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The Definitive Guide to Flowchart Shape Meanings in 2023

Confused about flowchart shapes? Our comprehensive guide to flowchart shape meanings is the solution you've been looking for. Read it now!

Flowcharts are a highly effective method of explaining complex materials in a simplified manner. They make the job much easier by visualizing processes and helping people understand different ideas step-by-step and concisely. They are used in a wide variety of fields, such as business management, software development, manufacturing, etc. Flowcharts consist of a number of different shapes, and all shapes have their own flowchart shapes meaning.

The Definitive Guide to Flowchart Shape Meanings

The symbols or shapes in a flowchart represent every stage that takes place in a flowchart and helps a person navigate through it. The presence of these shapes is essential to creating accurate and comprehensive flowcharts. In this flowchart shapes guide, we will discuss different flowchart shape meanings that will help readers improve their visual communication skills and will also help them streamline their work.

Table of Contents
What are Flowchart Shapes
10 Common Flowchart Shapes Meanings
Practice: How Does a Flowchart Shape Work

What are Flowchart Shapes?

Flowchart shapes are basic geometrical shapes that help people understand the different processes or decisions taking place in a flowchart. Meaning shapes help in better communication among several people and ensure a steady and smooth workflow, it’s convenience to use as you can present the whole process on an online whiteboard, Word and any other online board. These shapes are used in several industries and help in making the entire process easier and more understandable.

It is crucial to know the flowchart shape meanings to better understand the way a process is taking place and to come to a conclusion. There are ten common flowchart shapes, such as the oval, which indicates the starting or ending of a process; the rectangle represents a specific step in the process; the diamond represents a decision point, etc.

10 Common Flowchart Shapes Meanings

It is quite necessary to know what you are doing when making a flowchart, as it will help you efficiently map out your entire process. For this reason, we have compiled this article which provides a well-detailed flowchart shapes guide to the ten essential flowchart shapes.

10 Common Flowchart Shapes Meanings

Here, we will explain the most useful 10 shapes in a comprehensive manner, along with its meaning and usage and a few examples of how they can be used in different scenarios.

1. Start/End Shape

10 Common Flowchart Shapes Meanings

The Start/End symbol comes in an oval shape, also known as the “flowchart start shape,” which indicates the start or end of a flowchart. It helps people quickly identify where the process is beginning and where it is coming to an end, making it easier to understand. It also saves plenty of time.

This is the first and last shape you will see in a flowchart and is also referred to as a “terminator.” A process flow chart does not begin or end without the use of this specific shape.

This shape is used in different kinds of processes, such as software development processes, manufacturing processes, and business processes. Basically, this symbol is used in all kinds of flowcharts.

2. Process Shape

10 Common Flowchart Shapes Meanings

The Process symbol indicates a particular step or action in the process and is represented by the rectangle shape. It is one of the most common out of all the flowchart shapes and is used the most. This rectangle usually contains the entire description of a certain process in the flowchart.

This shape indicates all the different types of steps that are being taken in completing an action. This shape is also used in nearly all of the processes, such as management processes, manufacturing processes, and customer processes.

The Process symbol is also referred to as the “Action symbol” and is one of your go-to symbols once you start making a flowchart.

3. Decision Shape

10 Common Flowchart Shapes Meanings

This particular symbol is represented in the form of a diamond and is used when a decision needs to be taken. Inside the Decision shape is a question or a statement that usually requires a yes/no or true/false answer.

The next step of the process depends on the answer to this question. There will be two branches protruding from the diamond shape, one for the “yes” part and one for the “no” part of the question or statement. The answer to this question leads to different results in the next step of the flowchart.

Usually, the decision symbol is used in business processes, where the person is required to make a decision based on specific criteria.


4. Input/Output Shape

10 Common Flowchart Shapes Meanings

The Input/Output symbol is represented in the form of a parallelogram and is also known as the “Data Symbol.” This shape consists of external data that needs to go through the process of inputting or outputting. The parallelogram usually comes after a decision is made.

The presence of the Input/Output symbol indicates that more information is needed in the process. The parallelogram is usually used in processes related to software development, where the data is being processed by some computer program.

5. Connector Shape

10 Common Flowchart Shapes Meanings

As you can guess from the name, the connector symbols are used to indicate where a flowchart continues on the next page if it is a really long flowchart. There are two types of connectors; on-page connectors and off-page connectors.

The on-page connector indicates the continuation of a flowchart into separate pages, whereas the off-page connector is used to replace long lines on a flowchart. The on-page connector is represented by a bookmark shape consisting of a number and is used in complicated flowcharts.

The off-page connector is represented by a small circle and is also used in complicated flowcharts where there is a need of connecting separate elements.

6. Document Shape

10 Common Flowchart Shapes Meanings

The Document symbol consists of a rectangular shape with a wavy bottom. This shape is used to indicate the presence of a document in the flowchart. From the picture above, you can see what the symbol looks like when one or multiple documents are present in the flowchart.

Through this symbol, people can input various documents such as emails, orders, or a report and can output documents such as letters, memos, etc. The Document symbol contains the entire description of the document or report and provides additional information. This flowchart shape is used in the field of software development.

7. Arrows Shape

10 Common Flowchart Shapes Meanings

The arrows are one of the shapes in flowchart that are used to connect two different blocks with each other. They are used to guide people along the direction in which the flowchart is leading. The arrows indicate the direction in which the process is taking place, as well as the relationship between two different shapes.

You can also add certain text on top of these or arrows or leave them empty, it is up to you. The Unidirectional flow arrow is the usual arrow that indicates the direction in which the process flows. The Alternative data flow arrow represents an alternate path taking place in a normal or alternate process.

Lastly, bi-directional data flow refers to synchronization processes where steps above the lines need to be completed before the subsequent steps can take place.

8. Loop Shape

10 Common Flowchart Shapes Meanings

In a flowchart, the Loop Shape is used to represent a loop or a process that is repeating. In a flowchart, when you come across the Loop Shape, the entire condition is evaluated. Based on the result of the evaluation, the flowchart can have two options, i.e., it can continue along its “Yes” or “True” output path.

The second option is that it can simply loop back to an earlier point in the flowchart to re-evaluate the condition in case the “No” or “False” output arrow is followed. You will find that this shape is mostly used to represent loops in programming, where a block of code is continuously repeated until a specific condition is met.

9. Delay Shape

10 Common Flowchart Shapes Meanings

The Delay symbol comes in handy when you need to indicate a pause or delay that takes place in the process. It gives you the ability to let your viewers know that there will be a delay period in the middle of the process.

The symbol comes in the form of a rectangle that has a curved side, as can be seen above in the picture. The length of the delay can be mentioned within the shape, along with the reason for the delay. It can be used in all types of flowcharts where you need to indicate that there will be some sort of delay in the process for whatever reason.

10. Database Shape

10 Common Flowchart Shapes Meanings

The Database is also known as the Data file and is used to represent a data storage or retrieval option in a flowchart. The Database shape represents a database management system or a physical database containing essential information, such as a file, table, or document.

The shape of the Database symbol resembles that of a small tin can with vertical lines running at the top. In a flowchart, this symbol might also have a dot in its center, which represents a data storage device.

Most of the time, the database symbol is connected to other shapes in a flowchart that represents the functions performed on the data, like input, output, processing, and decision-making.

Practice: How Does a Flowchart Shape Work?

These are some of the most common shapes used while making a flowchart. Meaning shapes have their own flowchart shape meanings and represent specific stages in the process. They help viewers navigate through the entire flowchart with ease and better understand the entire process.

1. Identify and Select Appropriate Flowchart Shapes

Isn’t it way too complicated to remember the difficult names and functions of all the flowchart shapes? There are so many of them, such as oval, rectangle, parallelogram, diamond, arrow, etc., each having its own flowchart shape meanings.

One website that makes it easier for you to remember shapes is MioCreate, which is a highly efficient and useful website for you if you find yourself working with flowcharts often. Flowcharts and MioCreate go hand-in-hand and make the job much easier with its vast features.

MioCreate helps users determine the different types of flowchart shapes, as this website already offers pre-made flowchart templates.

2. Define the Meaning of the Chosen Shapes

Before you go to the next step, you should first know the different types of flowchaer shape meaning, so that you can have a better logic of what you are working on.

How Does a Flowchart Shape Work

3. Place the Shapes on the Whiteboard and Connect Them

Once you have done the above parts, a couple of options will be visible at the bottom. Out of these options, click the one with the shapes, and select the shape you wish to use. Drag the shape onto the Whiteboard and start flowcharting! With the help of lines, you can connect the entire process. If you don’t know the flowchart shape meanings, then MioCreate will help you with that too!


4. Review and Refine the Flowchart as Needed.

When the flowchart is complete, go over the details and see if it needs editing. MioCreate has all types of options to help you review and refine your flowchart so it is ready for the final presentation.


In conclusion, it is essential to know the flowchart shape meanings to help you with your communication. These shapes also help make the process much easier to understand for the viewers and quickly browse through the flowchart.

If you have trouble working with flowchart shapes and can’t seem to remember flowchart shape definitions, give MioCreate a try. You can put this guide into practice and hop on to the online working software of MioCreate.

There are plenty of advantages to working on MioCreate, as it allows you to work with your colleagues in a voice room. It also allows you to present your entire flowchart and can be easily shared with other people. Try it now!

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