A flowchart is a diagram that describes a process or operation. It includes multiple steps, which the process "flows" through from start to finish. Common uses for flowcharts include developing business plans, defining troubleshooting steps, and designing mathematical algorithms. Some flowcharts may only include a few steps, while others can be highly complex, containing hundreds of possible outcomes.
Flowcharts typically use standard symbols to represent different stages or actions within the chart. For example, each step is shown within a rectangle, while each decision is displayed in a diamond. Arrows are placed between the different symbols to show the direction the process is flowing. While flowcharts can be created with a pen and paper, there are several software programs available that make designing flowcharts especially easy. Common programs that can be used to create flowcharts include SmartDraw and Visio for Windows and OmniGraffle for the Mac.