How to Make a Data Flow Diagram (DFD)

What is Data Flow Diagram?

A data flow diagram (DFD) is used to represent the flow of information within a system visually. Hence, you can draw data flow diagram to show how information leaves and enters into a system, how it is used and where it is kept. For drawing data flow diagrams, different symbols and shapes are used, which are known as notations. The DFD or context flow diagram is commonly used in software engineering, business analysis, agile development, system structures, etc. While you can draw a DFD by hand, it is best to use an online DFD maker.

In today’s article, we will tell you how to make a data flow diagram quickly and easily.

Symbols and Notations Used in DFDs

The DFDs are drawn with the help of certain symbols and notations which depict the components of a flow chart. Therefore, to discuss the symbols and notations, we must know about the components of DFD, which are:

  • External Entity – an outside system that transfers and receives data with the main system.
  • Process – Any series of steps that change the input data to produce output.
  • Data Flow – This is the route that the data goes through within a system.
  • Data Store – Location of files/repositories that hold or store the data.

Here are the symbols and notations used in DFDs:

  • Yourdon and Coad
  • Yourdon and DeMarco
  • Gane and Sarson
data flow diagram notation

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How to Make a Data Flow Diagram

Edraw Max Online is an online DFD maker that can be used to create data flow diagrams online. Follow this DFD tutorial step by step to create data flow diagrams online in Edraw:

Step 1 – Open Edraw Max Online

Open Edraw Max Online by opening this link: on your browser. 

open edraw max online

Step 2 – Open Flowchart

On the navigation pane on the left side of the screen, scroll down to Flowchart. Click on the Data Flow diagram and wait for the templates to load. Now you will choose a free template or create a DFD yourself by using a blank template.

open flowchart

Step 3 – Create a DFD

Once you click on any template (blank or pre-designed), a new Edraw Online tab will open up in the browser. To create a Data Flow diagram with the help of a pre-made template, just edit and customize the template until you are happy with the results.

open new template

Now to make the DFD from scratch, start creating your diagram on the blank sheet. To use symbols, drawing and other visual tools, use the Symbol Library. Click on the icon next to Symbol Library on the left side of the screen. Now search for more symbols and icons in the Library pop-window. Scroll down to the Flowchart and select the DFD symbols. Finally, click OK to add it to your symbol library on the left.

open library

You can use these symbols and shapes to create a DFD. Display them on the drawing page and use them with connection lines to draft the chart. Arrange the symbols to portray all the notations of the DFD, i.e., data flow, external entity, data store, and process. To add any object on your drawing page, select it, drag it towards the page and them place it wherever you want it.

draw dfd

Step 4 – Customize your DFD

Keep formatting your data flow diagram according to your needs. Once you are satisfied with the final results, close the format Tab and Symbol library on each side of the screen by clicking on << and >> symbols.

customize dfd

Step 5 – Save your File

Once you have completed the DFD, you can save it for later edits or online sharing. You can save it as commonly-used file types such as Excel, Word or PDF. To save an Edraw file in another software, click on File and then go to Export.

save export dfd

More Free Data Flow Diagram Templates

ATM System Data Flow Template

This ATM System Data Flow Template can be used to discuss and analyze how data flows through different terminals in an ATM to process transactions. This template is editable and customizable; hence, different banks can use it make it their own with just a few simple tweaks here and there.

Click here to free download ATM System Data Flow Template.

atm system data flow

File Analysis Data Flow Template

With the help of this File Analysis Data Flow Template, users can analyze and study different types of files. It is simple and easy to edit; hence, anyone can use it for any purpose. So, download this File Analysis Data Flow Template right now and make a grand data flow diagram in just a few steps.

Click here to free download the File Analysis Data Flow Template.

file analysis data flow

Reservation Data Flow Template

The File Analysis Data Flow Template is a simple template to explain the process of making reservations. Though it is a simple task, it still has a flow of data to make sure everything happens smoothly. With this template, you can create a context flow diagram in just a few minutes.

Click here to free download Reservation Data Flow Template.

reservation data flow
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