Flowchart Symbols in Programming: Definition, Functions & Examples

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  • 0:02 What are Flowchart Symbols?
  • 0:32 Functions of Flowchart Symbols
  • 2:01 Some Examples
  • 2:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Alisa Perry

Alisa has taught college Computer Technology and has a master's degree in Computer Science.

Much like symbols on a map can tell us what action to take, flowchart symbols represent the various actions of a computer program. In this lesson, we'll learn why these symbols are necessary and go over some of the most basic types used by programmers.

What Are Flowchart Symbols?

As we go about our daily lives, we are constantly seeing symbols. For instance, even without words, we know the red octagon-shaped sign means STOP. With so many symbols in the world, have you ever wondered about the symbols with lines and arrows connecting them that programmers seem to find fascinating? Well, these are flowchart symbols.

Flowchart symbols are specific shapes used to create a visual representation of a program.

Some of the basic flowchart symbols can be seen here:

Basic Flowchart Symbols

Functions of Flowchart Symbols

Each symbol has its own function within the program. Each symbol represents a piece of the code written for the program. The start/end symbol can be used to represent either the beginning or ending of a program. The symbol for process allows you to show how the program is functioning, like when you need the program to calculate two numbers or even analyze the information.

When you decide to enter data, show it on the screen, or print it to paper, you use the input/output symbol. The display symbol signifies that information is displayed to the user.

Next, you'll find a brief example of a program that allows you to input your name then the computer will display it on the screen.

Basic Flowchart to Display Your Name
Basic Flowchart to Display Name

There are many other symbols frequently used in flowcharts. The decision symbol is used for things like 'if statements,' where you must choose an option based on a specified criteria. A decision question may be something as simple as: if the grade is at least 70 then send out the message 'Passing' to the screen. Otherwise, send 'Failing' to the screen.

Sometimes when you're drawing a flowchart, you may need to leave from a portion of the chart and restart somewhere else, causing a break in the flow of the chart. For instance, you may get to the bottom of a column and need to go back to the top of the page to continue with a new column. Adding the connector symbol with a number in it at the exiting and re-entry points with the same number in them helps the reader understand the flow and continue following the program logic correctly.

Some Examples

Good programming requires preparation. A great way to prepare before writing even one line of code, especially for the beginner, is using flowchart symbols to create a flowchart. Visual representation of a program using flowchart symbols can increase your understanding of the program flow. This also makes it easier to read, reducing the number of errors in your program as well as reducing the amount of time you spend troubleshooting.

Here are some more examples of flowchart symbols:

Flowchart examples


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