Flowchart Symbols and Notation


Don’t be intimidated by the wide array of flowchart shapes. Each symbol has a specific meaning and context where its use is appropriate. If you get confused while drawing your flow chart, remember that most charts can be drawn with just a few common symbols, which are listed below.

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Common flowchart symbols

These flowchart shapes and symbols are some of the most common types you'll find in most flowchart diagrams.

 

Flowchart Symbol Name Description

Process Flowchart Symbol

Process symbol

Also known as an “Action Symbol,” this shape represents a process, action, or function. It’s the most widely-used symbol in flowcharting.

Start/End Flowchart Symbol

Start/End symbol

Also known as the “Terminator Symbol,” this symbol represents the start points, end points, and potential outcomes of a path. Often contains “Start” or “End” within the shape.

Document Flowchart Symbol

Document symbol

Represents the input or output of a document, specifically. Examples of and input are receiving a report, email, or order. Examples of an output using a document symbol include generating a presentation, memo, or letter.

Decision Flowchart Symbol

Decision symbol

Indicates a question to be answered — usually yes/no or true/false. The flowchart path may then split off into different branches depending on the answer or consequences thereafter.

Connector Flowchart Symbol

Connector symbol

Usually used within more complex charts, this symbol connects separate elements across one page.

Off-page Connector Flowchart Symbol

Off-Page Connector/Link symbol

Frequently used within complex charts, this symbol connects separate elements across multiple pages with the page number usually placed on or within the shape for easy reference.

Input/Output Flowchart Symbol

Input/Output symbol

Also referred to as the “Data Symbol,” this shape represents data that is available for input or output as well as representing resources used or generated. While the paper tape symbol also represents input/output, it is outdated and no longer in common use for flowchart diagramming.

Comment Flowchart Symbol

Comment/Note symbol

Placed along with context, this symbol adds needed explanation or comments within the specified range. It may be connected by a dashed line to the relevant section of the flowchart as well.

Additional flowchart symbols

Many of these additional flowchart symbols are best utilized when mapping out a process flow diagram for apps, user flow, data processing, etc.

Flowchart Symbol Name Description

Database Symbol

Database symbol

Represents data housed on a storage service that will likely allow for searching and filtering by users.

Paper Tape Symbol

Paper tape symbol

An outdated symbol rarely ever used in modern practices or process flows, but this shape could be used if you’re mapping out processes or input methods on much older computers and CNC machines.

Summing junction symbol

Summing junction symbol

Sums the input of several converging paths.

predefined process symbol

Predefined process symbol

Indicates a complicated process or operation that is well-known or defined elsewhere.

internal storage symbol

Internal storage symbol

Commonly used to map out software designs, this shape indicates data that is stored within internal memory.

manual input symbol

Manual input symbol

Represents the manual input of data into a field or step in a process, usually through a keyboard or device. Example scenario includes the step in a login process where a user is prompted to enter data manually.

manual operation symbol

Manual operation symbol

Indicates a step that must be done manually, not automatically.

merge symbol

Merge symbol

Combines multiple paths to become one.

multiple documents symbol

Multiple documents symbol

Represents multiple documents or reports.

preparation symbol

Preparation symbol

Differentiates between steps that prepare for work and steps that actually do work. It helps introduce the setup to another step within the same process.

stored data symbol

Stored data symbol

Also known as “Data Storage” symbol, this shape represents where data gets stored within a process.

delay symbol

Delay symbol

Represents a segment of delay in a process. It can be helpful to indicate the exact length of delay within the shape.

or symbol

Or symbol

Just as described, this shape indicates that the process flow continues two paths or more.

display symbol

Display symbol

This shape is useful to indicate where information will get displayed within a process flow.

hard disk symbol

Hard disk symbol

Indicates where data is stored within a hard drive, also known as direct access storage.

Standard vs. non-standard flowchart symbols

While various standards for symbol usage and flowchart creation have been established, it’s okay to ignore the rules. Use the symbols in a way that makes sense to your audience. But if you use symbols in a non-standard fashion, be sure to do it consistently so your readers understand your meaning for that symbol each time they see it. If you're new to diagramming, you can refer to this guide on how to make a flowchart in Lucidchart with this handy symbols guide available as you construct a stunning flowchart!