UML & SysML modelling languages

Expertise and blog articles on UML, SysML, and Enterprise Architect modelling tool

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When working onto a diagram in Sparx Enterprise Architect, a contextual toolbox is displayed and available to use. A contextual toolbox means that the displayed toolbox matches the type of the opened diagram. For instance if a UML class diagram is created or opened, the Class toolbox is displayed, providing access to classes, packages, interfaces, etc.
Enterprise Architect makes it possible to change this toolbox via the Toolbox's "More tools" menu :

sparx ea more tools

Note : once this class diagram is closed, the toolbox selection is lost, i.e. the contextual toolbox (class) will be displayed next time this diagram is opened.

In some cases, it can be useful to display additional toolboxes for any type of diagram. Enterprise Architect makes it possible via the option More tools > Set Toolbox Visibility, where it lets you enable additional toolboxes:

sparx enterprise architect visible toolbox pagesIn the example below :

  • A use case diagram has been opened, hence the use case toolbox is displayed.
  • The requirements toolbox has been enabled via the Set Toolbox Visibility command (see previous screenshot), so it is displayed below the use case toolbox:

sparxsystems enterprise architect toolbox default


Sparx Enterprise Architect is a great tool to produce and organise your models using UML, SysML, BPMN or other modelling languages or notations.

In some cases, the default rendering of elements on certain types of diagrams lack of attractiveness, prompting the need for a suitable colour scheme and font.

This article deals with two topics :

  • Highlights the strength of Enterprise Architect as a modelling project versus that of a drawing tools;
  • Applying visual styles onto elements to improve the look and feel of your diagrams.


sparx enterprise architect diagram visual styles

As an Enterprise Architect user, you may have had the need to apply several times more or less the same set of elements on a given diagram, leading to numerous uses of copy and paste as new.

The "copy and paste" feature on a selection of elements, including their associations and layout works ok, but there could be a more suitable way to go about this. Given a context where we have our set of elements i.e. a pattern of modelling elements available from one or several diagrams within our model, we need to apply them several times onto a new diagram. Once the new diagram is created, the elements that need to be duplicated aren't available from this blank diagram. Hence the diagram that contains those elements has got to be opened first, followed by a selection on the elements of interest, copied to the clipboard (Ctrl+C). Then the newly created diagram needs to be displayed again so the paste as new command can be executed (Ctrl+Maj+V). We also need to ensure that any specific element or information, e.g. an activity description or a child composite diagram and its sub-elements, mustn't be re-used, hence they need to be deleted.

Enterprise Architect makes it possible to re-use a set of elements, their associations, any notes, and their layout on the diagram by creating UML patterns. Similarly to the use of design patterns (GoF), the aim is to define a set of elements that can be applied for modelling purposes.

This article describes the use of UML Patterns in EA.

enterprise architect user group EAUG germany 2013

The next Enterprise Architect User Group will take place in Nürnberg, Germany on the 8th October 2013. As a local EAUG event, most sessions will be given in german, however there will be a talk in english for each slot. Here is the current agenda for the english speaking sessions :

  • Togaf with EA
  • How to use EA for all project aspects
  • How we overcame the technical and organisational hurdles involved in deploying EA in a large, complex legacy environment
  • EA for project managers
  • Making MDGs work for you

The complete and up to date agenda is available from Lieber Lieber web site. You can order your ticket from their web site at a cost of 115.43€ inc VAT.

The EAUG will finish with a "chill out session" at the bar with the speakers, which will be useful to have time to spend with the EA community and speakers.

Further information is available from

When creating classes in EA without the need to define any attribute or operation, the class is rendered without any compartment. This rendering can be an issue for some users, and as such EA lets you change that through the element's display properties in a given diagram.

To do so, right click on the class from your diagram, select "Feature and Compartment Visibility", and enable "structure compartment". You should get the result illustrated as follows:

use of structured compartment in ea

This is a limited solution since it only works on the current diagram, and EA doesn't let you apply this option onto a selection of classes.

The "Properties" view can be used to review or update a number of properties for an element, such as a class, interface, use case, actor... that has been selected from the current diagram or the Project Browser. These properties include the name, alias, stereotype, etc.

This view also gives you access to a number of shortcuts from the toolbar, illustrated in this article.

Sparx Enterprise Architect Properties shortcuts view

Tuesday, 04 June 2013 21:41

EA User Group London 2013 feedback

ea user group

I went to the first EAUG (Enterprise Architect User Group) on the 15th of May, where around 100 people from the EA community of users and experts gathered in London.

I summarised in this article a selection of talks I attended:

  1. "Modeling Software Intensive Systems" by Doug Rosenberg from ICONIX, hinting the concept of SwissML (SysML + UML) to reach the same amount of specifications for both software and hardware blocks of an embedded system. Doug discussed about the incompatibility of agile software development processes in a context where the delivered software is not the final product, but part of a system that encompasses software and hardware blocks, alongside safety and security risks associated with any possible bug.
  2. "SysML with EA" by Roman Bretz from Lieber Lieber GmbH who shared his experiences on clients projects where SysML modelling language and EA were used.
  3. "User Story : EA usage at EVRY" by Knut Paulsen from EVRY who explained how EA was used in his company, involving specific developments of EA Add'Ins such as a document generator and an Excel import/export tool, both tailored to comply with the adopted methodology.
  4. "User Story: How to do less work, have more fun and become (a bit) famous doing it" by Ian Mitchell from Ability Engineering, who shared his experience as a BA on large project at the European scale, leading to a number of advices and point of views to take into account!

Sparx Systems ran a webinar last week to demonstrate Enterprise Architect traceability features i.e. to find how our model elements and diagrams are interconnected with each other. This is paramount in modelling where we don't only intend to define a visual representation of a more or less complex concept, but we also need to build a centralised project information repository.

The "usual features" like the Relationships Matrix or the Traceability view were included in the webimnar, as well as examples of the types of links between elements such as realisation links from use cases to requirements.

I discovered the Context Filtering feature that's available on the currently displayed diagram : to enable it, simply right click on a blank part of the diagram, and enable "Context Filtering", or click on the icon on the diagram toolbar.

 sparx enterprise architect context filtering

Click on Read More to see an example illustrating this feature.

Thursday, 16 May 2013 09:12

EAUG London 2013 : a success

Coming back from my first EA user group, I've been very pleased with the experience. I'm already looking forward to next year's session!

On arrival, I collected my badge and marked down the sessions I was going to attend. Only "down side" was the spelling mistake on my badge, but after all "Guillaume" is tricky to write and even worse to pronounce when you're not French, never mind ;)

First of all, this was an opportunity to meet in person members of the EA community, which is a change from the on-line forums, community site, and other LinkedIN groups dedicated to EA. I also very much enjoyed as a UML/SysML/EA enthusiast participating to talks and debates that purely deal with Enterprise Architect tool and other modelling aspects. This is a change from previous IT events where yet interesting technical talks hardly impacted my daily tasks and concerns.

I heard some very interesting discussion over the impact of Agile techniques on software embedded in intensive systems via Doug Rosenberg's talk. Feedback from the other speakers on EA, SysML, and UML based on their past project experiences prompted some very useful ideas as well ("harvest the existing information into EA" as suggested by Ian Mitchell). I was also impressed with the extensive use of EA API by some companies.

I will shortly release articles to provide more detailed feedback from London 2013 EAUG.

EAUG badge



Friday, 19 April 2013 11:13

New and Improved Sparx EA Community Site

sparx community website

Sparx released this week a new and improved version of Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect Community Site.

Sparx has announced the following : "In addition to making it easier to contribute, search and share material, we have added new functionality for connecting to social media, rating articles and subscribing to content via RSS.
We would like to thank all those that contacted us with feedback, as much of the redesign in response to your valuable comments and requests. We also welcome ongoing feedback as we continue to improve the user experience."

Visit Sparx EA community website on

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