Many dedicated programs do only flowcharts, and although Microsoft creates another program called Visio for Windows users that’s
more flowchart savvy than mainstream Microsoft Office programs, there's no version of Visio available for Mac users. And it really
doesn't matter too much if all you need to do is create a basic flowchart because you can create flowcharts within your other Office
programs such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint! Why do we put forth such a recommendation? That's because these Microsoft Office programs
already have all the abilities and options you need to create almost any type of flowchart you need - what's more, you don’t have to
buy and learn yet another program to do something that really is so simple!
Actually, adding a flowchart within a Microsoft Office program is as simple as adding a few shapes - we will use Microsoft
PowerPoint 2011 in this example but you could really be using Word or Excel versions of Office 2011 to do the same task - even the Ribbon options you will encounter are the same.
If you already need to create a flowchart in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint – then the choice has already been made for you! Alternatively,
here are some thoughts that will help you decide which of these three programs work best for your flowcharts:
Word is great for simple flowcharts with few shapes as long as they all fit within the page constraints of Word.
- PowerPoint has similar slide constraints like Word’s page constraints – but for larger flowcharts, you can
use PowerPoint’s hyperlinking options that let you spread the same flowchart over multiple slides.
- Excel’s large screen real estate within each workbook does make it a great home for detailed or complicated
Follow these steps to get started:
Let’s start with a blank, new slide that just has a slide title and nothing else, as shown in Figure 1, below.
If you are using Word, just substitute the blank slide area with a blank area on your document – Excel users can similarly use an
available, blank range of cells in their workbook.
Figure 1: Empty slide with a title
In PowerPoint or Word, access the Home tab of the
Ribbon, locate the Insert group and within
this group, click the Shape button. This brings up the Shape drop-down gallery, as shown in
Figure 2: Shape drop-down gallery
In Excel (or even Word and PowerPoint), select the Insert | Shape menu option. This brings up a
Media browser window, with the Shapes tab active, as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3: Media browser
There are plenty of shapes that are arranged in
various categories, to create flowcharts, and only two of these categories matter to you – these are the
Lines and Connectors and Flowchart categories, highlighted in red and
blue respectively within Figures 2 and 3, above.
- Let us now explore the various shapes available within these categories – first let us explore the Flowchart
category. There are 28 flowchart shapes available here – hover your cursor over any of these shapes to see a tool tip that provides
you with the name/description of the hovered shape (see Figure 4, below).
Figure 4: Flowchart shapes are described within the tool tips
Now select the Terminator shape within the Flowchart shapes gallery (see Figure 5).
Figure 5: Select the Terminator shape
Your cursor will turn into a crosshair – drag and draw on your slide, document, or worksheet to place an instance of the terminator
shape, as shown in Figure 6, below.
Figure 6: Place a Terminator shape to start your flowchart
With your terminator shape still selected, start typing (we just typed “Start”). Anything you type shows up within the
flowchart shape, as shown in Figure 7, below.
Figure 7: Text within your flowchart shape
Now add a shape to represent a decision. Choose the Decision (Diamond) shape option from the Flowchart
category within the Shapes gallery (refer to Figure 4, above) – then drag and draw to place an instance
of the shape on your slide (or document / sheet) – then type in some text – we just typed “Are you happy?”, as shown in
Figure 8, below.
Figure 8: Text that makes you happy?
We now need to link the Terminator shape to the Decision shape using a “connector” –
to do so, access the Shape drop-down gallery (see Figure 2, above) and select the second shape within
the Lines and Connectors category (see Figure 9, below). This shape is a connector that has an
arrowhead at one end. We need the arrowhead end of the connector to be “connected” to your Decision shape –
and the non-arrowhead end will emanate from the Terminator shape. We won’t get into details about how connectors
work in this tutorial – you can learn more about connectors in our
Using Flowchart and Connector Shapes
Together in Office 2011 tutorial.
Figure 9: Choose a connector with an arrowhead
Figure 10 shows a connector that links both our shapes. To make sure that your connector indeed “connects”, select any
shape, and hit any of the arrow keys on your keyboard to nudge the shape -- you will find that the connector reorients according to the
new position of your moved shape.
Figure 10: Shapes connected to each other
Similarly, add two more shapes that connect to your existing Decision shape, as shown in Figure 11,
below. We added a connected Process (rectangle) shape on the right and another connected Decision
(diamond) shape at the bottom.
Figure 11: More shapes added to the flowchart
- As you can see within Figure 11, above – there are two options emanating from the “Are you happy?” decision shape.
Decision shapes typically have more than one output emanating from them so as to create a decision – in this case, the decision
will be based on whether the answer to the “Are you happy?” question is Yes or No. We therefore need to
identify the two emanating connectors as Yes or No to make this flowchart sequence logical. To do that,
you need to place text boxes with Yes and No captions next to the relevant connectors – this is
explained in our Formatting
Connectors within Flowcharts in Office 2011 tutorial.
- Once you add Yes and No captions to your connectors, your flowchart will look similar to the one
shown in Figure 12, below.
Figure 12: Flowchart with Yes and No captions
Continue adding flowchart shapes and link them with connectors. Finally, you will need to add a "Stop"
Terminator shape to complete your flowchart, as shown in Figure 13, below.
Figure 13: Complete Flowchart
- Save your documents often!
See Also: Basic Flowcharts in Microsoft
Office 2013 for Windows
PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts and Sequences:
PowerPoint 2016, 2013, 2011, 2010, 2007 and 2003 for Windows
PowerPoint 2016 and 2011 for Mac
Have your ever used keyboard shortcuts and sequences in PowerPoint? Or are you a complete keyboard aficionado?
Do you want to learn about some new shortcuts? Or do you want to know if your favorite keyboard shortcuts are documented?
Go and get a copy of our PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts and Sequences ebook.