Creating Flow Charts in Excel: A Guide to Effective Data Visualization

Creating flow charts in Excel might seem like a daunting task at first, but it’s actually a straightforward process that can greatly enhance your data visualization. In essence, you’ll be using shapes and lines to represent the steps in a process, making complex data easier to understand at a glance. Let’s dive into how you can create an effective flow chart right in Excel.

Step by Step Tutorial: Creating Flow Charts in Excel

Creating a flow chart in Excel involves inserting shapes, connecting them with lines, and adding text to outline a process or system. Let’s break down the steps to make your own flow chart.

Step 1: Open Excel and Select a Blank Worksheet

Open Excel on your computer and choose a blank worksheet to start creating your flow chart.

To create a flow chart in Excel, it’s best to start with a blank canvas. Once you have Excel open, select a new, blank worksheet where you’ll build your chart. This gives you plenty of space to work and organize your flow chart for maximum effectiveness.

Step 2: Go to the Insert Tab and Choose Shapes

Navigate to the ‘Insert’ tab on the Excel ribbon and click on the ‘Shapes’ button to see a variety of shapes you can use for your flow chart.

In the ‘Shapes’ menu, you’ll find a range of options, from rectangles and ovals to more complex shapes like arrows and flowchart-specific icons. These will serve as the building blocks of your flow chart, each representing a step or decision point in the process you’re mapping.

Step 3: Draw Your Shapes on the Worksheet

Click and drag on the worksheet to draw the shapes you’ve selected for your flow chart.

Each shape can be resized and moved around to fit the layout of your flow chart. Think about the flow of the process you’re illustrating and place your shapes accordingly. You might use rectangles for steps, diamonds for decision points, and ovals for start and end points.

Step 4: Add Connector Lines Between Shapes

Use the ‘Shapes’ menu to select a line or arrow and connect your shapes in the order they occur in the process.

These connector lines are crucial, as they show the direction of the workflow. Arrows are particularly useful for indicating the flow of steps, especially when there are multiple paths or outcomes based on decisions within the process.

Step 5: Add Text to Your Shapes and Lines

Double-click on a shape or line to add text that describes the step or decision it represents.

Your flow chart won’t be effective unless viewers can understand what each part signifies. Adding text labels to each shape and line is the finishing touch that turns a collection of shapes into a clear and informative flow chart.

After completing these steps, you’ll have a basic flow chart that outlines a process. You can then format it further, adjusting shapes, colors, and fonts to make it easier to read and more visually appealing.

Tips for Creating Flow Charts in Excel

  • Keep the design simple and consistent, using similar shapes and colors for the same types of steps or decisions.
  • Use clear, concise labels for shapes and lines to ensure your flow chart is easy to understand.
  • Align your shapes and distribute them evenly for a tidy and professional appearance.
  • Use color coding to differentiate between different phases or types of actions within the flow chart.
  • Check that the flow chart is logical and that all paths lead to an endpoint, with no loose ends.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I align shapes in Excel?

To align shapes, select the shapes you want to align, then go to the ‘Format’ tab and choose the desired alignment option under the ‘Arrange’ group.

Aligning shapes makes your flow chart look organized and professional. You can align them horizontally or vertically, or even distribute them evenly across the page.

Can I copy a flow chart from Excel to another program?

Yes, you can copy and paste a flow chart from Excel to programs like Word or PowerPoint.

Once you’ve selected the entire flow chart, simply copy it and paste it into your desired document or presentation. This can be handy if you need to include your flow chart as part of a larger report or slideshow.

How do I change the color of a shape in my flow chart?

Right-click on the shape and select ‘Format Shape’. Then, choose a color from the ‘Fill’ option.

Changing the color of shapes can help differentiate between various steps or decisions, making your flow chart easier to follow.

Can I create a flow chart in Excel on a Mac?

Yes, the process for creating a flow chart in Excel on a Mac is similar to the process on a PC.

The interface may look slightly different, but the tools you need to create a flow chart—shapes, lines, and text—are all available in Excel for Mac.

How do I save my Excel flow chart for sharing?

Save your Excel file as normal, or export it as a PDF for easy sharing that preserves the layout and formatting.

When saving as a PDF, go to ‘File’, then ‘Save As’, and choose PDF from the drop-down menu. This creates a shareable file that looks the same on any device.


  1. Open Excel and select a blank worksheet.
  2. Go to the ‘Insert’ tab and choose shapes.
  3. Draw your shapes on the worksheet.
  4. Add connector lines between shapes.
  5. Add text to your shapes and lines.


Creating flow charts in Excel is a valuable skill that can take your data visualization to the next level. Whether you’re mapping out business processes, organizational workflows, or any other type of system, flow charts offer a clear and concise way to present complex information. With a few simple tools and a bit of creativity, you can turn a spreadsheet full of data into a visual masterpiece that anyone can understand.

Remember, the key to an effective flow chart is clarity. Use consistent shapes and colors, and don’t forget those all-important labels. And once you’ve mastered the basics, you can start experimenting with more advanced formatting options to make your flow charts truly stand out.

So why not give it a try? With the steps and tips outlined in this article, you’re well on your way to becoming a flow chart pro. And who knows, you might just find that Excel is more versatile than you ever imagined.

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