How to draw flowchart and swimlane flow chart in Excel

Excel 365
A flowchart or flow chart usually shows steps of the task, process, or workflow. There are many different SmartArt templates predefined in MS Excel that you can use to illustrate the process, including visually appealing templates with pictures.
However, if you want to use different shapes and a complex topology, it is better to create your own flowchart.
Drawing a flow chart in Excel 2016

Managers, system analysts, programmers, and engineers adopted flowcharts as a mean of communication for describing:

  • Document workflows
  • Data flows
  • System operation flows
  • Algorithms.

No wonder that building blocks and rules of flow charts were standardized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and International Organization for Standards (ISO) more than 50 years ago. The current standard defines the drawing direction from top to bottom and left to right and specific symbols for different types of entities, actions, etc. E.g.:

Flowchart terminator in Excel 2016 Rectangle with round corners marks for starting and terminating states
Flowchart process in Excel 2016 Box with straight corners represents the process stages
Flowchart data in Excel 2016 Parallelogram illustrates data input/output
Flowchart decision in Excel 2016 Diamond marks conditional branching
Flowchart arrow connector in Excel 2016 Arrow shows the process flow

All these and other useful visual elements you can find in the Shapes dropdown list of the Insert tab in Excel.

To create a flowchart like the one above, follow the following steps (we recommend to see how to change width of gridlines in Excel and easily organize shapes in Excel, which simplify drawing):

   1.   On the Insert tab, in the Illustrations group, select Shapes:

Shapes in Excel 2016

   2.   On the Shapes list, in the Flowchart group, choose the item that you prefer:

Flow chart shapes in Excel 2016

   3.   To add text in the selected shape, just double-click in it and enter the text.

   4.   To connect shapes, do the following:

  • On the Insert tab, in the Illustrations group, click on the Shapes list and then select one of the connectors in the Lines group:
    Connectors for flow chart in Excel 2016
  • Select the beginning point in a border of the first shape and the ending point in a border of the second shape:
    Flow chart connector in Excel 2016

For customizations of shapes and connectors, see how to change format for diagram shapes in Excel and how to change flowchart shapes in Excel or how to change connector type for the flowchart.

See also this tip in French: Comment créer un organigramme des opérations dans Excel.

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