How to Create Stunning Flowcharts With Microsoft Word

Flowcharts are powerful visual thinking tools that go grossly ignored for non-technical tasks. Maybe because flowcharting started purely as an engineering skill and didn’t go beyond the draft boards of industrial planners. With computer programming, it became more mainstream.Unlock the “Essential Microsoft Office Shortcuts” cheat sheet now!This will sign you up to our newsletterEnter your EmailUnlockRead our privacy policy Again, it does not need to be so technical always. With a dash of imagination, you can simplify both your work or life with flowcharts. One of the easiest tools on hand for making quick flowcharts is Microsoft Word. Here are the…

Read the full article: How to Create Stunning Flowcharts With Microsoft Word

Flowcharts are powerful visual thinking tools that go grossly ignored for non-technical tasks. Maybe because flowcharting started purely as an engineering skill and didn’t go beyond the draft boards of industrial planners. With computer programming, it became more mainstream.

Unlock the "Essential Microsoft Office Shortcuts" cheat sheet now!

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Again, it does not need to be so technical always. With a dash of imagination, you can simplify both your work or life with flowcharts. One of the easiest tools on hand for making quick flowcharts is Microsoft Word.

Here are the different ways to create flowcharts in Word.

What Are Flowcharts?

Frank Gilbreth, an engineer is believed to have created the first “Process Flow Charts” in 1921.

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 a specific process.

Flowchart Symbols

As standard symbols illustrate the steps, it is easy to make out how it all fits together. Flowcharts can be customized for any process-oriented tasks. That is why a large variety of flowcharts are visible—but the basics remain the same.

Uses of Flowcharts

The beauty of flowcharts lies in their simplicity. You can use basic symbols to map out any job and you can use flowcharts for different situations. Out there on the Web, there are nice usable ones for using copyrighted pictures. All thanks to the ease of creating flowcharts either by hand or easy to use diagramming tools.

Once the flowchart has been illustrated, it is easy to take a birds-eye view and understand the whole process. Just the process of drawing the flowchart can help to clear your own logic and give you insights to make it better.

To sum up:

  • Examine any process.
  • Communicate steps to other people involved in a process.
  • Organize a process by removing redundant steps.
  • Identify and troubleshoot potential problems.
  • Improve a process. 

A Basic Flowchart

Flowcharts come in different shapes and sizes. Here is an example of a basic flowchart which you can use to make simple decisions.

Sample Flowchart

How to Make a Flowchart in Microsoft Word

All the tools needed to make flowcharts in Microsoft Word 2013, 2016, or 2016 lie within the Drawing Tools. But first do these three preliminary steps:

Maximize your page area. Collapse the Ribbon by clicking the little upward arrow (or click Ctrl + F1) on the extreme right so only the tab names show.

Display the Grid. Click the View tab and click the Gridlines checkbox. The grid helps you align and size the flowchart symbols precisely as you can snap them to the gridlines.

You can also customize the gridlines: Page Layout > Arrange > Align > Grid Settings.

View Gridlines in Microsoft Word

Use the Drawing Canvas. Inserting any shape or “drawing” in a Word document automatically creates a drawing canvas. You will have to resize the canvas to frame your entire flowchart.

As this Microsoft support page says, it is especially useful when using different shapes (as in a flowchart). Also, you can customize the drawing canvas itself to create attractive backdrops for your flowchart.

Microsoft Word's Drawing Canvas for Shapes

Now, let’s start the meticulous job of inserting our shapes and connecting them all together. It always helps if you map it out on paper first, and then use Microsoft Word to give it the finished look. A rough sketch helps you understand the page layout on Word. The process is simple but putting some planning into using this “planning tool” is a timesaver.

Flowchart Shapes in Microsoft Word

All the required symbols can be found on the Insert tab > Shapes. Click the dropdown for Shapes.

  1. The symbols are neatly organized under the Flowchart group.
  2. Select the shape. For instance, any shape that looks like an oval can represent “Start”.
  3. Click in the canvas area, keep the left button pressed while dragging the mouse to add the shape. You can also double-click on any shape to automatically add it to the Canvas. Move and resize it.
    Any oval shape can be the Start Symbol in a flowchart
  4. Add text by clicking the shape and typing in the label with a text box.
  5. Connect two symbol-shapes with the help of arrows or connectors. Unlike simple arrows, connectors stay connected to the shapes. The two basic types of connectors available under the Shapes dropdown are elbow and curved.

Note: Connectors work as intended only between shapes placed on the drawing canvas.

Flowchart -- Connectors

For instance, you can manually move the connectors to any connection points (represented by tiny blue dots on the shapes). The connection points anchor the connectors in place and you can move the shapes without dislodging the connectors. This gives you a lot of flexibility when modifying your flowchart by moving things around.

  1. Add a Yes or No to the connectors branching out of Decisions shapes by inserting Text Boxes alongside the connector arrows. You can also use the rotation handle to rotate the text box.

Tips to Align Shapes

There are several ways to do it.

  1. The recommended way is to do it right the first time. Use the gridlines and draw them with uniform widths when you are placing them on the canvas.
  2. Click on individual shapes and drag them to the new locations. If you have many shapes, this can be very time consuming. The gridlines help you snap them in place.
  3. Select all the shapes you want to align. On the Format tab, click the Align dropdown menu. Select Align Selected Objects and use the alignment tool to align the shapes automatically.

Tips to Align a Flowchart

After the flowchart has been laid out, you can neatly align the diagram according to the page.

  1. Group all the shapes and connectors. Select all the shapes and connectors. On the Format tab, click the Group dropdown and select Group.
  2. From the Align dropdown check if the Align to Margin item is selected. Then, click Align Center and/or Align Middle.
  3. Optionally, resize the canvas by dragging the corner or edges.

Create a “Stunning” Flowchart in Word

Design your flowchart with Microsoft Word

The colorful flowchart you see above is nothing but a more formatted flowchart. Formatting a flowchart in Word should be the final stage after you have inserted, connected, and labeled all the boxes. It is better to do it in bulk rather than putting the flourishes on individual boxes as you go along. So, select multiple shapes and format them together.

I will leave it to your creative eye, and just point you to the basic tools you can access from the Format tab on the Ribbon or the more detailed options available on the side panel.

Open the side panel by right-clicking on a shape and selecting Format Shape.

Formar shapes in Microsoft Word

You have many options available to design the shapes and the connectors:

  • Shape Styles: A quick way to add color or gradient fills to the shapes.
  • Shape Fills: Use your choice of solid colors or gradients. Don’t use too many color schemes.
  • Shape Outlines: Set the visual properties of the bounding lines. Also, use it to make the connector arrows thicker or thinner.
  • Effects: Give the shapes depth with three dimensions, shadows, etc.

As you can see, there are many options to add a variety of finishing touches to the bare-bones flowchart. It is painstaking, but do fuss over it if you want a thoroughly professional look.

You could also start with a flowchart template and customize it to your needs.

Make Your First Flowchart in Word

From the humble pen and paper to specialized applications like SmartDraw and Microsoft’s own Visio, there are many ways you can create flowcharts. You also have the option of using the LucidChart add-in from within Microsoft Word 2013, 2016, or 2019. It is available on the Microsoft Office store and is free to install but additional purchases may apply.

We spend an incredible amount of time using the Microsoft Office suite. So, it does make sense to be aware of all its powers. From basic image editing in Word to brainstorming with mindmaps, it is the Jack of many a trade.

And in case Microsoft Word doesn’t cut it for you, these Windows flowcharts tools are a download away.

Read the full article: How to Create Stunning Flowcharts With Microsoft Word

The 7 Best Free Flowchart Software for Windows

windows-10-flowchart

Flowcharts aren’t just for engineers, programmers, and managers. Everyone can benefit from learning how to make flowcharts, most notably as a way to streamline your work and life, and even to break free from bad habits. The only problem is, what’s the best flowchart software? Plenty of top-notch flowcharting apps exist, but they can be pricey. Microsoft Visio, the most popular option, is $300 (standalone) or $13 per month (on top of an Office 365 subscription). ConceptDraw Pro is $200. Edraw Max is $180. MyDraw is $70. Is it really necessary to spend that much on a flowchart program? No!…

Read the full article: The 7 Best Free Flowchart Software for Windows

windows-10-flowchart

Flowcharts aren’t just for engineers, programmers, and managers. Everyone can benefit from learning how to make flowcharts, most notably as a way to streamline your work and life, and even to break free from bad habits.

The only problem is, what’s the best flowchart software?

Plenty of top-notch flowcharting apps exist, but they can be pricey. Microsoft Visio, the most popular option, is $300 (standalone) or $13 per month (on top of an Office 365 subscription). ConceptDraw Pro is $200. Edraw Max is $180. MyDraw is $70.

Is it really necessary to spend that much on a flowchart program?

No! There are lots of excellent free flowchart software, especially for non-business users. If you don’t want to create stunning flowcharts using Microsoft Word (check out these Microsoft Office flowchart templates), then use one of the free flowchart tools below.

Note: Web-based flowchart apps have been intentionally excluded from this list.

1. Dia

free flowchart tool dia

Dia is a free and full-featured flowchart app. It’s also entirely open source under the GPLv2 license, which is great if you believe in the open source philosophy. It’s powerful, extensible, and easy to use.

If you’re looking for the best free alternative to Microsoft Visio, then Dia is as close as you’re going to get.

Key features and highlights:

  • Simple and intuitive interface.
  • Dozens of standard shapes, including UML, circuit, and database.
  • Add custom shapes using XML and SVG.
  • Colorize shapes and text with standard or custom colors.

Download: Dia (Free)

2. yEd Graph Editor

free flowchart tool yed graph editor

yEd Graph Editor is an excellent, up-to-date tool for flowcharts, diagrams, trees, network graphs, and more. You can download the app as a JAR file (which requires Java on your system) or an EXE (which includes a Java installer). It’s powerful and versatile, but the trade-off is an ugly, Swing-based interface.

Key features and highlights:

  • Very little effort for professional-quality charts.
  • Auto-arrange flowchart elements from messy to clean.
  • Organic and orthogonal edge routing for connections.
  • Several export options, including PNG, JPG, SVG, and PDF.

Download: yEd Graph Editor (Free)

3. ThinkComposer

free flowchart tool thinkcomposer

ThinkComposer is a tool for professionals. In addition to flowcharts, it can handle business models, class diagrams, genealogy trees, timelines, use case diagrams, and more. It’s a bit overkill for one or two charts every so often, but a smart choice if you deal with flowcharts on a daily or weekly basis.

Key features and highlights:

  • Create custom, reusable nodes and connections.
  • Deep, multi-level diagrams for full visual expression of ideas.
  • Compositions can combine many different charts and graphs.
  • Generate PDF, XPS, or HTML reports based on your data.
  • Open source and extensible with plugins.

Download: ThinkComposer (Free)

4. Pencil Project

free flowchart tool pencil project

Pencil Project is an old app that fell out of favor due to a long development hiatus, but things picked back up in 2015 and version 3.0.0 was released in 2017. Everything is now modern and up-to-date, making it an excellent choice for anyone who needs fast, simple diagramming with a minimal learning curve.

Key features and highlights:

  • Tons of built-in shapes for all types of charts and interfaces.
  • Create your own shapes or install collections made by others.
  • Several export options, including PNG, SVG, PDF, and HTML.
  • Import art from OpenClipart.org for use in charts and diagrams.

Download: Pencil Project (Free)

5. LibreOffice Draw

free flowchart tool libreoffice draw

LibreOffice is arguably the best free alternative to Microsoft Office for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and even visual diagrams. With LibreOffice Draw, you can easily add shapes, symbols, lines, connections, text, images, and more. It isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly flexible.

Key features and highlights:

  • Custom page sizes, great for all kinds of chart types.
  • Page map makes it easy to work on multiple charts.
  • Advanced object manipulations, including 3D controller.
  • Can open (but not save to) Microsoft Visio format.

Download: LibreOffice (Free)

6. Diagram Designer

free flowchart tool diagram designer

Diagram Designer is somewhat primitive, and that’s partly because it hasn’t been updated since 2015. But don’t let that turn you away! It runs fine on my Windows 10 setup, and it’s more than effective for creating flowcharts that look nice. Could it be better? Of course. But for personal use, it’s great.

Key features and highlights:

  • Easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface.
  • No unnecessary features that steepen the learning curve.
  • Import and export PNG, JPG, BMP, GIF, ICO, and more.

Download: Diagram Designer (Free)

7. PlantUML

free flowchart tool plantuml

PlantUML is unlike all the other apps in this list. Instead of a graphical interface, you create your diagrams using PlantUML’s scripting language. This is an excellent tool for programmers who don’t like mouse-based drag-and-drop. PlantUML requires Java on your system.

Key features and highlights:

  • Define objects and relationships using PlantUML’s scripting language.
  • Supports many diagram types: sequence, usecase, class, Gantt, etc.
  • Export diagrams as PNG, SVG, or LaTeX.

Download: PlantUML (Free)

Other Useful Flowchart Tools and Apps

While desktop apps are ideal for creating flowcharts on a PC, they aren’t travel-friendly. If portability is a key concern, you might fare better with one of these mobile flowchart apps which are designed for diagramming on-the-go.

Would you rather use a web-based flowchart maker? We highly recommend LucidChart, which is best in its class. Or you can try out one of these free online flowchart makers.

Read the full article: The 7 Best Free Flowchart Software for Windows

How to Create a Flowchart in Excel

excel-flow-chart

Plenty of options exist for creating flowcharts, but you may not need one if you’re already subscribed to Microsoft Office 365. We’ve shown how you can create a flowchart in Word, but Excel works just as well. In this article, we’ll show you how to set up a flowchart environment and create awesome flowcharts in Excel. We’ll end with some links where you can download free Microsoft Excel flowchart templates. Set Up a Flowchart Grid in Excel When creating a flowchart in Excel, the worksheet grid provides a useful way to position and size your flowchart elements. Create a Grid…

Read the full article: How to Create a Flowchart in Excel

excel-flow-chart

Plenty of options exist for creating flowcharts, but you may not need one if you’re already subscribed to Microsoft Office 365. We’ve shown how you can create a flowchart in Word, but Excel works just as well.

In this article, we’ll show you how to set up a flowchart environment and create awesome flowcharts in Excel. We’ll end with some links where you can download free Microsoft Excel flowchart templates.

Set Up a Flowchart Grid in Excel

When creating a flowchart in Excel, the worksheet grid provides a useful way to position and size your flowchart elements.

Create a Grid

To create a grid, we need to change the width of all the columns to be equal to the default row height. The worksheet will look like graph paper.

First, select all the cells on the worksheet by clicking the box in the upper-left corner of the worksheet grid. Then, right-click on any column heading and select Column Width.

Select all cells, then select Column Width in Excel

If you’re using the default font (Calibri, size 11), the default row height is 15 points, which equals 20 pixels. To make the column width the same 20 pixels, we must change it to 2.14.

So enter 2.14 in the box on the Column Width dialog box and click OK.

Change Column Width in Excel

Enable Snap to Grid

The Snap to Grid features makes it easy to place and resize shapes on the grid so you can consistently resize them and align them to each other. Shapes snap to the nearest grid line when you resize and move them.

Click the Page Layout tab. Then, click Align in the Arrange section and select Snap to Grid. The Snap to Grid icon on the menu is highlighted with a gray box when the feature is on.

Enable Snap to Grid in Excel

Set Up the Page Layout in Excel

You should set up the page layout for your flowchart so you know your boundaries before laying out your flowchart. For example, if you’re going to insert your flowchart into a Word document, you should set the margins in Microsoft Excel to the same margins as your Word document. That way you won’t create a flowchart larger than the pages in your Word document.

To set up items like margins, page orientation, and page size, click the Page Layout tab. Use the buttons in the Page Setup section to change settings for the different layout options.

Change Page Orientation in Excel

How to Create a Flowchart in Excel

Now that your worksheet is set up for flowcharts, let’s create one.

Add a Shape Using the Shapes Tool

To add your first shape to your flowchart, go to the Insert tab and click Shapes in the Illustrations section. A dropdown menu displays a gallery of various types of shapes like basic shapes, lines, and arrows.

Select a shape in the Flowchart section of the dropdown menu.

Select a Shape in Excel

Drag the shape to the size you want on the worksheet. If Snap to Grid is enabled, the shape automatically snaps to the gridlines as you draw it.

Draw a shape on the grid in Excel

Add More Flowchart Shapes Using the Format Tab

Once you draw your first shape and select it, a special Format tab becomes available. You can use this tab to add more shapes to your flowchart and to format your shapes, which we’ll cover later.

A dropdown gallery of shapes displays, just like when you clicked Shapes in the Illustrations section on the Insert tab. Select the shape you want to add and draw it on the worksheet.

You can also double-click a shape on the gallery menu to add it to the worksheet. To resize the shape, select it and drag one of the handles along the edges.

To move the shape, move the cursor over the shape until the cursor becomes a cross with arrows. Then, click and drag the shape to where you want it.

Open the Shapes gallery on the Format tab in Excel

Add Text to a Shape

To add text to a shape, simply select the shape and start typing. We’ll show you later how to format the text and change its alignment.

To edit text in a shape, click on the text in the shape. This puts you in edit mode allowing you to add, change, or delete the text.

Click outside the shape or select the shape like you were going to move it as we talked about in the previous section.

Type text in a shape in Excel

Add Connector Lines Between Shapes

After adding some shapes to your flowchart, it’s time to connect them.

Select Line Arrow on the shapes gallery either on the Insert tab or the Format tab.

Select Line Arrow in Excel

The cursor becomes a plus icon. Move the cursor over the first shape you want to connect. You’ll see dots at the points that represent connection points for that shape.

Click on the connection point where you want the line to start and drag the line to the next shape until you see the connection points on that one. Release the mouse on one of those points.

An arrow displays where the line ends. When a line is properly connected to a shape, the connection point is solid. If you see a hollow connection point, the line didn’t connect to the shape.

Draw a connector line on a flowchart in Excel

Add Text to Connector Lines

In flowchart programs like Visio and Lucidchart, you can add text directly to connector lines. In Microsoft Excel, you can’t do that. But you can do the next best thing.

To add text to a connector line, you create a text box and position it along the line or on the line.

Select a shape or a connector line to activate the Format tab. Click the tab and then click Text Box in the Insert Shapes section.

Click Text Box in Excel

Draw the text box near the connector you want to label. Move the text box to where you want it the same way you move shapes.

You may want to turn off Snap to Grid when positioning text boxes on connector lines. This allows you to fine tune the size and position of the text boxes.

To add text, select the text box and start typing. We’ll show you how to format and position text boxes a bit later.

Add a text box near a connector line on a flowchart in Excel

Add Notes Using Callouts

You can also use text boxes to add notes to your flowchart the same way you used them to add text to connector lines. And you can use a connector line to point to the area relating to the note.

But, that might be confusing and look like a step in the flowchart. To make a note look different, use a callout.

Select a callout from the shapes gallery either on the Insert tab or the Format tab.

Select a callout shape in Excel

Draw the callout on the worksheet just like you would draw a shape.

Add text to the callout and use the handles to resize it the same way you would on a shape.

Initially, the part of the callout that points shows on the bottom border. To make the callout point to where you want, click and drag the point. When the point connects with a shape, the connection point turns red.

Draw a callout in Excel

How to Format a Flowchart in Excel

Excel has many formatting options, too many to cover here. But we’ll show you a few basics so you can format your shapes, text, and connector lines.

Format Shapes

An easy way to format shapes and the text in shapes is to use Theme Styles.

Select all the shapes you want to format with the same style. Click on the first shape, then press and hold down Shift while clicking the other shapes. Then, click the Format tab.

Click the More arrow in the lower-right corner of the Theme Styles box in the Shape Styles section. A gallery of styles displays in a dropdown menu.

When you move your mouse over the various theme styles, you’ll see how they look on your shapes. Click the style you want to use.

Change the Theme Style for shapes in Excel

Format Text in the Shapes and Text Boxes

Formatting text in shapes and text boxes is done the same way you normally format text in cells.

First, we’ll format shapes. Select all the shapes containing text you want to format using the Shift key while clicking the remaining shapes after the first one.

Click the Home tab and use the commands in the Font and Alignment sections to format your text. For example, we used the Center and Middle Align buttons in the Alignment section to center the text in the shapes horizontally and vertically. Then, we applied Bold to all the text.

Do the same thing with the text boxes along the connector lines to format and align the text.

Format text in shapes using the Home tab in Excel

Format Connector Lines

The default format on the connector lines is a bit thin. We’re going to make them thicker.

Select all the connector lines you want to format using the Shift key while clicking the remaining lines after the first one. Then, click the Format tab.

Click Shape Outline in the Shape Styles section and select a color from the Theme Colors section or Standard Colors section. Then, on the same menu, go to Weight and select a thickness for the connector lines from the submenu.

Change color and weight for connector lines on a flowchart in Excel

Get Started With These Excel Flowchart Templates

Excel flowchart templates provide a quick start when creating your own flowcharts. We’ve previously covered flowchart templates for Microsoft Office, but these are specifically for Microsoft Excel.

Here are more templates you can download:

Organize Your Life With Excel Flowcharts!

The ability to create flowcharts in Microsoft Excel makes it a very useful and versatile tool for keeping yourself organized. It’s not the only option, though. There are several good free flowchart tools available for Windows.

Read the full article: How to Create a Flowchart in Excel