Home > sysml, technical, uml > Unconstraining UML And SysML Modeling Tools

Unconstraining UML And SysML Modeling Tools

For informal, rapid, and iterative design modeling and intra-team communication, I use the freely downloadable and unconstraining UML and SysML stencil plugins for visio. These handy little stencils are available here: Visio UML and SysML stencils homepage. When installed and opened, the shapes window may look like the figure below. Of course, you can control which shapes sub-windows you’d like to display and use within a document via the file->shapes menu selection. Open all 11 of them if you’d like!

If you compare the contents of the two sets of shape stencils, since UML is a subset and extension of UML you’ll unsurprisingly find a lot of overlap in the smart symbol sets. Note that unlike the two UML stencils, the set of nine SysML stencils are “SysML Diagram” oriented. Because of this diagram-centric decomposition, I find myself using the SysML stencils more than the UML stencils.

To use the stencils, you just grab, drag, and drop symbols onto the canvas; tying them together with various connector symbols. Of course, each symbol is “smart”, so right-clicking on a shape triggers a context sensitive menu that gives you finer control over the attributes and display properties of the shape.

If you don’t want to open the stencils manually, you can create either a new SysML or UML document from the templates that are co-installed with the stencils (file->new->choose drawing type->SysML). In this case, either the 2 UML stencils, or all 9 SysML stencils are auto-opened when the first page of the new document is created and displayed. I often use the multi-page feature of visio to create a set of associated behavior and structure diagrams for the design that I’m working on, or to reverse-engineer a section of undecipherable code that I’m struggling to understand.

If you’re a visio user and you’re looking to learn UML and/or SysML, I think experimenting with these stencils is a much better learning alternative than using one of the big, formal, and more hand-cuffing tools like Artisan Studio or Sparx Enterprise Architect. You can “Bend it like Fowler” much more easily with the visio stencils approach and not get frustrated as often.

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