How to Create a Flowchart Word Document (With Steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 21 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A flowchart is a data visualisation that displays a sequence of events and highlights relationships between activities. Using Microsoft Word is often one of the most popular methods to create flowcharts. Understanding how to create a flowchart can help you display information professionally across multiple industries. In this article, we define what a flowchart is, discuss how to create a flowchart Word document, detail how to use SmartArt, identify the benefits of using flowcharts and examine a variety of flowcharts.

What is a flowchart?

Before discovering how to create a flowchart Word document, it can be a good idea to understand what a flowchart is. A flowchart is one of the most common styles of data visualisation. It involves a primary node that represents an initial source of data. Directional arrows stem from this primary node and connect it with the next nodes in the sequence. A flowchart is essentially a diagram representing the flow of information, activities and data. Professionals typically use flowcharts in project management because they clearly outline project constraints, dependencies and deliverables.

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How to create a flowchart Word document

Below, you can find steps to creating a flowchart Word document:

1. Open a Word document

The first step in creating a flowchart is to open a blank document. You can do this by clicking on the File tab, which shows a drop-down menu. From this menu, you can select New followed by New document. This brings you to a new blank document, where you can begin formatting your flowchart. Before you begin the next steps, you can choose a grid viewing option that can help you format the flowchart later. To select this option, click on the View tab at the top of the document and select the Gridlines check-box.

2. Add shapes

Once your blank document is ready, you may add the initial node of the flowchart by clicking on the Insert tab and selecting the Shapes option. Once you click on Shapes, a drop-down menu appears with an abundance of different shapes you can choose. There may be a group of shapes specific to flowcharts. These shapes usually have their own bracket defined by a heading Flowchart. If you hover your cursor over a shape, a small text box may appear that details what the shape typically represents. For example, a rectangle often represents a flowchart process.

3. Format shapes

When you click on a shape, your cursor may change to a cross-hair, which indicates you're ready to draw the shape. After you include the shape, there's typically an option to customise its size, colour, border and transparency. There's usually a small Format tab that appears next to the shape. If you click on the tab, it can provide several formatting options.

4. Include text

Once your shape is in place, you may add text by clicking on the Format tab of the shape and selecting the abc text option. After clicking on the text option, a text line may appear that allows you to type content into the shape. The text usually automatically formats itself to fit into the shape, depending on the edition of Word you're using. In the Format tab, several options allow you to change the text's font, colour and size.

5. Connect the shapes

Once you have two or more nodes in your flowchart, you can connect them using directional arrows. These arrows represent the flow of information or the sequence of activities. You can link nodes using arrows by selecting the Insert tab, then the Shapes tab. The Shapes tab usually has a separate bracket with a Lines heading. In this tab, you can select several lines and directional arrows. You can add and format lines to your flowchart by following the same steps detailed in steps two and three.

How to create a flowchart in Word using SmartArt

SmartArt is a feature in Word documents that can provide you with pre-set graphic structures for different visualisation methods. This is essentially a more automated process of creating a flowchart. If the flowchart you create is relatively simple, you can use SmartArt because it's usually quicker than manually formatting shapes and arrows. Below, you can find the typical steps to create a flowchart using SmartArt:

1. Select the SmartArt option

The first step in utilising SmartArt is to create a blank Word document. Next, click on the Insert tab at the top of the document, then select the SmartArt option. This opens a screen with an abundance of options and customisation tools for you to explore.

2. Choose your process

After you open the SmartArt window, you may see a list on the left of the window that details types of visualisations, such as relationships, pyramids, hierarchies and lists. The type of visualisation you can choose for a flowchart is the Process option. If you click on this option, it may display a variety of process visualisations you can choose from. The type of visualisation you choose can depend on the data you include and the structure you want for your flowchart.

3. Add shapes

Once you select your desired process, you can add more nodes to the flowchart. You can do this by clicking on the initial node created by SmartArt, which shows you a menu of options. You can click on the Design tab of the menu and select the option Add shape. This typically adds a new shape that conforms to the SmartArt process you chose. Depending on the process, a direction arrow is usually automatically added once you include an additional node.

4. Personalise your chart

SmartArt provides pre-set processes and visualisations, but you can still customise individual aspects of your flowchart. If you double click on a node, it can show you a menu with several customisation options. You can change the colour of texts, shapes and directional arrows, along with the size, transparency, border and orientation.

Benefits of utilising a flowchart

Below, you can find the typical benefits of utilising a flowchart in a professional setting:

Efficient data interpretation

One of the main benefits of using a flowchart is that it can display information clearly. This often improves the efficiency of project teams and departments that schedule with flowcharts. A project team that uses a flowchart can identify the project dependencies. Dependencies refer to activities in a sequence that can only begin once a prior activity is complete. If team members identify the dependencies, they can schedule activities effectively, which often improves their overall performance.

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Simplistic visualisation

Some procedures and projects can involve many sequences, dependencies and activities. Displaying this information in a format such as a list might confuse a team. Displaying complex procedures and processes in a flowchart can help team members understand the sequence of events. It can also help them identify their role in the sequence, which is an important part of improving team productivity.

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Effective project planning

When planning a project, there may be several aspects that require scheduling and budgeting. A flowchart can be an excellent method of organising and managing these aspects. A project manager can allocate appropriate resources to project elements using a flowchart. They can also allocate tasks to team members to ensure they have a reasonable workload.

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Types of flowcharts

If you're trying to create a flowchart in a word document, it can be beneficial to understand the different charts available. Below, you can find more details on several flowcharts:

Decision

A decision chart outlines processes for making decisions. These charts are usually very minimal but can provide excellent help in decisions that involve extensive considerations. In a decision flowchart, there are typically questions followed by nodes that represent yes and no. Any industry that involves decision-making procedures can technically utilise a decision flowchart.

Workflow

A workflow chart may be one of the most popular flowcharts because it can detail sequences in most business activities. A workflow chart can provide information about specific tasks and broad procedures to departments and teams. It can also show the relationship between different departments, activities, professionals and resources.

Swimlane

A swimlane visualisation is a type of flowchart that focuses on relationships between sets of data. A swimlane flowchart incorporates data sequences that typically flow from the left of the chart to the right. This flowchart style can be beneficial when interpreting an abundance of data in different categories.

Event-driven process

An event-driven process (EDP) flowchart outlines the relationships between customer behaviour and customer actions. Sales and marketing departments often use this flowchart to identify how consumers respond to business activity. The EDP flowchart essentially highlights a consumer's activities as they purchase a product from the business.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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