Types of Flowcharts

By David Harris

A flowchart is used to visually present the stages of a process. Most often used in computer systems or other business applications, flowcharts provide us with step-by-step information to help us understand the steps of a project or a system. Using graphics or symbols to represent the different stages, a flowchart helps simplify a process to allow easy troubleshooting. Usually each step provides a short description of the process. Arrows are used to link the steps and provide an easy way to follow the process.


Flowcharts are used in mapping computer algorithms. However, with computer advancement in the 1970s, physical flowcharts lost some significance because programming languages made the process easier. It is common for a business to use a flowchart in the development of new systems or software, but most often its via flowchart software. A good example is DrawAnywhere that can be used online without downloading software. You can also buy software such as Visio or SmartDraw, which offer more options.

Document Flowchart

A document flowchart traces the movement of a document, such as internal memos, payroll information and interoffice mail, through a system. The chart is columns that are divided by vertical lines. Each column represents a section, employee, department or unit in a company. The flowchart shows how a document passes from one part of the company to another. Usually, document flowcharts contain minimal detail, just the route the document takes from one place to another.

Data Flowchart

A data flowchart illustrates how data pass through a system. Symbols connote operations involved in the flow of data and the storage, input and output materials needed to keep the flow going. This is a good way to track where data originates and where it ends up. Data flowcharts are more concerned with the movement of the data than how the data is processed.

System Flowchart

A system flowchart shows how an entire system works by demonstrating how data flows and what decisions are made to control this event. Symbols that connote decisions, processes, inputs and outputs and data flow are the most important elements of a system flowchart. These differ from data flowcharts because they show decisions, which are more detailed. System flowcharts are used in fields such instances as aircraft control, central heating and automatic washing machines.

Program Flowchart

A program flowchart demonstrates how a program works within a system. These flowcharts show any and all user-interaction pathways by using boxes and arrows. These arrows and boxes form hierarchical menus. Program charts can be large and complex. However, they are useful for mapping an entire program. One example of program flowchart is storyboarding for a film. With all intentions mapped, people can see exactly how a program functions.