How to create a flowchart in Word

Word 2016
A flowchart or flow chart usually shows steps of the task, process, or workflow. Word for Microsoft 365 provides many predefined SmartArt templates that you can use to make a flowchart, including visually appealing basic flowchart templates with pictures. However, if you have a process with a tangled flow or you need a custom layout, you can build a complex flowchart in Word using rectangular, diamond, round, and other box types.
Flowchart in Word 365

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 Word 365 Rectangle with round corners marks for starting and terminating states
Flowchart process in Word 365 Box with straight corners represents the process stages
Flowchart data in Word 365 Parallelogram illustrates data input/output
Flowchart decision in Word for Microsoft 365 Diamond marks conditional branching
Flowchart arrow connector in Word 365 Arrow shows the process flow

You can find all these shapes and other useful visual elements in the Shapes dropdown list on the Insert tab of Microsoft Word.

The flowchart above is "cross-functional" and defines the responsibility zones of different business units.

To create a diagram like the one above, follow the next steps (we recommend to check the tip how to easily organize shapes in Word, which demonstrates easy tricks to simplify the drawing routine):

Add the drawing canvas

The drawing canvas is an essential element for the flow chart that you need to add before adding the flow shapes because of flowchart connectors. You can add flowcharts connectors only between the shapes within the drawing canvas:

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

Shapes in Word 365

   2.   On the Shapes list, in the bottom, choose New Drawing Canvas:

New Drawing Canvas menu in Word for Microsoft 365

Word adds the new drawing canvas to your flow chart:

New Drawing Canvas in Word for Microsoft 365

Draw the flowchart blocks

   3.   On the Shapes list, in the Flowchart group, select the block you want to add:

Flowchart items in Word 365

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

Connect the flowchart blocks by connectors

   5.   To connect shapes, do the following:

  • On the Insert tab, in the Illustrations group, click in the Shapes list and then select one of the connectors in the Lines group:
    Lines group in Word 365
  • Select the beginning point on the border of the first shape (source) and the ending point on the edge of the second shape (target):
    Draw Connectors in Word 365

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

Top-to-down flowcharts are perfect for the Portrait page orientation in Microsoft word. For the Landscape page orientation or the PowerPoint presentation, the preferred layout is left-to-right. Sometimes left-to-right flow diagrams with delimited borders of organization unit activities are called Swimlane diagrams or Swimlane flowcharts.

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

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