How to Make a Flowchart in Excel

by David Weedmark

When it comes to processes, a flowchart can add meaning and context to the numbers. Using the Illustration options in Excel 2013, you can insert a flowchart in any worksheet. Take a look at the SmartArt graphics first. If you find something that has exactly the same number of processes you want to illustrate, use that. Otherwise, you're better off drawing one from scratch using Shapes. Either way, the process should take only a few minutes.

Using SmartArt

Click the Insert tab above a new Excel worksheet and click Illustrations. Click the SmartArt icon.

Cycle SmartArt Graphics options.

Click the Process or Cycle option and look for a SmartArt graphic that suits the flowchart you want. When you click on a thumbnail, a preview appears on the right. Look at the design as well as the number of processes the graphic includes. Click OK to open the graphic. The SmartArt appears in a bounding box that you can resize by dragging any corner.

Change the color and line weight of any graphic.

Click the [Text] placeholders and enter the text you want. Excel automatically resizes your text as needed. Select any graphic and right-click to change the Fill or Line color as well as change the thickness, or Weight, of each graphic.

Drawing a Flowchart From Scratch

Drawing Shapes

Basic shapes available in Excel.

Click the Illustrations icon in Excel's Insert ribbon and select Shapes. Choose any shape that suits a process, like a Rectangle, Oval or a Pentagon.

The Drawing Tools Format ribbon.

Drag the cursor over the worksheet to draw the shape. Right-click the shape, or click the Drawing Tools' Format tab, to change the Shape Fill or Shape Outline.

Middle Align and the Center Align the text.

Right-click the shape, select Edit Text and then type a brief description of the first process. To change the formatting, highlight the text and click the Home tab. Click the Middle Align and the Center Align icons in the Home ribbon's Alignment section to have the text perfectly centered in the shape.

Repeat this process to add a shape for each process in the flowchart.

Adding Connectors

Use Connectors if you want relatively thin arrows that are connected to the shapes. When you move the shapes around, connectors adapt to the new layout by changing their size and shape.

The Elbow Arrow Connector.

Select any line from the Lines section of the Shapes menu. The Elbow Arrow Connector works well for flowcharts, since it can appear as a straight line or have one or two elbows, depending on the positions of the shapes it's connecting.

Click the red anchor to secure a connector.

Hover the cursor over the first shape and then click a red anchor that appears on its border. Hover the cursor over the second shape and click one of its red anchors. The connector is now attached, with the arrow pointing at the second shape.

Change the Weight to change a connector's thickness.

Right-click the connector and click the Outline icon to change its Color and Weight. Note that if two shapes are very close together, the connector may appear jagged. You can straighten it by nudging one of the shape's position.

Using Block Arrows

The advantage of block arrows in a flowchart is that they offer a larger, bolder design than connectors. You can also specify a different outline color than the fill color, which isn't possible with connectors.

Select a block arrow from the Shapes menu.

Select any shape from the Block Arrows section of the Shapes drop-down menu. Drag the cursor over the worksheet to draw the arrow.

Resize or rotate the arrow as needed.

Resize an arrow by dragging any of the anchor points on its border. To rotate an arrow, drag the circular Rotate anchor. To change an arrow's direction, drag one of the anchors on a center edge to the opposite edge.

Add arrows between each shape in the flowchart.

Add additional arrows to the flowchart as needed and adjust their position as needed. Note that you can copy and paste an arrow to duplicate it, simply by pressing Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V.

About the Author

A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses and governments on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines throughout Canada and the United States.