Making a flow chart on your computer allows you to create a visual representation of a work or data flow for reference and presentation purposes. Providing a copy of the flow chart to colleagues can help make the process you're describing easier to understand, especially for those who do not have a technical background or if cultural or language barriers might be present. You can make a flow chart either with Microsoft Word or with a free trial of Microsoft Office Visio, which can be downloaded at Microsoft.com.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Microsoft Word installed on a PC
- Microsoft Visio installed on a PC (optional)
Open a new Microsoft Word document. Click on the "Drawing" toolbar for versions 2003 or older and then choose "Auto Shapes." For Word 2007, click on "Insert" from the top menu choices and then choose "Shapes." Scroll down and choose the small circle from the "Flowchart" category by clicking on it.
Place your cursor over the spot where you want the small circle to go. This is the starting place of your flow chart. Click on the page where you want the circle to appear. You can move any shape anywhere you need by clicking on it again and dragging it to the new location.
Repeat these steps until you have all the shapes where you want them on the page. If you have to continue down to a second page, be sure to place the small circle at the end of one page and again at the beginning of another, signifying that the flow charts are meant to be attached. Choose connector lines from the "Lines" category to connect the shapes together.
Type any text information inside or next to any shapes you need to complete the flow chart.
Open Microsoft Visio. Click on "Basic Flowchart" from the picture choices in the middle of the starting screen. A blank grid appears to the right for you to add shapes to while the shape choices and connector lines will be in the column to your left.
Click on the "On-page reference" shape, which is the small circle. This will be the start point of your flow chart. Drag the shape over to the grid and "snap" it into place by letting go of the mouse when you are satisfied with its position. Continue adding shapes as necessary.
Click on the "Connector Tool" icon in the first set of icon choices at the top of the screen. The "Connector Tool" icon is directly the left of the big letter "A." Hover the mouse over the first shape on the grid and a little red "x" will appear. Click and drag the connector tool to the red "x" that will appear over the next symbol. Let go at the second red "x." A connector arrow appears. Continue doing this for each shape.
Label any shapes with text as necessary by using the "Text Tool." Click on the big letter "A" icon directly to the right of the "Connector Tool" icon to access the text tool. Double click anywhere on the grid to add text and a small box will appear. Type the text you need and press the "Enter" key when finished. Save your work when you are finished.
Tips and warnings
- If you want to use a different word processing application or other graphics software, make sure the application can offer the standard flowcharting shapes and connector lines. As long as the application contains standard flow chart symbols such as squares, rectangles, cylinders, octagons, slanted rectangles, page curves and more, the software is OK to use. You might need to print out the flow chart once you are finished if those you are sharing it with cannot view the file because of compatibility issues.
- Save your work periodically to avoid losing your work. Always label your flow chart with text describing what the flow chart is representing. Otherwise, you will end up with a chart full of meaningless shapes and lines.
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