Process Charting Symbols - BS 4058:1987, ISO 5807-1985

I have been trying to find out if there is a standard for the symbols used in flowcharts and have found the following which may help some of you ...BS 4058:1987, ISO 5807-1985.

Mark John

Laura - 2003


I know that there is some debate about what the symbols may mean although it seems to be agreed that a diamond is a'decision box' and that a square is indicative of the process flowing.

I thought most people used the symbols on the drawing toolbar in Word. If you hover your mouse over each symbol in the menu it tells you what the symbol means!



I use both Visio and Word for flowcharting, but prefer Visio because it is so much easier and has more capability. Although they both have a multitude of symbols that can be used, I limit my charts to two: a simple box that describes the step, and the document symbol.

This is because not everyone in my company knows or cares what each little symbol is supposed to mean and there really isn't a need to enlighten them. Everything can be adequately explained in the boxes.

I don't use "decision points" with yes and no paths. The main flow of the chart is the "yes" path - anything that deviates is simply a diversionary path out of the box where the difference is. So there are no question boxes.

This keeps things fairly clean and straightforward. Both for me, and for anyone reading the flowchart.



Alternate actions just start a new path from the point where they branch off.

I'm attaching one of the early ones that I did. It's sort of rough but gives you an idea of what I mean.

I also use a cross-functional type of flowchart in Visio that has the actions listed all down the left side, all the departments or job functions across the top, and then I just put a shape into the column that corresponds to who's supposed to do the action.

For areas where decisions are made, I just don't ask the question. For the next step, you take whichever path fits. All I've really done is eliminate the question box because I thought it was redundant.


  • process flowchart.doc
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Well, I'm not sure how novel it is because this is my first experience with flowcharting ! I just did what made sense to me.

My linear ones have a grid - I think. I might not understand what you mean. But it is essentially a table with cross-secting lines and the symbol goes into the the cross-section.

I use the same symbol no matter what is being done. All the symbol is doing is marking who does what.

M Greenaway

Anyone know the difference between a flowchart and a process map ?

Al the Elf

The difference...

My training sessions have always said flowcharts go generally from top to bottom, and process maps go from left to right.

I don't get too worried about the difference, my primary goal is to make it clear to people what they're supposed to do.

Cheers, Al.


more flowchart symbols?

I sometimes want to use more elaborate symbols than the standard ones, and would like to find the correct ones to use. I use Visio, which has quite an array, but does not give clear definitions for them (orelse I haven't found the way to find out more).

Does anyone know of a website that gives a detailed glossary of standard/official flowchart symbols WITHOUT trying to sell their software?

Thanks in advance for your help



Process map and flowcharts.

Martin asked:
Anyone know the difference between a flowchart and a process map ?

This was discussed on the Process Mapping thread in this section. Here is what I said in that thread.

When working with a client and mapping their processes, I begin with a circle. On the left side, I list the obvious inputs, on the right, I list obvious outputs. Then, I add the points to the Cause and Effect diagram. We then begin listing all of the corresponding inputs from the CAED. It can be quite eye opening!

The process flow chart indicates the activities and decisions that occur during the process. This could be what goes in the center of the circle. The flow chart would show the steps in the process.

Both are different, because they look at different things. But they support each other.


barb butrym

Quite Involved in Discussions
I use VISIO. I set up a template using my favorites, and tagged them with my definition of what to use them for. Like a star indicates a quality record, a computer is electronic entry, rectangle is the process step, a CD icon links to video clips or other reference documents.... a circle with a number ties to another process within that fc, a slanted process block is an input. I use note symbols for lists/choices, etc. and a triangle for decision points and based on where I am, i come up with an icon for the output.... Basically its simple common sense. As long as you are consistent, you make the rules. The flow chart police won't come arrest you, do what makes sense. Then train everyone so they all understand whats going on.
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