A diagram is worth a thousand words, especially if you’re trying to explain a process. And if you know how to make a flowchart in Word, you don’t need a different diagram-creation tool. You can make the flowchart right inside Microsoft Word, no programming or design skills required.
A flowchart is a graphical representation of a series of steps or actions. It’s most effective for depicting a process, data flow, workflow, or decision steps. In a flowchart, each shape holds a meaning. The most basic ones are:
- Oval (or pill shape). Start or end of the process.
- Rectangle. Action or sub-process.
- Diamond. Decision point.
- Parallelogram. Either an input needed for the process, or an output that goes into the next step.
Other shapes are used in flowcharts for very specific applications like data flow diagrams. But the above basic flowchart symbols should be enough for the most common charts. Whether you need just the basics or specialized shapes, you can find them in Word.
In this tutorial, I walk you step-by-step through how to make a flowchart in Microsoft Word using basic shapes. Word offers two ways to create a flowchart. Use the method that lets you make the flowchart you envision.
Note: For this tutorial, I used Microsoft Word for Mac version 16. If you’re using a different version of the application, the interface and steps may be different.
Method One: Create a Flowchart in Word With Shapes
The first way to create a flowchart in Word is by inserting shapes in your document. Here's what to do:
1. Display Gridlines
Before getting started, make sure to switch on gridlines. This will make it much easier for you to create a nice-looking flowchart. Aside from showing you guide lines, when gridlines are on, shapes and lines snap to regular spaces, making it easy to align elements.
To switch on the gridlines, go to View > Gridlines.
2. Create the Flowchart Shapes
Now you’re ready to start inserting shapes. Go to Insert > Shapes. The shapes menu appears. Scroll down to the Flowchart shapes. If you hover over any shape, a tip-tool appears, letting you know what the shape means. Click on the shape you wish to use.
The cursor turns into a crosshair. Click and drag the crosshair to create the shape to the size you want.
3. Format the Flowchart Shapes
Use the options on the Shape Format ribbon to format the shape’s fill color, border, and other attributes.
4. Add text inside the flowchart shapes.
To add text inside a flowchart shape, first select the shape. Then, start typing. The text will appear inside the selected shape.
5. Format the Text
If you wish to format the text inside a shape, select the shape. Under the Home tab, use the formatting options to select the font, font size, and other attributes.
Repeat the previous steps to create all the shapes you need for your flowchart. Use the gridlines to arrange them on your document.
6. Add the Flowchart Connectors
Next, you’re going to want to connect the shapes with lines or arrows.
To insert an arrow, go to Insert > Lines. The lines menu opens. Click on the line you wish to use.
Under the Shape Format tab, use the options to format the connector.
When the line is formatted as you like, set it as a default line. That way Word will use the same formatting settings for the next lines you create, and you won't have to keep formatting each one.
To set a line as the default line, right-click on it, then select Set as Default Line.
Repeat until you’ve inserted, formatted, and arranged all the connectors you need.
4. Insert More Text
You may find that you need text outside of the shapes in your flowchart.
To add text, go to Insert > Text Box. Click and drag the cursor where you wish to place the text box. Type the text inside the box.
Next, format the text. With the text box selected, click on the Home tab. Use the formatting options on the ribbon to format the text.
When your flowchart is complete, switch off the Gridlines, and enjoy your creation!
Method Two: Create a Flowchart in Word With SmartArt
Another way to create flowcharts in MS Word is by using SmartArt. It's a pre-designed visual template in Word that lets you quickly make charts and diagrams. You can format SmartArt—up to a certain extent—and personalize them with your own information.
To create a Microsoft SmartArt flowchart, follow these steps:
1. Insert a New SmartArt
Go to Insert > SmartArt > Process. The Process menu pops up.
Choose the SmartArt that’s most suitable for the flowchart you wish to create and click on it.
2. Format the SmartArt Flowchart
Under the SmartArt Design tab, use the tools on the ribbon to format the various elements of the SmartArt.
Explore the special effects menu to see ways you can spice up your chart.
At any point, you can also change the style of your Microsoft SmartArt flowchart. First, select the SmartArt. Under the SmartArt Design tab, open the styles menu. Click on a different style you wish to apply.
3. Add Steps
You’ll probably need to add steps to your process SmartArt. To do this, make sure you’re on the SmartArt Design tab. Click on the Add Shape dropdown menu and choose from one of two options:
- Add Shape After. Adds a step at the end of the current SmartArt.
- Add Shape Before. Adds a step at the beginning.
Tip: You can add steps at any point in your workflow. But I suggest you add all the steps you think you’ll need before you add your text.
4. Add Your Text
To add your text, click on a text box—it'll have a placeholder that says “Text”—and type your own text. Under the SmartArt Design tab, you can also click on the Text Pane button to add and edit text through the Text Pane.
You can also format the text inside the SmartArt. First, select the text box, then click on the Home tab. Use the formatting options to change the font, font size, and etc.
5. Add Images
If the SmartArt flowchart style you created includes pictures, now’s the time to add your custom images.
Click on the image icon. This launches your document finder. Click on the image file you want to add, then click Insert.
Tip: Make sure your image has the correct proportions for the image placeholder in the SmartArt. If the placeholder is square, edit your image to be a square before inserting it. Otherwise, it may get cropped awkwardly.
Repeat the steps above to complete your Microsoft SmartArt flowchart.
Shapes vs. SmartArt: What’s the Best Way to Create a Flowchart in Word?
Now that know how to create a flowchart in Word using two methods, you may be wondering, which is the better way: shapes or SmartArt?
Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
Use shapes to create a flowchart if:
You want complete control over how your flowchart looks. It’s simply easier to control the different elements of a flowchart that’s built from scratch using shapes and lines or arrows as connectors.
You want to use symbolic flowchart shapes. Word shapes include both the basic shapes and special flowchart shapes.
You've got a complicated flowchart. If you’re trying to create a flowchart with split steps (like the bread making flowchart I made with charts), then you’re better off using shapes.
Consider using SmartArt to make a flowchart if:
You want a creatively designed chart quickly. SmartArt process diagrams are pre-made by designers to look great with minimal fuss.
You don’t need traditional flowchart shapes. Most Microsoft SmartArt flowcharts use only basic shapes and other elements that are chosen more for aesthetic purposes.
Your flowchart has only a few and simple steps. SmartArt charts lend themselves best to straightforward processes.
5 Flowchart Making Tips
Microsoft Word gives you two convenient ways to make MS Word flowchart diagrams. To get the best results, keep these tips in mind:
1. Plan It Out
Have a clear vision for what you want your flowchart you look like. Sketch it out with pen and paper and know exactly what text and images you’re going to use.
2. Make the Design Elements Consistent
Use a consistent style among the shapes and connectors in your flowchart. For example, use the same one or two fonts for the text.
3. Fit the Entire Chart on One Page
For the greatest legibility, make sure your chart fits all on one page. You may have to change the document’s orientation from portrait to landscape to accommodate a long or wide flowchart.
4. Don’t Count on People Knowing What Flowchart Shapes Mean
As mentioned above, shapes have specific meanings when used in flowcharts. But your readers may not know what those are. Make sure your flowchart makes sense even if this is the case. It’s also a good idea to include a legend or symbol key to let your readers know what the various shapes stand for.
5. Follow the Conventional Reading Direction
In the English language, readers read from left to right and top to bottom. If your flowchart is more than one level long, continue the second level on the left side of the page. (Of course, if your document is in a language that’s read from right to left, bottom to top, then you’d follow that direction for your flowchart as well.)
Streamline Your Workflow With Microsoft Word Templates
Another way to streamline your workflow is with a Word template.
Templates may include a Microsoft Word flowchart or other diagrams. Even if that’s not the case, starting with a Microsoft Word flowchart template is still an easy way to create a professionally-designed document.
With a template for Word, all the major design decisions have already been made for you by a professional. All you've got to do is to customize it with your branding colors, images, and text.
One excellent source of Word templates is Envato Elements. In this creative marketplace you'll find templates for various kinds of documents such as this resume/CV template, which includes infographics.
An Elements subscription gives you access to much more than high-quality Word templates. For one low, fixed price per month, you get unlimited downloads of the creative components you need to make your document look its best, such as fonts, photos, graphics, and icons.
And if you create other types of materials, like videos and websites, then you’ll also benefit from unlimited downloads of stock videos, music, sound effects, and presentation templates.
Create Your Own Flowcharts in Microsoft Word
Now you know how to make an easy flowchart in Microsoft Word. For complete control, build your flowchart with shapes and lines. For a fast and artistic look, use SmartArt. Either way, a well-constructed flowchart will make your document more effective at showing a process, workflow, or data flow.
You can also use Word templates to streamline your workflow. For the best quality and value, get Word templates and other creative resources from Envato Elements. Your subscription brings to your fingertips millions of creative assets to help you communicate effectively.
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