How to use PlantUML? PlantUML is a tool that is used to create UML diagrams, and is a powerful tool in the right hands. If you are trying to use PlantUML to create UML diagrams, you may find it frustrating or confusing. This is where this blog comes in. It will take you step by step through the process of creating a UML diagram using PlantUML.
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PlantUML – what is it?
PlantUML allows users to specify UML diagrams in a simple text format similar to programming languages. This program helps developers to build UML diagrams and is helpful for people with accessibility needs.
Plant UML is the most popular text format for UML modelling. It supports many different diagram types, separates each diagram element according to its function, and uses a simple, human-readable language.
Graphviz is used to layout PlantUML diagrams. The layout algorithm aligns connectors in the same direction (top to bottom, left to right) so that the diagram is readable. Aside from flow charts and graphs, you could also use Graphviz DOT code to produce graphics.
What is Graphviz?
The open-source software Graphviz visualizes graphs. Graph visualization involves displaying abstract graphs and networks as diagrams of structural information. In addition to networking, software engineering, and machine learning, it has significant applications in graphical user interfaces for other technical domains.
Why is PlantUML able to write quickly?
An easy way to create UML diagrams is with PlantUML. Using Plantuml, you can write the following diagrams.
Sequence diagrams illustrate how messages flow through a system, also known as event diagrams. It enables the visualization of several dynamic scenarios. There is a sequential sequence of events that occurs between two lifelines, meaning both lifelines are present at the same time. According to UML, there is an upper and lower lifeline and a message flow represented by three vertical dotted lines at the bottom of the page.
Use Case Diagram
The use case diagram illustrates how the system’s users interact with it in Unified Modeling Language (UML). To construct them, you’ll need specialized connectors and symbols. An application or system that interacts with people, organizations, or external systems may benefit from the development of a use case diagram.
An object-oriented model is based on the class diagram. It enables the conceptualization of application structure and the implementation of details in programming code. It is also possible to use class diagrams for data modeling.
It represents the instances of the classifiers in the models and can be constructed using UML. A class diagram is a similar format to an object diagram. Diagrams of classifiers show relationships between them in a system.
An activity diagram displays the behavior of a system by showing the activities of the various systems. A control flow diagram illustrates how the movement evolves from beginning to end, illustrating all the various decision paths while it is being accomplished.
Component diagrams represent the different parts of a UML diagram. This diagram also serves a different purpose than the others discussed so far. In contrast to describing the system’s functionality, it represents the components used to achieve that functionality.
PlantUML – NonUmL Diagrams Supported
YAML is used for serializing data, which can be combined with virtually any programming language. Configuration files typically use this format.
A network diagram shows the architecture of a network. A network diagram represents a network’s structure by using a variety of symbols and lines. Users can quickly learn how items are connected through a visual representation of the network’s layout.
Architectural modeling and enterprise architecture can be captured using ArchiMate’s visual language. By illustrating relationships among different domains, it can be used to analyze trends. There are several domains within this hierarchy, including products, processes, organizations, data applications, and technical infrastructure.
Gantt charts show a schedule for a project using a series of bars. The horizontal axis indicates the intervals to be performed, while the vertical axis indicates the tasks to perform. Horizontal bars in the graph indicate how long each activity took.
Mind maps are diagrams used to represent tasks, words, concepts, or other items grouped around a central idea. A user can create an intuitive framework around a central vision with a non-linear graphical layout. It uses the brain’s natural structure to organize information into a colorful, recalled diagram.
Why PlantUML Is Needed to Draw Diagrams
One person can design and build a dog house with simple tools, including nails, hammers, saws and tape. With only a few hours, you do not need anyone’s help to build a house for your dog. Modelling is usually not necessary or only minimal.
How is it possible to build your family a house using the same materials? You’ll need detailed planning, some sketches, etc. Architecting a house requires collaboration and detailed modeling, well-defined processes, and powerful tools.
Using models can help us better comprehend the system we are developing. In addition to a general overview of the system, the model can include detailed plans for system development, implementation, and testing.
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In this post, I want to talk to you about a tool that I use to create sequence diagrams, flow charts, and a whole bunch of other diagrams. And the tool is called PlantUML; below is a website meant to show you what you can do with this tool.
But before we get into what you can do with it and how it works and all that, I want to explain to you the problem that it solves. So before using this tool, I would use Draw.io or Microsoft Vizio to create sequence diagrams. A sequence diagram is something like this (see below), where you define the relationship between different components.
I would never use French, but you would imagine what that looks like when you’re using a tool like Draw.io or Vizio or whatever. You need to kind of layout how everything will be set up and how everything will look. You also got to name these things and connect all the vertices so that everything looks how you imagined it. And, you know, while you’re halfway through your project and you create this complicated diagram, something changes. Maybe you have a meeting that goes in a different direction. Now you need to kind of delete a component. And what does that look like? You’re going to delete the thing, redraw all the arrows. Maybe some things aren’t relevant anymore. It just becomes a very time-consuming process for you to rebuild your diagram. You have to waste all this time worrying about the semantics of how things are connected and making sure everything looks nice.
So I got sick and tired of that, and I started looking for alternatives, and that’s when it comes to plantUML. So PlantUML is a free tool to use. You can download it on their website. But this website shows you the kind of things that you can do with PlantUML, and the things that I use the most are sequence diagrams. They look like these (as shown in the diagram above) to define the relationships between components. Also lets you do things like class diagrams or the kind of relationships of packages. On this website, it’s cool. These are just random submissions that people have created with PlantUML, and this thing lays them out for you so you can see how they created them. So, for instance, on this blue one;
This is a state machine, it looks like, or kind of an activity diagram may be, and it shows you the syntax of how you would do this. So this one looks a little bit complicated. Maybe we want to look at something a little bit easier, maybe sequence diagrams. That’s what I want. So a sequence diagram like this;
This is the greatest part. The part that I love about plantUML the most is that it’s just a text block. You don’t draw anything. It uses a background engine to read the input of the text, put together a visualization of it, and then spit it out on your screen so you can very easily add and remove different things just by adding different lines here, as opposed to having to introduce new boxes and connect them and all that. So it’s super, super powerful for all sorts of different applications. Like I said. Now, the negative thing about this is that you lose a little bit of control regarding how things are laid out. And this is especially obvious for things like large state machine diagrams or large flow machine diagrams and things like that. Part of the benefit of using this tool is that you get to define things as text. But part of the negative is that you lose some control in how things are laid out. You have to rely on the engine to lay them out in the most intuitive way. Now, that being said, you do have a little bit of influence on how things get laid out. You can say you want certain components to go to the left of another component or the right of another component. So there’s a little bit of flexibility there. Again, I want to mention that in case you were wondering.
So let’s head over to the plantUML website and want to show you a demonstration of how I kind of use this on a day-to-day basis. So I’m just at plantuml.com, and I’m just on the homepage right now.
And the thing that I like about this Website, If you click on any of these top bars, for instance, the state in this example, not only does it show you some awesome examples of how this stuff works, so it gives you great templates so you can build your own, but it also lets you edit it online, so you can click this button and go to an editor and then you can kind of change anything. So this website’s pretty convenient for that. So that’s kind of what this website is about. It shows you kind of how these things work. It gives you some templates to use and explains the semantics and the syntax of how to get some unique styles going. So here I am on the homepage, And let’s scroll down to see the demo where I can show you how I use this thing on a day-to-day basis.
So as you can see here, it’s just a very simple starting project here where Bob is talking to Alice, and he’s saying hello to Alice. So let’s get rid of this. And let’s start with Actor, Actor User. So Actor gives you the kind of little stick figure here. If you want components to represent services, you may say participants. And let’s call this thing transaction service. In this case, you can see here that it popped up as a square box. So let’s say the user calls transaction service, so user transaction service and say submit transaction or something like that. And you can see that it changed to reflect that. And now our transaction service wants to do a whole bunch of things. Maybe it wants to send to an SNS topic and then save to a database, probably the other way around. So let’s say participants, Dynamodb, participant SNS. And then what we can say here is transaction service to DDB, save record, something like that. And let’s copy that. Put that down here. And we also want to say it goes to SNS and publishes notification, and then it eventually will respond to the user with an OK indicator. So you would say transaction service? Use a double arrow for the return, and that goes to the user, and that’s going to say, OK.
So this kind of shows you the kind of stuff that you can do with it. It’s a very useful tool, and I use it all the time for a sequence diagram. Sequence diagrams are by far the most common thing that I use this for, but it’s great for state machines as well. I’ve built some pretty complicated state machines here, so that’s kind of what I use it for. And there’s a whole bunch more to this. I just kind of showed you the very, very basic stuff for sequence diagrams. You can do things like activating blocks if statements or switches. You can separate a diagram into two pieces. If you want, you can use HTML to style these things in specific colors. And in some more recent versions, you can import certain styles. Things like AWC diagrams or AWC icons rather Dynamodb icons and SNS icons, So there’s a whole bunch of stuff you can do with this. It’s got a very active community. Constant improvements are coming out and fixes for bugs and all that.
So that’s kind of how you use it. I want to copy, put this to my notepad, and I want to show you the tool that I use the most in terms of editing. So this tool is called LiveUML.
And I usually come to this when I want to put together a diagram. This saves you from having to download the thing onto your local machine, and you can just come to this tool and do whatever you want. In this case, I’m just pasting what I had before, and it kind of spits this out. And then once you’re done, you can take this. And I think if you sign up here, you can get an account that persists your diagrams, which are super, super useful. The thing that I like about this website, LiveUML, is that it gives you autocomplete. So you can see here when you type A, you get all this stuff. The problem that I have most of the time is that I can’t remember the syntax. So this is a lifesaver for me. This doesn’t come by default in the tool. By the way, this is something that this tool LiveUML is offering as a feature.
Also, it’s got a bunch of different kinds of examples here. So like if you want to use a person, it shows you how to do that. If you want to use a certain arrow type, maybe you like this arrow type. It shows you how to do that. There’s a whole bunch of things here. You know, if you want to create a loop, it shows you the syntax for that. So super, super useful stuff. Again, this tool is called PlantUML, and you can download it or use it on LiveUML. And the website that I was at before was plantuml.com. And then this website is just a real-world plantUML.
So you can see here what people are creating as some inspiration so that you can see below people have created some pretty complicated things with all sorts of colors and sections and fancy things.
I use plant UML all the time. I think more people need to know about it because this tool is awesome.