Common Flowchart Symbols, Meanings, and Examples

Benjamin Babb
basic flowchart symbols

Flowchart symbols and explanations

Flowcharts make processes and workflows visible. Below are 17 of the most commonly used symbols for illustrating flows, creating workflow diagrams, and process mapping. 

Other flowchart symbols have been standardized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). 

Overview of symbols

basic flowchart symbols
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Basic flowchart symbols

Terminal flowchart symbol

Terminal symbol

Indicates the beginning (trigger) or end (result) of a flow.
Flow line flowchart symbol

Flow line

Shows the direction and order of the flow.
process box flowchart symbol

Process symbol

Designates specific action or work within the flow.
Decision Diamond flowchart symbol

Decision diamond

Indicates a choice that must be made or a question that needs to be answered. The result determines the next step in the flow.

Or symbol

A point in the flow where there is more than one possible next step and where a choice must be made.

Data and document symbols

Document workflow symbol

Document symbol

Creation or use of a document is required. Documents include files, emails, reports, orders, or forms.
Multiple documents flowchart symbol

Multiple documents

Same as above, although the multiple documents flowchart symbol signals that more than one document is required.
Flowchart data symbol

Data

The input or output of information. For example, data that must be entered in a form, or a report is displayed.
Database workflow symbol

Database

Indicates a structured store of searchable data. Sometimes refers to a data file.
Stored data flowchart symbol

Stored data

A point in the flow during which data is copied, stored, or backed up.
Internal storage flowchart symbol

Internal storage

The flowchart symbol for data that is stored on a local or on-premises server.
Display flowchart symbol

Display

A point in the flow where data is displayed visually to a user. For example, a report is generated or information is provided on a monitor.
Input/output flowchart symbol

Input/Output

Identical to flowchart symbol for data. Indicates information is required at this point in the flow.

Manual input

Indicates a task or step in the workflow that requires data entry or another activity to be completed manually.

Relationship flowchart symbols

flowchart connector symbol

Connector, or connection symbol

Indicates the flowchart continues at another point, or on another document. Connections symbols are numbered so that they can be matched, especially important for complex flows.
Merge workflow symbol

Merge

Indicates the intersection between multiple paths in the flow, where two or more work streams or data flows meet.

Other useful flowchart symbols

Predefined process workflow symbol

Predefined process

Indicates a process or workflow that requires a high level of detail. Additional information for predefined processes is provided elsewhere, or the process is commonly understood.
Manual operation symbol

Manual operation

Work or activity that cannot be automated. Input is required for each instance of the workflow.
Preparation flowchart symbol

Preparation

A step in the flow that supports or enables the following step.

In what types of flowcharts can these symbols be used?

The different types of flowchart symbols are versatile in their usage. Depending on the needs, the symbols can be used to construct the following types of flowcharts:

Document flowchart

An illustration of the movement of documents throughout a process or workflow.

Data flowchart

A diagram that maps the flow of data or information between apps, systems, departments, and people. 

Decision flowchart

A graphical representation of different courses of action and their outcomes. A decision flowchart can be used to compare multiple alternatives. These types of charts focus on points in the process or workflow at which point a choice must be made.

Logic flowchart

A type of flowchart used to guide software development and code. 

Systems flowchart

A type of flowchart that emphasizes the organization of controls at the physical or resource level. In other words, a flowchart that illustrates the flow of information or work between systems. 

Product flowchart

Diagrams that map and illustrate the activities, tasks, and processes necessary to develop a new product.

Process flowchart

An illustration of all the tasks, activities, and actions required to complete a process and produce an outcome.

Workflow diagram

Similar to a process flowchart, a workflow diagram illustrates the tasks and activities that must be completed in order to produce a specific outcome. 

Flowchart examples

Sales process flowchart

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Accounts payable flowchart

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Additional workflow resources 

Written by
Benjamin Babb
Senior Writer at Pipefy, where I focus on helping businesses manage workflows, optimize processes, and deploy automation. I'm also a ghost story aficionado who listens to more Enya than anyone should.

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