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How to make a flowchart in Excel

Microsoft Excel has features that allow you to create a flowchart right in Excel, but some formatting and manual adjustments need to be done beforehand to implement your shapes and text. We have created a guide to flowchart templates in Excel for more information. Although we recommend creating a flowchart in Lucidchart and using our MS Office Excel add-in to add your diagram (because it saves time), we followed the steps to create a flowchart using Excel.

1. Format a grid

A grid just makes creating flow charts and other charts in Excel a little easier. However, this step is not required if you are experienced with Excel. By formatting a grid, you change the column width so that columns are the same width as the standard row height, which makes added shapes more consistent and proportionate.

Select all cells in your spreadsheet> Right click on one of the highlighted columns> Choose Column Width> Set Column Width to 2.14> Click OK.

2. Activate the function "Align to grid" / "Page orientation"

With the function "Snap to grid" you can change the size of your flowchart shapes and align them with the next grid line. When you use the Align To Shape option, your shapes will be aligned using the edges of other nearby shapes on your flowchart.

Go to "Page Layout"> Click the "Alignment" drop-down menu> Select "Snap to Grid" (or alternatively "Snap to Shape").

3. Define the page layout

It is important that you format the page layout in your Excel worksheet before creating a flowchart. This allows you to better display your content and makes copying that content into other Microsoft applications much easier.

Click on the “Page Layout” tab and use the “Margins”, “Orientation” and “Size” menu options to make the required settings.

When changing the design via the page layout tab, please make sure that not only the font and colors but also the row height and column width are adjusted, which affects the number of shapes per page.

4. Add shapes

There are two ways to add shapes to a flowchart in Excel: SmartArt Graphics or Shapes - both can be found under the Insert tab. SmartArt graphics are predefined groups of shapes with built-in design and built-in logic. Shapes are individual objects that can be added to and edited in worksheets. Read our guide to flowchart symbols and labels to familiarize yourself with the most common flowchart shapes.

Insert symbols in Excel with SmartArt

Go to the "Insert" tab and select "SmartArt". A pop-up window will ask you to choose a SmartArt graphic. We recommend choosing graphics from the "Process" category, as they are most similar to a standard flowchart. However, you don't have to limit yourself to a single category. Choose any graphic that fits your specific charting needs.

After you have selected the SmartArt graphic you want, a preview of the graphic appears in the right column with an explanation of the logic. Please note that not every option is shown in flowchart form.

To replace your graphic with a SmartArt element, select it and click Delete. Then click the SmartArt graphics (Insert> SmartArt) and choose a different type of diagram. If you'd rather change the layout of the SmartArt graphic, select the shape (s) and choose a new style from the Design tab on the ribbon. The layout of the SmartArt diagram can be edited at any time without losing any text.

Add more flowchart shapes from the Design tab and connect them with lines until your flowchart is complete. You may find that, unlike Lucidchart's extensive shape library and shape import capabilities, there are only a limited number of shapes that can be added to some SmartArt graphics. If your SmartArt supports adding as many shapes as you want, always choose the shape that is closest to where you want to add the new shape. Depending on the shape you inserted, you may need to select the entire diagram. Then choose an action such as “Add Shape” under “Design”.

Insert symbols in Excel with Shapes

You can also use the Shape tool to create your flowchart in Excel. Go to the Insert tab and select Shapes. A library appears with various basic shapes such as lines, arrows and geometric shapes.

Click the flowchart shape you want to add and drag the shape to the size you want on the Excel spreadsheet. You can just click the shape to resize it, or you can drag the shape anywhere in the document.

Add more shapes and connect them with lines until your flowchart is complete.

5. Add text

Add text to your flowchart by clicking your inserted flowchart icon and then starting to type. With SmartArt graphics, the size of the text fields is automatically adjusted to the length of your text.

Edit your text by choosing font options from the Home ribbon or the dialog box that appears next to the shapes.

6. Add lines

To join shapes with lines, click Insert> Shapes, and then click the line style you want. Then hold down the mouse button and draw the line on the worksheet.

7. Format the flowchart

When you have added your flowchart shapes, texts and lines to your Excel spreadsheet, you will find more options in the upper ribbon to customize colors, styles and formats. Try everything by adding lines and shapes from the Insert tab and changing the line thickness, fonts, colors, and transparency.