Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Flow charts with Excel - Tips

I guess, there are better tools for professional flow charting. Never the less, today I was exploring how to do that with excel with ease. Found some interesting tips and thought of sharing..

Some of the things that we look for, when we prepare flow charts
  • Alignment. 
  • Consistency - related to shapes and connectors. 
  • Ease of modification. 

Let us see if we can get them with excel as a tool

Alignment and Shape Consistency
Square grid representation of the excel cells is a very good way to align the shapes. In excel 2007, the default cell hight is 2.14 inch. So go ahead and modify the cell width of all the cells to 2.14
Cell width Selection

Cell width to 2.14

Next thing to change the alignment of default shapes to "Snap to grid" Option. 

Select Snap to Grid

Ease of modification
Typical modifications we do to existing flow chart include 
  • Change the width or height of the shapes
  • Create space between two existing shapes
  • Moving the shapes. 

First two can be achieved easily by inserting or deleting rows (or columns) for modifying height (or width). Excel by default stretches or shrinks the shape along with cell it snapped to. 

Inserting a column will increase the width of all the shapes that fall on top of the selected column

For easy movement of the shapes on the sheets, we can choose the 'z' shaped connectors and attach them to the shapes. They modify themselves to give only horizontal/vertical lines which a good look for the flow chart. 

'Z' connector

Moving the shape. 

Let me know if you got some more tips. 

Update: Here is a better source.
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