How to Create a Microsoft Data Flow Diagram

Written by charles carswell
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How to Create a Microsoft Data Flow Diagram
You can create impressive flow charts with Microsoft Data Flow Diagrams. (red arrows image by Attila Toro from

In its purest form, a Data Flow Diagram (DFD) has a certain elegance. And, while creating flow charts can be mastered relatively easily, DFDs make it even easier. If you have Microsoft Office, then you will see that creating a DFD can be done in a relatively short time, especially since there are only four basic shapes to these designs. The DFD concept is concise, the logic is crisp and the flow of the design itself is smooth, and you can use the application to create impressive flow charts.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Microsoft Office version 2010 or 2007

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  1. 1

    Open your Microsoft Office Visio flow charting software program and create a new document. To illustrate the concept, consider a system where a craftsman creates jewellery and sells it to clients and issues receipts for each sale.

  2. 2

    Click "New" in the File tab. Then click "Software and Database," and then double-click "Data Flow Diagram." A blank document with grid lines will appear with the four main Data Flow Diagram (DFD) stencil on the left.

  3. 3

    Create a Data Store by selecting the narrow horizontal rectangle with an open end on its right side. This will be the third diagram on the stencil. Drag it to the document area and use the Text tool to insert text. For this example, label this "Jewelry Inventory." Position the text squarely in the rectangle. In theory, data will flow in and out of this file.

  4. 4

    Create a Process diagram by dragging the rectangle with rounded corners into the document work area directly under the Data Store diagram. This is an actual process that transforms flows of data. In practice, an arrowed line will flow from the Data Store you just created to show an amount of data transferred. Double-click this diagram to create a text label and call this process "Jewelry Orders." The text will automatically align and centre itself.

  5. 5

    Draw another Data Store. You can copy the previous one ("Ctrl" and "D") on the right side of the Process diagram and label it "Client Data." Use the drawing tool to create an arrowed line flowing directly from this diagram to the Jewelry Orders process. This indicates the credit status, account data and cash amounts flow from this process to the Jewelry Orders you previously created.

  6. 6

    Drag the solid rectangle from the stencil and place it directly under the Jewelry Orders process and label it "Client." Create two arrowed lines. One will flow from the Jewelry Orders to the Client and the other will flow back from the Client to the Jewelry Orders process.

  7. 7

    Type additional labels on the arrowed lines to indicate the processes that are occurring. For example, type "Credit Status" on the line flowing from "Client Data" to "Jewelry Orders." Type "Orders" on the line that flows from the Client File to the "Jewelry Orders" process. Type "Invoices/Jewelry" on the line that leads from "Jewelry Orders" to "Client." Double-click on any line and the Text box will open and allow you to enter text.

  8. 8

    Show the flow of data between data flow entities as data only. There is no physical movement of actual material in the process, only data.

  9. 9

    Associate more flows with the data store and processes as desired, completing all connections as needed.

Tips and warnings

  • You can resize any of the diagrams by clicking the item by any corner and dragging it while holding down the mouse key.

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