In this study, an efficient numerical method is proposed for unifying the structured and unstructured grid approaches for solving the potential flows. The new method, named as the "alternating cell directions implicit - ACDI", solves for the structured and unstructured grid configurations equally well. The new method in effect applies a line implicit method similar to the Line Gauss Seidel scheme for complex unstructured grids including mixed type quadrilateral and triangle cells. To this end, designated alternating directions are taken along chains of contiguous cells, i.e. 'cell directions', and an ADI-like sweeping is made to update these cells using a Line Gauss Seidel like scheme. The algorithm makes sure that the entire flow field is updated by traversing each cell twice at each time step for unstructured quadrilateral grids that may contain triangular cells. In this study, a cell-centered finite volume formulation of the ACDI method is demonstrated. The solutions are obtained for incompressible potential flows around a circular cylinder and a forward step. The results are compared with the analytical solutions and numerical solutions using the implicit ADI and the explicit Runge-Kutta methods on single-and multi-block structured and unstructured grids. The results demonstrate that the present ACDI method is unconditionally stable, easy to use and has the same computational performance in terms of convergence, accuracy and run times for both the structured and unstructured grids. (C) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.