  3. Select a second shape from the auto-prompt menu. Lucidchart will automatically add that shape to your flowchart and connect it to the first shape with an arrow.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 as needed until you have built out your flowchart.
  5. Format and style the flowchart using properties bar at the top of the canvas.
You can use swim lanes to divide your flowcharts into sections. You can access swim lane shapes by enabling the "Containers" flowchart sub-library in the shape manager.

To add a swim lane to your flowchart, simply drag it from your toolbox and drop it on the section of your flowchart that you would like contain.

To add lanes to your swim lane or change the the shape or text orientation, click the swim lane and adjust the settings in the advanced shape bar.
One common use case for flowcharts is the depiction of process flows for businesses. Click here for a business process flow template designed in Lucidchart, and read on to learn about its components.

business_process_flow.png

Note that an oval terminator shape begins the flowchart, signifying a sales call - the inciting event of a business process. There are two different events that could follow the call - the customer could either purchase or enter an order - and these events are each represented by a process (rectangle) shape.

flowchart_beginning.png

Note that there are two terminator shapes signifying then end of the business flow - sales approved and sales not approved.

flow_chart_end.png

Arrows: Show the general direction of the chart and the next steps in a path.

ConnectorConnector: Connects separate elements across one page. Used within complex charts.

Data Data (I/O): Represents input, output, or resources used or generated.

Database Database: Represents a database.

Decision Decision: Indicates a question to be answered—usually yes / no or true / false. The path may change depending on the answer.

Delay Delay: Indicates a delay or waiting period in a process.

Direct Access Storage Direct Access Storage (Hard Disk): Represents data storage on a hard drive.

DisplayDisplay: Refers to information being shown to a user, often with a computer monitor.

Document Document: Represents a document or report.

Internal Storage Internal Storage: Represents data stored in random-access memory (RAM).

Manual Input Manual Input: Represents the manual input of data into a computer, usually through a keyboard.

Manual Operation Manual Operation: Indicates a step that must be done manually, not automatically.

MergeMerge: Combines multiple paths.

Multiple Documents Multiple Documents: Represents multiple documents or reports.

NoteNote: Shows comments on a flowchart.

Off-Page LinkOff-Page Link: Connects separate elements across multiple pages. Used within complex charts.

OrOr: Represents a path that diverges.

Paper Tape Paper Tape: Represents input or output.

Predefined Process Predefined Process: Indicates a complicated process or operation that is well-known or defined elsewhere.

Preparation Preparation: Represents preparation for upcoming steps.

Process Process: Shows a process, action, or operation.

Stored Data Stored Data: Represents data housed on a storage device.

Summing JunctionSumming Junction: Sums the input of several converging paths.

Terminator Terminator: Represents the start points, end points, and potential outcomes of a path.



Related Articles
Creating Swim Lanes
Use Layers to Create a Current/Future State Swim Lane Diagram
Work with Lines
Access More Shapes