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Microsoft Office: Flowcharts

Welcome to this month's Hot Tip from Black Swan Training Solutions. This time we are going to look at creating flowcharts using the drawing tools in Microsoft Office.

The drawing tools in Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc. all work in the same way, and have tools specifically for creating flowcharts. Visio, which is Microsoft's specialist drawing package, also has excellent flowchart tools but works in different way and so is not covered in this tip.

To create a flowchart you need to be able to see the Drawing toolbar. This is usually at the bottom of the screen and has a button named 'Draw'. If you can't see it give the command View - Toolbars and make sure there is a tick against Drawing.

The button on the Drawing toolbar we'll be using most is the Autoshapes one.

Draw the First Shape of Your Flowchart:

  1. Click Autoshapes.
  2. Choose Flowchart from the list.
  3. Click the shape you want and draw it into your document.
  4. Draw a second shape so that we can draw the connecting line between them.
  5. The mistake that people often make now is to draw a normal line. If you have Office XP or 2003 You should use a Connector instead.

Connectors are special lines that join anchor points on the shapes, and stretch and contract when you move the shapes, so that they are always joined.

To Draw a Connector (XP and later versions of Office):

  1. Click the Autoshapes button and choose Connectors from the list.
  2. Click the style of connector that you want.
  3. Now when you move the mouse to the first shape you want to connect, its anchor points light-up.
  4. Click the anchor point where you want to attach one end of your line.
  5. Point at the second shape (the anchor points will light-up again) and click where you want your line to end.

Test the connection by dragging one of the shapes to a different position. The connector should stay attached at both ends.

All sorts of shapes can be connected using the Connectors. You can use normal rectangles and ovals, for example, as well as the flowchart shapes.

Good luck with creating your flowcharts!

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