This article provides a preview about the upcoming Enterprise Architect 13, available in its beta version since beginning of June.
SparxSystems Enterprise Architect 13 leaflet (PDF version available here) covers the main enhancements including:
- Ribbon interface, replacing the traditional menus
- Links between connectors for a new level of traceability
- Time Aware Modeling with a package and element Cloning approach
- SysML simulation with OpenModelica and parametric diagrams
- Tagged Values support within diagram filters
- A new "Progress bar" tagged value type
- Various other enhancements:
- Direct publishing to Joomla CMS
- Improved Linux and Mac compatibility
- Back end repository updates when accessing a shared Enterprise Architect project, hosted on a centralized database with the Security feature enabled
- Cloud Service improved (IPv6 support, better performance)
Enterprise Architect 13 Ribbon interface
The screenshot below illustrates Enterprise Architect 13 user interface:
Traditional menus have been replaced with a Ribbon interface. As a result, some time will be needed to find Enterprise Architect features. This modern look and feel should make it easier to use features compared with the previous interface.
Activation of the main views such as notes, project browser, pan and zoom is available via the Window button, available from all ribbons.
The Start ribbon provides access to a Search button:
- Search in Model opens the project search screen (also available via the Ctrl+F shortcut).
- Search in Project Browser opens the Project Browser search dialog window.
- Search for Diagram or Package opens an associated predefined search.
- Browse for Diagram or Package is a new feature to browse a project tree version without the elements, making it easier to find a diagram or package. Choosing a package or diagram selects it in the Project Browser.
The Configure ribbon provides access to the project options and settings including Security, Version Control (e.g. SVN), code and MDA templates, installed MDG technologies, etc.
Enterprise Architect tool configuration is available from the Start ribbon > Preferences.
The Extend ribbon shows all installed extensions/add-ins such as eaDocX, eaUtils, eaNavigator... Each extension menu can be accessed via its own button, improving the access to their features.
Important: add-ins menus in this ribbon don't match with Enterprise Architect v12.1 and earlier (see EXTENSIONS menu). Instead options from these menus match the ones listed upon a right click from the project browser. This is something that will be fixed in a later Build according to Sparx. It would be nice to have a way also to replace the buttons images with the extensions logos.
- I got a reply from Sparx advising they won't go this route to maintain a consistent look in the tool.
- I've also been advised that add-ins will be able to add buttons on other ribbons e.g Publish.
Current versions of Enterprise Architect (12.1, 12, 11...) make it possible to personalize and reduce Enterprise Architect menus on a local PC. This customization can be very useful in order to simplify the user interface e.g. by removing the Execution Analyzer and other features that are not used by a group of users. Enterprise Architect 13 ribbon interface can be customized via the Start ribbon > Perspectives > Show Perspectives Window > Ribbon Menu.
Menu search with the Office 2016 visual style
Visual Styles can be modified from the Start ribbon to customize the user interface. Office 2016 visual style provides a search module on the menus. To activate this style, open the Start ribbon > Visual Style and select Microsoft Office 2016.
The search feature is illustrated below.
Important: this search module is also available from the File menu (the one with SparxSystems logo).
Enterprise Architect 13 helpers
Helpers features can be enabled via the Layout ribbon.
Sweeper and HV lock provide custom behaviours when moving diagram elements:
- Enable the Sweeper helper so a collection of elements within a diagram section can be moved altogether. Where this looks useful, one has to understand and control the definition of a section.
- Enable the HV lock helper so selected elements can either be moved horizontally or vertically.
The Presentation mode highlights any selected element and prevents from creating associations between elements (quicklinker is disabled).
Reorder messages mode is only active in UML or SysML sequence diagrams. When enabled, it lets you move messages without ordering the surrounding ones (same effect as when using the Alt key shortcut).
Enable the Show direction helper so that connectors are displayed in red or green when an element is selected according to the following rules:
- Green: the selected element is the connector's source.
- Red: the selected element is the connector's target.
This feature can be useful to control that relations are set in the right direction according to traceability rules.
Links between connectors
Enterprise Architect 13 makes it possible to create links between connectors. This feature can be useful for advanced traceability needs, e.g. in a Systems Engineering context, a control flow between action pins can be associated with a matching connector between SysML blocks' ports. This provides a way to ensure consistency between the static and dynamic view of a system.
Important: to prevent "not UML compliant" error messages, the Strict Connector Syntax option must be disabled in the preferences.
The following screenshots illustrate this feature.
- Select one of the connectors to enable the quicklinker (see arrow).
- Use the quicklinker to create a dependency with another connector.
- As a result, the following dependency link has been created:
Improvements would be required to access this type of traceability. For instance it would be useful to have a Links tab in the connectors' properties window. It would also be useful to see this link within the traceability view once a connector has been selected in the diagram.
The diagram toolbox displayed at the top of diagrams in current versions of Enterprise Architect has disappeared in version 13. It is however useful to easily change the colour of elements or links, the font, to align elements, apply the same dimensions, etc. Hopefully it will be available again in the final version.
All these features are currently solely available from the Layout ribbon.
Note that the Edit button provides access to Copy/Paste features. The colour scheme for text, elements, and lines has been enhanced as illustrated below:
Managing versions with a package and element Cloning approach
Sparx Systems provides a new "time aware model" feature to manage versions via a cloning approach. Right click on a package from the project browser and select "Clone Structure as a new version". Provide the new version and select a target package.
This version has been allocated to a new package (it needs to be renamed). A diagram has also been created and it contains the elements from the existing version.
Any element needs to be cloned within the new version before carrying modifications.
In the following example, Class2 has been cloned in the new version 1.1, and an attribute has been added to this class.
It is subsequently possible to display all elements onto the same diagram and apply versioning filtrers.
This feature can be useful to manage versions within an Enterprise Architect modelling project, e.g. to define and compare an "as-is" with a "to-be" vision of a model. However this approach seems to be limited when applied on a complex branch of models.
SysML simulation with OpenModelica
Enterprise Architect 13 offers an alternative and much more powerful SysML parametric simulation compared with the existing built-in tool. As regards, Sparx Systems has integrated a link with the OpenModelica, an Open Source Modelica-based modeling and simulation environment.
This feature requires installing OpenModelica tool (https://www.openmodelica.org/). Algorithms must be entered in SysML constraint blocks' invariant constraints, and SysMLSim configurations must be created via the Enterprise Architect 13 Simulate ribbon. This feature requires identifying and understanding all the properties to set prior to get a running simulation configuration.
The following screenshots illustrate the OpenModelica SysML simulation in Enterprise Architect 13.
Diagram filters: tagged values support
Diagram filters make it possible to hide or grey out elements from an active diagram according to a set of criteria. Tagged values support has been added in Enterprise Architect 13:
Progress bar Tagged Values
A new Tagged Value type is available to display progress bars within elements' compartments e.g. a requirement, component, or class. This feature can be useful to easily keep track of the progress for a requirement maintained in Enterprise Architect, or a user story that's synchronised with a tracking tool (a user story can be managed in Enterprise Architect via stereotyped requirements).
Before using this tagged value type via stereotypes defined in a UML profile, it can easily be tested from the Configure ribbon > UML types > Tagged Value Types. The new type that's available is called ProgressBar. The following illustrates the use of percentage values.
Once the Tags compartment is enabled via the diagram's properties, the following example is displayed.
Note: it would be useful to separate the activation of progress bar tagged values from the standard ones.
Enterprise Architect 13 upcoming version should be released end of 2016 or early 2017. This new version not only provides a nice and useful user interface in line with the latest applications, but also carries an interesting number of enhancements and features that will be handy once finalized.