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Gliffy’s Ultimate Guide to Flowchart Symbols, from Basic to Advanced

4 Basic Flowchart Symbols

Say you stumbled upon an extraordinary flowchart on one of your organization’s Confluence pages with a few symbols you’ve never used before. Or maybe you’re new to the whole flowcharting game and want to make sure you’ve got all the building blocks to get started. Add these to your metaphorical toolkit, pull them up in Gliffy’s actual left sidebar, and you’re good to go.

1. The Oval

An End or a Beginning


The oval, or terminator, is used to represent the start and end of a process. Drag and drop one of these bad boys and you've got yourself the beginning of a flowchart. Remember to use the same symbol again to show that your flowchart is complete.


2. The Rectangle

A Step in the Flowcharting Process


The rectangle is your go-to symbol once you've started flowcharting. It represents any step in the process you’re diagramming and is the workhorse of the flowchart diagram. Use rectangles to capture process steps like basic tasks or actions in your process.


3. The Arrow

Indicate Directional Flow

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The arrow is used to guide the viewer along their flowcharting path. And while there are many different types of arrow tips to choose from, we recommend sticking with one or two for your entire flowchart. This keeps your diagram looking clean, but also allows you to emphasize certain steps in your process.


4. The Diamond

Indicate a Decision


The diamond symbolizes that a decision is required to move forward. This could be a binary, this-or-that choice or a more complex decision with multiple choices. Make sure that you capture each possible choice within your diagram.

With those four basic symbols, you likely have everything you need to get started on your own flowchart! Give it a try with Gliffy or read on for more info on intermediate flowcharting symbols.


Intermediate & Advanced Flowchart Symbols

As you know, flowcharts are made up of a sequence of actions, data, services, and/or materials. They illustrate where data is being input and output, where information is being stored, what decisions need to be made, and which people need to be involved. In addition to the basics, these intermediate flowchart symbols will help you describe your process with even more detail.

Document Symbols


Single and multiple document icons show that there are additional points of reference involved in your flowchart. You might use these to indicate items like “create an invoice” or “review testing paperwork.”


Data Symbols


Data symbols clarify where the data your flowchart references is being stored. (Please comment if you’re still using the paper tape symbol for something — the Gliffy team is really curious!).


Input & Output


Input and output symbols show where and how data is coming in and out throughout your process.


Merging & Connecting


Agreed-upon merging and connector symbols make it easier to connect flowcharts that span multiple pages.


Additional Useful Shapes


The above are a few additional symbols that prove your flowcharting prowess when put to good use.

Leave an Idea!

All these shapes can help you define the dizziest of processes, so we’re curious: what’s something you’d like to see expertly flowcharted? We know a few diagrammers who might be able to make it happen… 😉



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