Is Flowchart Mapping Better for Excel or Word?

Flowchart mapping in Excel or Word

Photo by Christina Morillo

Is it easier to make flowchart mapping in Excel or Word? Let’s find out more.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure” – Colin Powell

Doing anything well takes practice and all the abilities mentioned in this quote. With regard to flowchart mapping, time and a genuine interest to create useful diagrams are necessary. There is often a discussion on whether MS Word or Excel is better for the flowchart drawing capability. Information is critical to a company. Tools like interactive decision trees can help you deliver the right information to your clients.

Is Excel or Word Better For Flowchart Mapping?

The tilt is somewhat towards Excel and you will see why. The main point is that the area to ‘draw’ is only a single page in Word, which suffices only for smaller less detailed flowcharts. However, most business processes are long and complicated, requiring a space that enables flowchart mapping across several pages. In Word, such a flowchart would require a separate drawing space for each page. This creates problems with usability and when trying to view the overall flowchart or update it by moving shapes around.

Word does not have the drag-and-drop feature to move shapes from one page to the other with the connectors attached to the shapes. The process of doing so is long and tedious. Excel, on the other hand, has a limitless drawing space. It allows for free movement of the shapes representing process steps from one page to the next, with easier scrolling and zooming. As mentioned, the exercise of flowchart mapping is about simplifying processes and includes amending the diagrams.

How To Create Shapes in Word vs In Excel

When creating shapes for a diagram in Word, you have to right-click on the shape to select the option of Add Text post. Only then can the typing start. In Excel, clicking on the shape allows the user to start typing text instantly. This might seem like a trivial extra step. But, you have to repeat this extra step for every shape representing a step in a process, which can be a difficult task. With regard to format editing for a step, both Word and Excel ‘allow’ it. However, Excel enables the selection of multiple shapes in the flowchart mapping process. You can change the formatting in all of them.

On the other hand, in Word, if you select multiple shapes, the entire formatting commands of alignment, style, and font becomes disabled. Now, this can be extremely cumbersome. When the flowchart direction is left to right, the text aligns horizontally. Excel enables the centering of the text for the entire process in only 2 steps. However, in Word, you need to move each step individually. In the top-to-bottom direction used in a flowchart, text looks most organized when aligned in the center of a symbol. Such alignment is possible in Excel and not Word. Excel also scores from the perspective of easier formatting of the shapes.

Using The Auto-size Feature In Excel and Word

Both Excel and Word have the feature of “auto-size”, and here Word scores over Excel. It is easier to alter the height of a shape to completely fit the text when using Word. In Excel, the width changes to contain the content in a single line, which is not what one requires.  For a flowchart to work well, hyperlinks between one process step to another should be possible. It enhances the usability of the process flowchart. Word allows hyperlinks with the feature of ‘auto shapes’, while Excel can hyperlink within one spreadsheet. It does not allow hyperlinks to a different shape.

Excel scores with process deployment and swim lane flowcharts. Swim lane charts are the rows or columns in a process map. They point to the various resources required for a process. The row and column design of Excel makes the creation of process deployment and swim lane flowcharts extremely easy.

Flowchart mapping as a tool is usually a critical part of process documentation. It is often part of instruction manuals and user guides, and most creators prefer such documentation in Word. Hence, it is simpler to create flowcharts in Word, since creating them in Excel would have its problems. The flowchart would need to be copied from Excel and pasted into word, but would still need to retain the original for updating and maintenance. In addition, all the formatting of the text is lost when copying and pasting shapes into Word. It makes sense to create a flowchart in the same ‘space’ in which it is to be published.

Flowchart mapping is the most basic and fundamental tool to display any business process. It is the simplest form of this tool. It helps to describe process steps with symbols and be part of instruction manuals. Flowchart mapping is also the investigation of the steps of a process. It is possible to clearly analyze each step in terms of the improvement impact each step has on a process. With Excel, it is possible to state performance features of the process near the flowchart for ease of analysis.

Excel as a program for flowchart mapping seems to score on most counts. For example, using graphics in Word can be highly cumbersome and even an annoying experience. For example, moving one shape moves others, and sometimes even out of viewable space. It would be necessary for the creator of a flowchart to completely comprehend the drawing elements and their positions. It’s not recommended to alter the size of the page drawing space beyond the margins, since it’s bound to negatively affect the layout on the succeeding pages. Excel is an easier-to-learn program and does have a peculiar manner to Word. From the perspective of flowchart mapping, Excel outperforms Word on several levels.

Excel is Better for Flowcharting

As a flowcharting tool, MS Excel, therefore, is a lot easier to work with and user-friendly. It has features that make it ideal for flowchart mapping. However, it really is the prerogative of creators and process owners to choose either of the programs for creating process maps. Hopefully, this exposition will help to understand what would work better for your company and its processes. Happy flowchart mapping!

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand” – Vince Lombardi

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