Flowcharts are a graphical representation of a process. Flowcharts are used in many industries, including entertainment, engineering, physical sciences and computer programming. There are many software tools that are used to create flowcharts, such as MS Visio, MS Office (using Smart Art) and Draw from the OpenOffice.org suite. We will use Draw from OpenOffice.org for this tutorial.
Flowcharts are created using simple shapes as in the illustration. There are more shapes available but with just these few we can accurately represent the mailing label printing process. The shapes are connected to each other using a connector, which is a line that attaches two or more shapes together.
Open up the Draw program and ensure that you are starting with a blank page. At the bottom of the window is a tool bar. Click on the large T to place the cursor in text mode and draw a rectangle across the top of the page. In the resulting box, type in a title for the flowchart "Print a mailing label". Next, hover over the images on the tool bar and a short name for those shapes will pop up. When you find the "Flowchart" shapes left click and a small window will open. Click on the rectangle shape and then on the blank page left click and hold while drawing with the mouse to expand the rectangle. When the shape is a good size, release the mouse button. It does not matter where on the page you put this since you can move the shape on the page once it is drawn. You should see one rectangle on your drawing page.
Select the flowchart shapes from the bottom tool bar and this time select the diamond shape. As before, do a "click-drag-release" to create a diamond shape. In the example above you can see that the diamond needs to be positioned to the left side of the page. Place the rest of the shapes on the page. If you need to move the shapes around once they are created, click on the shape and when you see a 4 headed arrow, left click and drag the shape to the new location and release.
Adding text to a shape is very easy. Click on the shape and you will see little green boxes surrounding the shape. On the tool bar click on the large T which will place the cursor in text mode. Now begin typing the label into the shape. You may need to resize the shape to accept the text. The font size can also be changed using the tool bars at the top of the page. Follow the diagram from the start of the article and complete entering the text into all of the shapes.
On the tool bar find the "connector" symbol and left click on the down arrow there. The connector in the middle of the top row is the one we want and will use it to connect all of our shapes together. It has a box on the left and a line with an arrow on the end to the right. Left click on the connector in the upper left corner and then on the drawing page click on the first shape and then drag the mouse to the shape below it and release. Notice that the line is drawn between the two shapes. If you were to move one of the connected shapes, the line will adjust and move with the shapes. At times, you may need to adjust the line so that it is pleasing to the eye. Grab the red square in the middle of the line and move that to adjust the line. For the lines coming from the diamond shape, left click on the line and click on the large T in the tool bar. Type the Yes and No on each line respectively. Continue connecting shapes like the example flowchart and remember that you can move the lines and shapes all over the page if necessary to make it look like you want it to.
You should now have a flowchart that is similar to the one at the start of the article. There are many variations to the simple flowchart and you will find some examples in the references and resources below.
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