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# Key Difference Between Algorithm and Flowcharts

If you are a student of computer science, you might be confused and want to know the key difference between algorithms and flowcharts. Both serve as fundamental components in designing the logic behind solving a problem, yet they possess distinct characteristics and serve different purposes. Let us clarify these terms. In this blog, we’ll explore the definitions of algorithms and flowcharts. Following that, we’ll do a comparative analysis of algorithms and flowcharts, uncovering their respective strengths and weaknesses in the domain of programming.

Below are the topics we are going to uncover:

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## What is an Algorithm?

An algorithm is a systematic, step-by-step procedure or set of instructions designed to solve a problem or perform a task. It provides a clear sequence of actions necessary to accomplish a specific objective. Algorithms act as a blueprint for solving problems or executing operations in various fields, including computer science, mathematics, and everyday problem-solving scenarios.

Example

Let’s consider a simple algorithm for finding the maximum number in a list:

Algorithm: Finding the Maximum Number

• Start: Begin the algorithm.
• Initialize: Set a variable maxNum to a very small value or the first number in the list.
• Iterate: Go through each number in the list.
• Check: Compare each number in the list with maxNum.
• Update: If the current number is greater than maxNum, update maxNum to that number.
• Finish: Once all numbers have been checked, maxNum will hold the maximum number in the list.

Code:

Here’s an example of a simple C program that finds the maximum number in an array:

`#include <stdio.h>int findMax(int arr[], int size) {    int maxNum = arr[0]; // Initialize maxNum with the first element of the array    // Iterate through the array to find the maximum number    for (int i = 1; i < size; i++) {        if (arr[i] > maxNum) {            maxNum = arr[i]; // Update maxNum if a larger number is found        }    }    return maxNum; // Return the maximum number}int main() {    int numbers[] = {7, 12, 5, 20, 9};    int size = sizeof(numbers) / sizeof(numbers[0]); // Calculate the size of the array    int maximum = findMax(numbers, size); // Call the function to find the maximum    printf("The maximum number is: %d\n", maximum);    return 0;}`

## Why do we need Algorithm

Modern technology is driven by algorithms, thus making them the backbone. For example, they simplify complex procedures as well as increase decision-making and run search engines among other e-commerce platforms. When different tasks are automated and resources used effectively through algorithms, time is saved in addition to costs being minimized which enhances precision. Adopting algorithms means remaining competitive in the rapidly changing digital era while permitting companies and individuals to solve problems easily with less effort.

## What is a Flowchart?

A flowchart is a graphical representation that uses various symbols, shapes, and arrows to depict the sequence of steps, actions, decisions, and processes within a system or algorithm. It provides a visual illustration of the logical flow and structure of a procedure or workflow, allowing for easier comprehension and analysis of complex processes.
Flowcharts act as effective tools for mapping out and communicating the sequence of operations or decision points in a clear and organized manner, helping in problem-solving process documentation, and system design across various domains and industries. Here is the flowchart for finding the maximum number in an array:

Flowcharts employ specific symbols, such as the following:

• Oval/rounded rectangles denote the start/end.
• Rectangles represent processes or actions.
• Diamonds signify decision points, and parallelograms indicate input/output.
• Directional arrows show the flow between symbols.
• Decision arrows diverge from decision points, and connectors prevent line overlaps.

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## Why do we need Flowchart?

Flowcharts are very important when it comes to visualizing processes that would otherwise seem difficult to understand or manage well. They identify where there are clogs so that we can streamline communication, make sure everyone is on board and improve communication. Flowcharts improve problem-solving processes because they provide a clear step-by-step representation of workflows that also help streamline operations thereby facilitating efficient project planning. The use of flowcharts improves decision-making skills, increases efficiency at work, and facilitates the smooth running of tasks.

## Difference Between Algorithm and Flowchart

Now let us know the basic comparison between an algorithm and a flowchart to get a clear picture of these terms:

## Advantages and Disadvantages of Algorithms

Algorithms are fundamental in problem-solving and computing. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of using algorithms:

### Advantages

• Standardization: Algorithms are like standard recipes for those who want to write code from scratch. They help everyone solve problems in the same good way, which is helpful and makes things more organized.
• Efficiency: Good algorithms use time and computer memory smartly. They try to finish tasks quickly and don’t use more computer power than needed.
• Reusability: Once we make an algorithm, we can use it for different problems. This saves time because we don’t have to make new solutions each time.
• Scalability: Some algorithms, such as machine learning algorithms, deep learning algorithms, and more, can handle bigger problems without needing a lot more time or computer power. They’re elastic and can stretch to work on larger or more complex things without much extra effort.

### Disadvantages

• Depending on Inputs: How well an algorithm works depends a lot on the information it gets. If the info isn’t accurate or good enough, the answers from the algorithm might not be good either.
• Performance Changes: An algorithm might not always give the same results. It might act differently depending on what info it gets or the situation it’s in, which can sometimes be surprising.
• Bias in Algorithms: Sometimes, because of the way they’re made or the information they use, algorithms can end up having unfairness or preferences. This can affect the answers or choices they make.
• Complexity: Some algorithms are tricky because they’re used for really complicated problems. This can make them hard to understand and use correctly.

## Advantages and Disadvantages of Flowcharts

Flowcharts, like any method or tool, come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages, offering both clarity and potential limitations in different scenarios. Let us find out the advantages and disadvantages of using flowcharts:

### Advantages

• Good for Sharing: They’re a good way to explain things to people because they’re clear and everyone can see the steps.
• Find Problems: Flowcharts help find where things might go wrong in a process, so we can fix them.
• Step-by-Step Pictures: They show the order of things, which makes it easy to see what happens first, next, and so on.
• Easy to Change: If things in a process change, it’s simple to update the flowchart to match.

### Disadvantages

• Needs Space: Big processes need a lot of space on paper or screen, which can be hard to manage.
• Not Enough Details Sometimes: In technical or tricky processes, the flowchart might miss important details.
• Different People, Different Charts: Depending on who makes it, a flowchart might look different and confusing.
• Not Great for Flexible Stuff: Flowcharts might not work well for things that change a lot or don’t follow a straight line.

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## Conclusion

In the future of programming, algorithms will continue to be the backbone of efficient problem-solving, while flowcharts may adapt and evolve to meet the changing needs of programmers and collaborators, potentially integrating with newer technologies to offer more intuitive and dynamic representations of algorithms and processes.

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## FAQs

### What is the primary difference between an algorithm and a flowchart?

An algorithm is a step-by-step arrangement or equation for solving a question, while a flowchart is a figure which represents the steps of that algorithm in diagrammatic form.

### How do algorithms and flowcharts complement each other?

Flowcharts show the logical structure and detailed instructions of problems to be solved on the one hand, but they translate these instructions into visual diagrams so as to help understand, communicate, and check up on the process.

### When should I use an algorithm instead of a flowchart?

Algorithms are used when you need an exact step-by-step approach to solve a problem especially suited for programming implementation. Conversely, flowcharts are suitable when you want to see how a process goes about its business and improve comprehension of that process and hence make it clear for other people who may want to use it.

### Can flowcharts be converted into algorithms?

Yes, flowcharts can be done visually, showing how processes work out their tasks before being turned into algorithms by explaining each step. This shifting is very common at the stage of software development called planning.

### Are algorithms or flowcharts better for troubleshooting?

Flowcharts are better than algorithms in troubleshooting as they provide an overview picture for easy identification of what could go wrong at any point during the task motion. On the other hand, algorithms help in understanding accurately each aspect or detail required at every stage.

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## About the Author

Senior Consultant Analytics & Data Science

Presenting Sahil Mattoo, a Senior Consultant Analytics & Data Science at Eli Lilly and Company is an accomplished professional with 14 years of experience across data science, analytics, and technical leadership domains, demonstrates a remarkable ability to drive business insights. Sahil holds a Post Graduate Program in Business Analytics and Business Intelligence from Great Lakes Institute of Management.