This tutorial shows how to create a Flow charts in Excel. Flowcharts help you logically represent a sequence of activities in a process. Before you begin, you may want to download and analyze this sample flowchart template created using excel. Making flowcharts in Excel can be as easy and fast as it is in Microsoft Visio without having to buy a license for the later. If you work in a company where a lot of planning and process engineering is carried out, this small tutorial on developing flowcharts in Excel can help you save a lot of time, energy and money.
(For the beginners: – A Flowchart allows you to diagrammatically lay out the sequence of events of a process in a logical manner. It also helps identify loose ends and missing steps in the flow of activities. It remains a vital tool for project and process management.) (Read more about basics of flowchart here.)
A special gift for the readers of da TaB: download your free copy of the flowchart program in Excel here.
Here are a few steps on how to create or develop a flowchart in excel:
Enable excel drawing toolbar (if not already enabled) to introduce new shapes and connectors in the flowchart
Ensure that the Excel drawing toolbar is enabled. The drawing toolbar has tools that allow you to draw the shapes that the flowchart will use. These include the decision, process, events and various other shapes in a flowchart. All these flowchart entities can be drawn using the “AutoShapes” menu option.
You can click on the “Flowchart” option under this menu to view the various flowchart shapes and object that you can add to your flowchart. Similarly you can click the “Connectors” menu option to open the connector option box and select the ones that you wish to utilize. While the shapes represent an activity of a process of the project, the connectors represent the logical flow of events over a period of time and help depict the precedence (and dependence) of one events over another.
Set column width so that each cell becomes a square
Although this is not necessary, it may be a good idea to decrease the width and make all the cells in the spreadsheet square. This can augment your sense of placement and spacing and help you draw various flowchart elements proportionate to each other. This also makes the spreadsheet resemble a Microsoft Visio sheet and can help transition regular users over to Excel.
Enable Snap to Grid feature
By clicking on “Draw” -> “Snap” -> “To Grid” in the Excel drawing toolbar, you can enable the flowchart objects to align and stick with the corners of the individual cells of the spreadsheet. This is a great feature since it automatically takes care of alignment of the various flowchart shapes. The moment you draw a shape, it will automatically snap and stick to the corner of the cell you began drawing it in. This will help you place new flowchart items around the earlier ones without having to worry too much about their alignment.
Provide all cells with a new dotted border to improve contrast between various shapes of the flowchart
Again though this is not a mandatory step, I prefer selecting all the cells in the spreadsheet and providing them with a dotted border. You can selection all the cells in the spreadsheet in excel by either press Ctrl+A simply clicking on the area representing the intersection of the row and column headers. Once you have all the cells selected, simply right click anywhere on the sheet and click “Format Cells”. In the box that appears, click on the “Border” tab. In the “Colors” drop-down pick a lighter shade of Grey. In the “Line” option, pick up the dotted style. Finally in the “Presents”, click on the “Outside” and then the “Inside” box so that each cell now acquired a dotted light Grey border. The light grey shade helps separate the flowchart elements from those of the spreadsheet as well as provide a proper contrast while working developing the flowchart in excel.
Insert flowchart shapes from the excel drawing toolbar
Shapes represent events or processes in the flowchart. As outlines in step1, you can introduce new shapes in the flowchart from the excel drawing toolbar. It is a good idea to simply drag the flowchart palette out of the menu and place it anywhere on your screen so that you don’t have to keep on click on the menu bar every time you have to introduce a new shape.
Introduce Connectors for the flowchart
Connectors represent the logical flow of events or resources over a period of time and help establish the precedence of one event over another. Similar to the flowchart shape’s palette described above, you can separate out the connector’s palette so that introducing a new connector simply becomes a one-click task. Connectors “snap to grid” automatically when brought near a flowchart shape. Importantly, when you move a shape, the connectors will also move. If you attach both ends of a connector properly to two shapes, no matter how much or where you move the shapes, you always find that the connector will always remain attached to the end of the shape.
Format shapes if needed
Finally, you may want to double click on the flowchart shape’s border and change the fill color, border style or other properties as per your needs. I prefer leaving the shapes as default but in many cases you will find that a adding a set of fill colors can convey richer information about the sub-processes of the overall process.
One important point to keep in mind while creating flowcharts in excel is that the connectors can and will tend to cross over shapes and other connectors, potentially resulting in confusion over the flow. Whenever possible, you may want to lay out the various shapes (events) in the diagram in such a manner that the cross over of connectors can be reduced to a minimum.
This tutorial covered the various steps on how to create/develop a flowchart in Excel. While there are other more sophisticated software/packages available for creating more robust flowcharts for project management and charting out flow of events, oftentimes creating them using excel remains the most cost-effective and rapid means of development (apart from a simple whiteboard and a marker, that is )