Create a basic flowchart

Flowcharts are diagrams that show the steps in a process. Basic flowcharts are easy to create and, because the shapes are simple and visual, they are easy to understand.

The Basic Flowchart template in Microsoft Visio 2010 comes with shapes that you can use to show many kinds of processes, and it is especially useful for showing basic business processes like the proposal development process shown in the following figure.

Example of a flowchart showing a proposal process

In addition to the Basic Flowchart template, Visio provides a variety of templates for more specific kinds of diagrams, such as data flow diagrams, timelines, and software modeling. To find out more about the different templates see How can I tell what each Visio template is for?

In this article


What the flowchart shapes represent

When you open the Basic Flowchart template, the Basic Flowchart Shapes stencil opens too. Each shape on the stencil represents a different step in a process.

Visio 2010 includes many other, specialized stencils and shapes that you can use in your flowchart diagram. For more information about how to find more shapes, see Use the Shapes window to organize and find shapes.

  • Start/End    Use this shape for the first and last step of your process.

Terminator shape

  • Process    This shape represents a step in your process.

Process shape

  • Subprocess    Use this shape for a set of steps that combine to create a sub-process that is defined elsewhere, often on another page of the same drawing.

Predefined Process shape

  • Document    This shape represents a step that results in a document.

Document shape

  • Data    This shape indicates that information is coming into the process from outside, or leaving the process. This shape can also be used to represent materials and is sometimes called an Input/Output shape.

Data shape

  • On-page reference    This small circle indicates that the next (or previous) step is somewhere else on the drawing. This is particularly useful for large flowcharts where you would otherwise have to use a long connector, which can be hard to follow.

On-page refference shape

  • Off-page reference    When you drop this shape onto your drawing page, a dialog box opens where you can create a set of hyperlinks between two pages of a flowchart or between a sub-process shape and a separate flowchart page that shows the steps in that sub-process.

Off-page reference shape

 Note   Can't find the shape you need?     To learn about how to find other shapes, see Use the Shapes window to organize and find shapes

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Create a flowchart

  1. Click the File tab.

ShowDon't see the File tab?

If you do not see the File tab, proceed to the next step in the procedure.

  1. Click New, click Flowchart, and then under Available Templates, click Basic Flowchart.
  2. Click Create .
  3. For each step in the process that you are documenting, drag a flowchart shape onto your drawing.

 Note   See the section What the flowchart shapes represent for information on which shapes to use for each step.

  1. Connect the flowchart shapes in either of the following ways.

ShowConnect two shapes together.

  1. On the Home tab, in the Tools group, click Connector.
  2. Drag from a connection point Connection point blue X on the first shape to a connection point on the second shape. The connector endpoints turn red when the shapes are connected.

A flowchart with the connector points turned red.

ShowConnect one shape to many from a single connection point.

By default, connectors are set to Right-Angle so that if you connect a single point on one shape to three other shapes it will look like the figure below.

Shape connected to three other shapes with right-angle connectors.

To have each connector radiate straight from the central point on the first shape to points on each of the other shapes you need to set the connectors to Straight Connector as shown in the following figure.

A flowchart with straight connectors radiating out from a central point.

  1. On the Home tab, in the Tools group, click Connector.
  2. For each shape you want to connect to, drag from the same connection point Connection point blue X on the first shape to a connection point on each of the other shapes.
  3. Right-click each connector and click Straight Connector.
  1. To return to normal editing, on the Home tab, in the Tool group, click Pointer Tool.
  2. To add text to a shape or connector, select it, and then type. When you are finished typing, click on a blank area of the page.
  3. To change the direction of a connector's arrow, select the connection, and then in the Shape group, click the arrow to the right of Line, point to Arrows, and select the arrow direction that you want.

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Print a large flowchart

The easiest way to print a flowchart that is larger than your printer paper is to print it onto multiple pieces of paper and then tape the pieces together.

Before you start to print, it's important to make sure that the drawing page, as it appears in Visio, contains the whole flowchart. Any shapes that hang off the edge of the Visio drawing page will not print.

To print a large flowchart, do the following:

  1. With your flowchart open, on the Design tab, in the Page Setup group, click Size, and select Fit to Drawing.
  2. Click the File tab.

ShowDon't see the File tab?

If you do not see the File tab, proceed to the next step in the procedure.

  1. Click Print, and then click Print Preview.

In Print Preview, dotted lines separate different pages.

Dotted lines show how the drawing prints onto separate sheets.
  1. To print your flowchart onto multiple pieces of paper, do the following:
    1. In Print Preview, in the Print group, click Page Setup.
    2. On the Print Setup tab, in the Printer paper box, select the paper size you want if it isn't already selected.
    3. Click OK.
    4. In the Preview group, click Single Tile to see how your drawing will print on each sheet. (You can switch between pages by clicking Next Tile or Previous Tile.)
    5. When you are satisfied with how your drawing looks, in the Print group, click Print.
    6. After the drawing is printed, you can trim the margins, overlap the pages, and tape them together.
  2. To print your flowchart onto a single piece of paper, do the following:
  1. In Print Preview, in the Print group, click Page Setup.
  2. On the Print Setup tab, in the Printer paper box, select the paper size you want if it isn't already selected.
  3. Under Print zoom, select Fit to.
  4. To the right of Fit to, type 1 in the box next to sheet(s) across , and type 1 in the box next to sheet(s) down .
  5. Click OK.
  6. In the Print group, click Print.

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Applies to:
Visio 2010