Making Swimlane Flowcharts with Google Docs

I have used a variety of business process mapping software to create flowcharts over the years and none has impressed me as much as the simple flowcharting available now in Google Docs. It is so easy to create swimlane flowcharts and other useful business process modeling documents that if I were starting a small business I would certainly consider using Google Docs for all of my documentation needs.

In the past I have used Office 2007 for example flowcharts that I have posted on here like this swimlane flowchart example. And frankly I think it looks pretty good. Pretty easy to make them, but not super easy. And of course Office isn’t cheap.

So it was with great interest this morning that I read New flowchart shapes and multi-line text in drawings from the official Google Docs blog. I didn’t realize that Google docs had any flowcharting at all!

Well, indeed it does and it is very, very easy to create a simple swimlane flowchart in a matter of minutes. Here is what it looks like when you are in edit mode:

Swimlane Flowcharts in Google Docs

And here is what it looks like when inserted into a document:

Google Docs Document with SwimLane FlowChart

To make the swimlanes you simply add a large rectangle for each lane you would like to draw. Remember that in a swimlane flowchart each lane represents a different person, group, team, etc. There are a wide variety of different flowchart shapes to choose from and there are connectors like arrows as you would expect. Regarding the arrows I was a little disappointed that they are not smart arrows than can be snapped to each shape effectively, they don’t seem to have any relation to the shapes which I think could use some improvement.

However, remember that Google Docs are free! And these can be easily shared with members of your team for business process collaboration, which is what I think, other than cost, is the biggest benefit to using Google Docs.

Looking for a cheap business process mapping tool to create your own swimlane flowcharts? Give Google Docs a try!

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