Visio Tutorial: Creating a Basic Flowchart

visiotutorialMicrosoft Visio is part of the Microsoft Office productivity suite and is used to create flowcharts in addition to other important uses in the typical business environment. In fact, IT professionals have come to rely on the power of Visio for creating logic charts when planning out new programs and just about every corporation finds some use for this valuable program in the workplace.

If you’re not familiar with Visio, check out Visio 2010 Introduction to get started quickly. The skills you learn are useful in just about every business structure and you may even find some uses for Visio at home as well.

Although Visio can be used for a few other thing, the primary focus is creating flowcharts. Flowcharts are diagrams that show the steps in a process. Using a combination of shapes, text, and lines, a flowchart created in Visio is easy to understand and relatively simple to create. In this tutorial, you will learn how to create a basic flowchart using Microsoft Visio. Once you have mastered the basics, you can move on to some of the more advanced templates within Visio such as data flow diagrams, timelines, and even software modeling.  If you are a programmer and aren’t using Visio to help map program logic yet, you can learn how in the Flowcharting and Pseudocode course.

Understanding the Shapes

Diagrams created using Visio rely on a variety of shapes to convey specific messages. In order to create flowcharts effectively, you need to learn what shapes are commonly used and what they are used for.

Although these shapes are not always used exactly in the same manner, you will be well served to follow the basic descriptions below so everyone can follow your flowcharts easily and without explanation.

– The Terminator is used in the first and last step of each process.

– This shape is known as a Process and is used quite frequently within most flowcharts.

– A Predefined Process is a set of steps that combine to create a specific sub process that is defined somewhere else within the same drawing (typically on another page).

– The Decision shape indicates a point where the outcome of the decision dictates the next step. Although there can be multiple outcomes, most basic flowcharts have only a yes or no outcome and the process continues based on that decision.

– The Document shape represents a step that results in a document such as a report.

– The Data shape indicates that information is entering or exiting the process. It is also sometimes known as the Input/Output shape because it can also be used to represent materials that enter or exit a process.

– Stored data is represented using this shape. Any step that results in information being stored (such as in a database) is denoted using the Stored Data shape.

– This shape represents an On-page reference. It indicates that the next step (or the previous step) is somewhere else on the drawing. This becomes very useful for large flowcharts where using long connectors can be confusing and hard to follow.

– Similar to the On-page reference shape, the Off-page reference shape automatically creates a set of hyperlinks between two pages on your flowchart. This is a useful way to connect processes that may appear in completely different areas of your flowchart without confusing the people trying to understand your chart.

– This shape is known as the Flowchart shape. Basically, it is a multi-shape that you can set to a Process, Decision, Document, or Data shape. Any text that you type into the shape and the information that you add to its Shape Data remains with the shape. This shape is useful because it allows you to quickly create shapes without having to find the specific shape you are looking for each time you want to add a new piece to your flowchart.

You can learn more about properly using shapes in Learn Microsoft Visio 2010.

Creating a Flowchart

Now that you understand the most commonly used shapes within the flowchart, the next step is to actually create your flowchart. From the File menu, click on New > Flowchart > Basic Flowchart. Visio will automatically create a new flowchart and you can begin dragging shapes onto your drawing.

Remember to always use the correct shape. Unfortunately, too many beginners drag random shapes onto their drawing without realizing the importance of each shape and what it signifies. This can become very confusing for others who are more experience with Visio and can make you look very unprofessional so take the time to understand what each shape does before using it.

You also have to connect the different flowchart shapes together using the Connector tool. Connectors can connect two shapes together directly or can connect one shape to multiple other shapes from a single connection point. A good example of this is the Decision shape which may have multiple connectors going in different directions depending on the decision that is made at that point in the flowchart.

You can add text to shapes and connectors by selecting it and then typing. Once you’re finished adding text, simply click on a blank area of the page to go back to normal editing. If your connector has arrows, you can also change the direction of the arrows by selecting the connection and then clicking Reverse Ends.

Using your new knowledge of the various shapes and their meanings, you should be well equipped to begin creating basic flowcharts at home. If your office is not currently using flowcharts, you can certainly impress your boss by creating a useful flowchart that documents common business processes.

As your skills progress, consider checking out the Microsoft Visio 2010 Training Course that covers some advanced Visio techniques that are sure to impress your colleagues.

As more companies rely on technology for just about everything, learning to use Visio effectively is an excellent skill that looks good on your resume and makes you a more valuable (and hopefully better paid) employee at your current company.