A flowchart is a type of diagram that represents an algorithm, workflow or process. Flowchart can also be defined as a diagramatic representation of an algorithm (step by step approach to solve a task).

The flowchart shows the steps as boxes of various kinds, and their order by connecting the boxes with arrows. This diagrammatic representation illustrates a solution model to a given problem. Flowcharts are used in analyzing, designing, documenting or managing a process or program in various fields.[1]

A simple flowchart representing a process for dealing with a non-functioning lamp.


Flowchart of a C-style for loop

Flowcharts are used in designing and documenting simple processes or programs. Like other types of diagrams, they help visualize what is going on and thereby help understand a process, and perhaps also find less-obvious features within the process, like flaws and bottlenecks. There are different types of flowcharts: each type has its own set of boxes and notations. The two most common types of boxes in a flowchart are:

  • a processing step, usually called activity, and denoted as a rectangular box.
  • a decision, usually denoted as a diamond.

A flowchart is described as "cross-functional" when the chart is divided into different vertical or horizontal parts, to describe the control of different organizational units. A symbol appearing in a particular part is within the control of that organizational unit. A cross-functional flowchart allows the author to correctly locate the responsibility for performing an action or making a decision, and to show the responsibility of each organizational unit for different parts of a single process.

Flowcharts depict certain aspects of processes and are usually complemented by other types of diagram. For instance, Kaoru Ishikawa, defined the flowchart as one of the seven basic tools of quality control, next to the histogram, Pareto chart, check sheet, control chart, cause-and-effect diagram, and the scatter diagram. Similarly, in UML, a standard concept-modeling notation used in software development, the activity diagram, which is a type of flowchart, is just one of many different diagram types.

Nassi-Shneiderman diagrams and Drakon-charts are an alternative notation for process flow.

Common alternative names include: flow chart, process flowchart, functional flowchart, process map, process chart, functional process chart, business process model, process model, process flow diagram, work flow diagram, business flow diagram. The terms "flowchart" and "flow chart" are used interchangeably.

The underlying graph structure of a flowchart is a flow graph, which abstracts away node types, their contents and other ancillary information.


The first structured method for documenting process flow, the "flow process chart", was introduced by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth in the presentation "Process Charts: First Steps in Finding the One Best Way to do Work", to members of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in 1921.[2] The Gilbreths' tools quickly found their way into industrial engineering curricula. In the early 1930s, an industrial engineer, Allan H. Mogensen began to train business people in the use of some of the tools of industrial engineering at his Work Simplification Conferences in Lake Placid, New York.

Art Spinanger, a 1944 graduate of Mogensen's class, took the tools back to Procter and Gamble where he developed their Deliberate Methods Change Program. Ben S. Graham, another 1944 graduate, Director of Formcraft Engineering at Standard Register Industrial, applied the flow process chart to information processing with his development of the multi-flow process chart, to present multiple documents and their relationships.[3] In 1947, ASME adopted a symbol set derived from Gilbreth's original work as the "ASME Standard: Operation and Flow Process Charts."[4]

Douglas Hartree in 1949 explained that Herman Goldstine and John von Neumann had developed a flowchart (originally, diagram) to plan computer programs.[5] His contemporary account was endorsed by IBM engineers[6] and by Goldstine's personal recollections.[7] The original programming flowcharts of Goldstine and von Neumann can be found in their unpublished report, "Planning and coding of problems for an electronic computing instrument, Part II, Volume 1" (1947), which is reproduced in von Neumann's collected works.[8]

The flowchart became a popular tool for describing computer algorithms, but its popularity decreased in the 1970s, when interactive computer terminals and third-generation programming languages became common tools for computer programming, since algorithms can be expressed more concisely as source code in such languages. Often pseudo-code is used, which uses the common idioms of such languages without strictly adhering to the details of a particular one.

Nowadays flowcharts are still used for describing computer algorithms.[9] Modern techniques such as UML activity diagrams and Drakon-charts can be considered to be extensions of the flowchart.


Sterneckert (2003) suggested that flowcharts can be modeled from the perspective of different user groups (such as managers, system analysts and clerks), and that there are four general types:[10]

  • Document flowcharts, showing controls over a document-flow through a system
  • Data flowcharts, showing controls over a data-flow in a system
  • System flowcharts, showing controls at a physical or resource level
  • Program flowchart, showing the controls in a program within a system

Notice that every type of flowchart focuses on some kind of control, rather than on the particular flow itself.[10]

However, there are some different classifications. For example, Andrew Veronis (1978) named three basic types of flowcharts: the system flowchart, the general flowchart, and the detailed flowchart.[11] That same year Marilyn Bohl (1978) stated "in practice, two kinds of flowcharts are used in solution planning: system flowcharts and program flowcharts...".[12] More recently, Mark A. Fryman (2001) identified more differences: "Decision flowcharts, logic flowcharts, systems flowcharts, product flowcharts, and process flowcharts are just a few of the different types of flowcharts that are used in business and government".[13]

In addition, many diagram techniques are similar to flowcharts but carry a different name, such as UML activity diagrams.

Building blocks

Common symbols

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) set standards for flowcharts and their symbols in the 1960s.[14] The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted the ANSI symbols in 1970.[15] The current standard, ISO 5807, was revised in 1985.[16] Generally, flowcharts flow from top to bottom and left to right.[17]

ANSI/ISO Shape Name Description
Flowchart Line Flowline (Arrowhead)[15] Shows the process's order of operation. A line coming from one symbol and pointing at another.[14] Arrowheads are added if the flow is not the standard top-to-bottom, left-to right.[15]
Flowchart Terminal Terminal[14] Indicates the beginning and ending of a program or sub-process. Represented as a stadium,[14] oval or rounded (fillet) rectangle. They usually contain the word "Start" or "End", or another phrase signaling the start or end of a process, such as "submit inquiry" or "receive product".
Flowchart Process Process[15] Represents a set of operations that changes value, form, or location of data. Represented as a rectangle.[15]
Flowchart Decision Decision[15] Shows a conditional operation that determines which one of the two paths the program will take.[14] The operation is commonly a yes/no question or true/false test. Represented as a diamond (rhombus).[15]
Flowchart IO Input/Output[15] Indicates the process of inputting and outputting data,[15] as in entering data or displaying results. Represented as a parallelogram.[14]
Flowchart Annotation Annotation[14] (Comment)[15] Indicating additional information about a step the program. Represented as an open rectangle with a dashed or solid line connecting it to the corresponding symbol in the flowchart.[15]
Flowchart Predefined Process Predefined Process[14] Shows named process which is defined elsewhere. Represented as a rectangle with double-struck vertical edges.[14]
Flowchart Connector.svg On-page Connector[14] Pairs of labeled connectors replace long or confusing lines on a flowchart page. Represented by a small circle with a letter inside.[14][18]
Off page connector.png Off-page Connector[14] A labeled connector for use when the target is on another page. Represented as a home plate-shaped pentagon.[14][18]

Other symbols

The ANSI/ISO standards include symbols beyond the basic shapes. Some are:[17][18]

Shape Name Description
Flowchart database Data File or Database Data represented by a cylinder (disk drive).
Flowchart Document Document Single documents represented a rectangle with a wavy base.
Flowchart Document multiple Multiple documents represented stacked rectangle with a wavy base.
Flowchar Manual input Manual operation represented by a trapezoid with the longest parallel side at the top, to represent an operation or adjustment to process that can only be made manually.
Flowchart manual input Manual input Represented by quadrilateral, with the top irregularly sloping up from left to right, like the side view of a keyboard.
Flowchart Preparation Preparation or Initialization Represented by an elongated hexagon, originally used for steps like setting a switch or initializing a routine.

Parallel processing

  • Parallel Mode represented by two horizontal lines at the beginning or ending of simultaneous operations[17]

For parallel and concurrent processing the Parallel Mode horizontal lines[19] or a horizontal bar[20] indicate the start or end of a section of processes that can be done independently:

  • At a fork, the process creates one or more additional processes, indicated by a bar with one incoming path and two or more outgoing paths.
  • At a join, two or more processes continue as a single process, indicated by a bar with several incoming paths and one outgoing path. All processes must complete before the single process continues.[20]



Flowgorithm Editor

Any drawing program can be used to create flowchart diagrams, but these will have no underlying data model to share data with databases or other programs such as project management systems or spreadsheet. Some tools such as yEd, Inkscape and Microsoft Visio offer special support for flowchart drawing. Many software packages exist that can create flowcharts automatically, either directly from a programming language source code, or from a flowchart description language.

There are several applications and visual programming languages[21] that use flowcharts to represent and execute programs. Generally these are used as teaching tools for beginner students. Examples include Flowgorithm, Raptor. LARP, Visual Logic, and VisiRule.

See also

Related diagrams

Related subjects


  1. ^ SEVOCAB: Software Systems Engineering Vocabulary. Term: Flow chart. Retrieved 31 July 2008.
  2. ^ Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Lillian Moller Gilbreth (1921) Process Charts. American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
  3. ^ Graham, Jr., Ben S. (10 June 1996). "People come first". Keynote Address at Workflow Canada.
  4. ^ American Society of Mechanical Engineers (1947) ASME standard; operation and flow process charts. New York, 1947. (online version)
  5. ^ Hartree, Douglas (1949). Calculating Instruments and Machines. The University of Illinois Press. p. 112.
  6. ^ Bashe, Charles (1986). IBM's Early Computers. The MIT Press. p. 327.
  7. ^ Goldstine, Herman (1972). The Computer from Pascal to Von Neumann. Princeton University Press. pp. 266–267. ISBN 0-691-08104-2.
  8. ^ Taub, Abraham (1963). John von Neumann Collected Works. 5. Macmillan. pp. 80–151.
  9. ^ Bohl, Rynn: "Tools for Structured and Object-Oriented Design", Prentice Hall, 2007.
  10. ^ a b Alan B. Sterneckert (2003) Critical Incident Management. p. 126
  11. ^ Andrew Veronis (1978) Microprocessors: Design and Applications. p. 111
  12. ^ Marilyn Bohl (1978) A Guide for Programmers. p. 65.
  13. ^ Mark A. Fryman (2001) Quality and Process Improvement. p. 169.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Gary B. Shelly; Misty E. Vermaat (2011). Discovering Computers, Complete: Your Interactive Guide to the Digital World. Cengage Learning. pp. 691–693. ISBN 1-111-53032-7.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Harley R. Myler (1998). "2.3 Flowcharts". Fundamentals of Engineering Programming with C and Fortran. Cambridge University Press. pp. 32–36. ISBN 978-0-521-62950-8.
  16. ^ "ISO 5807:1985". International Organization for Standardization. February 1985. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  17. ^ a b c Flowcharting Techniques GC20-8152-1. IBM. March 1970. p. 10.
  18. ^ a b c "What do the different flowchart shapes mean?". RFF Electronics. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  19. ^ Jonathan W. Valvano (2011). Embedded Microcomputer Systems: Real Time Interfacing. Cengage Learning. pp. 131–132. ISBN 1-111-42625-2.
  20. ^ a b Robbie T. Nakatsu (2009). Reasoning with Diagrams: Decision-Making and Problem-Solving with Diagrams. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 68–69. ISBN 978-0-470-40072-2.
  21. ^ Myers, Brad A. "Visual programming, programming by example, and program visualization: a taxonomy." ACM SIGCHI Bulletin. Vol. 17. No. 4. ACM, 1986.

Further reading

External links

Adobe Authorware

Adobe Authorware (previously Macromedia Authorware) was an interpreted, flowchart-based, graphical programming language. Authorware is used for creating interactive programs that can integrate a range of multimedia content, particularly electronic educational technology (also called e-learning) applications. The flowchart model differentiates Authorware from other authoring tools, such as Adobe Flash and Adobe Director, which rely on a visual stage, time-line and script structure.

Ben Shneiderman

Ben Shneiderman (born August 21, 1947) is an American computer scientist, a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Computer Science, which is part of the University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the founding director (1983-2000) of the University of Maryland Human-Computer Interaction Lab. He conducted fundamental research in the field of human–computer interaction, developing new ideas, methods, and tools such as the direct manipulation interface, and his eight rules of design.

Business process mapping

Business process mapping refers to activities involved in defining what a business entity does, who is responsible, to what standard a business process should be completed, and how the success of a business process can be determined.

The main purpose behind business process mapping is to assist organizations in becoming more effective. A clear and detailed business process map or diagram allows outside firms to come in and look at whether or not improvements can be made to the current process.

Business process mapping takes a specific objective and helps to measure and compare that objective alongside the entire organization's objectives to make sure that all processes are aligned with the company's values and capabilities.

International Organization for Standardization or ISO 9001 : 2015 encourages a process approach to quality management. It is important to understand how each process relates to other processes within the organization and how those interactions impact Quality Management.


Chemotrophs are organisms that obtain energy by the oxidation of electron donors in their environments. These molecules can be organic (chemoorganotrophs) or inorganic (chemolithotrophs). The chemotroph designation is in contrast to phototrophs, which use solar energy. Chemotrophs can be either autotrophic or heterotrophic. Chemotrophs are found in ocean floors where sunlight cannot reach them because they are not dependent on solar energy. Ocean floors often contain underwater volcanos that can provide heat as a substitute for sunlight's warmth.

Decision tree

A decision tree is a decision support tool that uses a tree-like model of decisions and their possible consequences, including chance event outcomes, resource costs, and utility. It is one way to display an algorithm that only contains conditional control statements.

Decision trees are commonly used in operations research, specifically in decision analysis, to help identify a strategy most likely to reach a goal, but are also a popular tool in machine learning.

Deployment flowchart

A deployment flowchart (sometimes referred to as a cross functional flowchart) is a business process mapping tool used to articulate the steps and stakeholders of a given process.

"Deployment flowcharts consist of a sequence of activity steps and also the interactions between individuals or groups." Each participant in the process is displayed on the map (which is constructed as a matrix) - tasks/activity are then articulated in sequence under the column corresponding to that stakeholder.

As deployment flowcharts highlight the relationships between stakeholders in addition to the process flow they are especially useful in highlighting areas of inefficiency, duplication or unnecessary processing. Often utilized within Six sigma activity, completed flowcharts are commonly used to examine the interfaces between “participants” which are typically causes for delays and other associated issues. Deployment flowcharts are useful for determining who within an organization is required to implement a process and are sometimes used as a business planning tool.

While deployment flowcharts can be drawn by hand using pen and paper – various software tools include functionality to construct the flowcharts on computer, these include products such as Microsoft Visio.As with other process mapping techniques, deployment flowcharts require a certain degree of detail (and accuracy) to provide useful benefit. Care and attention is required to ensure that the correct stakeholder is attributed to the correct parts of the process. Complex flowcharts may be difficult to interpret, especially where a flow is unclear, or many stakeholders are identified. Consistent terminology throughout the map is also important to provide clarity to the reader.


A diagram is a symbolic representation of information according to visualization technique. Diagrams have been used since ancient times, but became more prevalent during the Enlightenment. Sometimes, the technique uses a three-dimensional visualization which is then projected onto a two-dimensional surface. The word graph is sometimes used as a synonym for diagram.


DialogOS is a graphical programming environment to design computer system which can converse through voice with the user. Dialogs are clicked together in a Flowchart. DialogOS includes bindings to control Lego Mindstorms robots by voice and has bindings to SQL databases, as well as a generic plugin architecture to integrate with other types of backends.

DialogOS is used in computer science courses in schools and universities to teach programming and to introduce beginners in the basic principles of human/computer interaction and dialog design. It has also been used in research systems.

DialogOS was initially developed commercially by CLT Sprachtechnologie GmbH until its liquidation in 2017. The rights were then acquired by Saarland University and the software was released as open-source.

Direct School Admission

Direct School Admission (DSA) is a program in Singapore introduced in 2004 for students who are studying Primary 6 or Secondary 4 to be guaranteed a place in a secondary school or junior college respectively. Another goal of this program is to allow secondary schools/junior colleges to have more autonomy in choosing their students. A student may receive "Confirmed Offer", "Waiting List" or "Rejected" as an outcome. All students who have applied for any school's DSA exercise are ranked according to the results of the DSA test held by the school.

The DSA scheme will be reviewed under two guiding principles, announced Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng in the Committee of Supply Debate in Parliament today (8 Apr). Minister Ng noted that while the scheme has benefitted many students, there was some unevenness in how different schools select students. The review aims to expand opportunities for students with specific aptitudes and talents by providing more schools with distinctive programmes. This will allow students with specific domain talents and achievements to be recognised – which was its original objective – instead of general academic ability.

Flow diagram

Flow diagram is a collective term for a diagram representing a flow or set of dynamic relationships in a system. The term flow diagram is also used as a synonym for flowchart, and sometimes as a counterpart of the flowchart.Flow diagrams are used to structure and order a complex system, or to reveal the underlying structure of the elements and their interaction.

Flowchart (band)

Flowchart was an American band from Philadelphia. The group originally consisted of Sean O'Neal, Craig Bottel and Brodie Budd in 1994. Their first album Multi-Personality Tabletop Vacation was released in 1995 on Carrot Top Records, garnering negative reviews from critics who found their music to be too similar to the group Stereolab. The group followed the album with several EPs that moved away from the Stereolab styled sound.

In 1997, O'Neal met Erin Anderson at a DJ gig. This meeting led to the duo collaborating on music and eventually having Anderson join Flowchart while Bottel and Budd left the group. Their second album Cumulus Mood Twang received positive reviews from Allmusic, Pitchfork Media and CMJ as well as having the group placed on URB's "The "Next 100" list. The following releases from Flowchart included Commercial in 1999 and Broken and Blue in 2003 where the group began to have more of an experimental techno and house music sound. They later released their third album Wishworm Tracks.Both O'Neal and Anderson began recording their own music in the 2000s, with O'Neil recording under the name "Someone Else" and Anderson releasing albums as "Fidget" as well as working at a hair salon that doubled as an art gallery.


A heterotroph (; Ancient Greek ἕτερος héteros = "other" plus trophe = "nutrition") is an organism that cannot produce its own food, relying instead on the intake of nutrition from other sources of organic carbon, mainly plant or animal matter. In the food chain, heterotrophs are primary, secondary and tertiary consumers, but not producers. Living organisms that are heterotrophic include all animals and fungi and some bacteria and protists. The term heterotroph arose in microbiology in 1946 as part of a classification of microorganisms based on their type of nutrition. The term is now used in many fields, such as ecology in describing the food chain.

Heterotrophs may be subdivided according to their energy source. If the heterotroph uses chemical energy, it is a chemoheterotroph (e.g., humans and mushrooms). If it uses light for energy, then it is a photoheterotroph (e.g., green non-sulfur bacteria).

Heterotrophs represent one of the two mechanisms of nutrition (trophic levels), the other being autotrophs (auto = self, troph = nutrition). Autotrophs use energy from sunlight (photoautotrophs) or inorganic compounds (lithoautotrophs) to convert inorganic carbon dioxide to organic carbon compounds and energy to sustain their life. Comparing the two in basic terms, heterotrophs (such as animals) eat either autotrophs (such as plants) or other heterotrophs, or both.

Detritivores are heterotrophs which obtain nutrients by consuming detritus (decomposing plant and animal parts as well as feces). Saprotrophs (also called lysotrophs) are chemoheterotrophs that use extracellular digestion in processing decayed organic matter. It is a term most often associated with fungi. The process is most often facilitated through the active transport of such materials through endocytosis within the internal mycelium and its constituent hyphae.

Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music

Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music is an online guide to electronic music created by Kenneth John Taylor, aka Ishkur. It covers over 100 subgenres, such as terrorcore and chemical breakbeat, diagrammed in a flowchart style. The guide was originally posted in 1999 and continually updated until 2001. The site consists of 153 subgenres and 818 sound files.On December 11, 2016, Ishkur announced that a new version of the guide would be released in 2017 on Twitter. About a year later, Ishkur tweeted the project had been delayed shortly, and that the finished product was coming "soon".


Photoheterotrophs (Gk: photo = light, hetero = (an)other, troph = nourishment) are heterotrophic phototrophs—that is, they are organisms that use light for energy, but cannot use carbon dioxide as their sole carbon source. Consequently, they use organic compounds from the environment to satisfy their carbon requirements; these compounds include carbohydrates, fatty acids, and alcohols. Examples of photoheterotrophic organisms include purple non-sulfur bacteria, green non-sulfur bacteria, and heliobacteria. Recent research has indicated that the oriental hornet and some aphids may be able to use light to supplement their energy supply.


Phototrophs (Gr: φῶς, φωτός = light, τροϕή = nourishment) are the organisms that carry out photon capture to acquire energy. They use the energy from light to carry out various cellular metabolic processes. It is a common misconception that phototrophs are obligatorily photosynthetic. Many, but not all, phototrophs often photosynthesize: they anabolically convert carbon dioxide into organic material to be utilized structurally, functionally, or as a source for later catabolic processes (e.g. in the form of starches, sugars and fats). All phototrophs either use electron transport chains or direct proton pumping to establish an electro-chemical gradient which is utilized by ATP synthase, to provide the molecular energy currency for the cell. Phototrophs can be either autotrophs or heterotrophs. As their electron and hydrogen donors are inorganic compounds [Na2S2O3 (PSB) and H2S (GSB)] they can be also called as lithotrophs, and so, some photoautotrophs are also called photolithoautotrophs. Examples of phototroph organisms: Rhodobacter capsulatus, Chromatium, Chlorobium etc.

Rubber guard

The Rubber guard (sometimes referred to as Mission Control) is a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu technique, which involves the practitioner ‘breaking down’ the opponent into the rubber guard, while maintaining a high level of control. It utilizes extensive flexibility to control the opponent with one arm and one leg. The opposite arm in turn is free to attempt submissions, sweeps or to strike the trapped head of the opponent.

Rubber guard, as well as other innovative guard moves, is attributed to Eddie Bravo who adopted it as a staple technique of his 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu.

State diagram

A state diagram is a type of diagram used in computer science and related fields to describe the behavior of systems. State diagrams require that the system described is composed of a finite number of states; sometimes, this is indeed the case, while at other times this is a reasonable abstraction. Many forms of state diagrams exist, which differ slightly and have different semantics.

Structured program theorem

The structured program theorem, also called Böhm-Jacopini theorem, is a result in programming language theory. It states that a class of control flow graphs (historically called charts in this context) can compute any computable function if it combines subprograms in only three specific ways (control structures). These are

Executing one subprogram, and then another subprogram (sequence)

Executing one of two subprograms according to the value of a boolean expression (selection)

Repeatedly executing a subprogram as long as a boolean expression is true (iteration)The structured chart subject to these constraints may however use additional variables in the form of bits (stored in an extra integer variable in the original proof) in order to keep track of information that the original program represents by the program location. The construction was based on Böhm's programming language P′′.

Swim lane

A swimlane (or swimlane diagram) is used in process flow diagrams, or flowcharts, that visually distinguishes job sharing and responsibilities for sub-processes of a business process. Swimlanes may be arranged either horizontally or vertically.

ISO standards by standard number

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