Book a Demo

Please note : This help page is not for the latest version of Enterprise Architect. The latest help can be found here.

Prev Next

Common Aspects of Diagrams

Diagrams are one of the most important ways to visualize the contents of a model and represent a diagram author's expression of what they consider important.  Its compelling visual appeal and its ability to act as a narrative telling a story about some aspect of the system being modeled makes the diagram one of the most important views. Each diagram in the SysML has common aspects (or features) including:

  • a diagram Frame
  • a diagram Header
  • a diagram Contents Area (Canvas)
  • a diagram Description (Notes)
  • a diagram Properties Sheet
  • A diagram Legend
  • And more

There is also a wide range of other facilities and that will help the engineer when working with diagrams these include:

  • Traceability Window
  • Relationships Window
  • Pan and Zoom
  • Diagram Layout
  • Diagram Filters
  • Roadmaps
  • Kanban
  • Zoom options
  • Appearance, Alignment and Style tools

Diagram Frame

The Diagram Frame resembles a curtain enclosing the elements that form part of the diagram. While it is more important when viewing diagrams in line with written text, some modelers prefer to have the diagram visible when modeling.

A diagram from a SysML model in Enterprise Architect, showing the elements contained in a diagram frame.

The frame can be conveniently shown or hidden for each diagram, and when it is hidden the diagram information - such as the type, parent and the name of the diagram - is still visible in the diagram header.

Preferences can also be set to show the Diagram Frame when diagrams are exported as part of documentation, to the clipboard or in saved images. These options are located on the 'Diagram' page of the 'Preferences' dialog.

The frame contains a header in the top left hand corner, which contains useful information on the diagram. This syntax describes the contents of the header.

     diagramKind [modelElementType] modelElementName [diagramName]

  1. diagramKind - is a code for the type of diagram, such as bdd (Block Definition diagram),
  2. modelElementType - is the type of element that is acting as the namespace of the diagram,
  3. modelElementName - is the name of the namespace element,
  4. diagramName - is the name of the diagram, provided by the user.

Diagram Header Bar

The diagram header bar provides useful information about the diagram and tools to work with all open diagrams. Even when the frame is not visible, the header will show the diagrams details.

It also has a number of other useful icons that are used to control aspects of the display, including:

  • Toolbox Chevron - that hides or shows the toolbox for all displayed diagrams,
  • Document Chevron - that shows or hides the Inline Specification view of the diagram,
  • Open Diagrams Arrow - which displays a list of open diagrams, indicating the one with unsaved changes,
  • Close Diagram Icon - that allows the diagram to be closed.

Diagram Contents

The diagram content is the canvas where you view and work on your diagram. It is a highly flexible work area with lots of powerful tools for both creating and visualizing existing diagrams. Pictures can be added and mixed with the standard geometric SysML elements, allowing expressive and compelling diagrams that help convey important engineering concepts to both technical and non-technical audiences.

Enterprise Architect extends the way to view a diagram using a number of powerful visualization techniques. These will provide you with alternative ways to work with diagram content and are welcomed by newcomers who might be more familiar with working with elements in spreadsheets, list and documents.  Notice also in this diagram that images can be used as an alternative to the vanilla SysML shapes.

Document View

This is a convenient view that displays the elements on the diagram in a narrative form in a document. It is also known as the 'Inline Specification' panel and is not a separate view but a panel related to the selected diagram. The document is conveniently opened to the right of the diagram so both diagram and document can be viewed simultaneously. Each element present in the diagram will have a heading in the document with the element's notes (description) displayed in position under the heading. Elements and their notes presented in this view can be conveniently edited, all the while viewing both the document view and the diagram, and the two are kept synchronized. The elements are by default listed in alphabetical order but this sort order can be changed from the context menu to follow top to bottom or left to right.

List View

This is a useful way of viewing the elements in a diagram while allowing them to be viewed, updated and created in a familiar spreadsheet-like view. Element properties including standard properties, Tagged Values and notes can be managed, and drop down lists for properties with a discrete list of values are available, providing a welcomed way of viewing these properties across multiple elements.

Specification View

The Specification Manager resembles the inline document viewer, but gives more power and opens in a separate dockable window. It is the perfect tool, designed for engineers and other stakeholders who are more familiar with working with spreadsheets or documents. It essentially allows a modeler or viewer to visualize the contents of a diagram (or Package) as a document or spreadsheet. The document view resembles the familiar word processor document, which can be edited in-line to create new elements and their descriptions. The visualization can be changed to resemble a spreadsheet where properties are displayed in columns.

Defining requirements using the Specification Manager in Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect.

It is a highly welcomed view for those transitioning from document-based systems engineering processes, and a favorite for engineers entering test-based information such as a set of requirements, activities, components and other elements.

Gantt Chart

This provides a typical Gantt chart view of the elements in the diagram where resource allocation has been applied to the elements this can be visualized to give an engineering or project manager a view on progress within the model.

Resource view for Gantt chart in Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect.

Diagramming Tools

There is also a wide range of other tools that can be used to display the information in the repository that will assist the engineer when working with elements in diagrams, including but not limited to:

Traceability Window

Used to view how element in the model are connected in a graph of elements and their relationships. For more information see the  Traceability Window topic.

Relationships Window

Used to view the relationship between a selected element and other elements in the model; these relationship are not visible but can be conveniently  visualized in this separate window. For more information see the Relationships Window topic.

Pan and Zoom

Used to move around a large diagram by using a small rectangle that represents the view-port, and to zoom in using a slider control. For more information see the Pan and Zoom topic.

Diagram Layout

Used to create compelling layouts of a diagram, using selected visual layout patterns such as digraphs and springs. For more information see the Layout Diagram topic.

Diagram Filters

Used to filter elements from view in a diagram either by making hiding them, changing them to  a gray scale, or fading them. You can also reverse the behavior and select element to include. For more information see the Diagram Filters topic.


Used to create time based representations of elements, with an applied timescale that can be configured to suit the project or modeler to show a roadmap for strategic and development purposes. For more information see the Roadmaps topic.


Used to manage items in a traditional Kanban diagram, where elements are moved between columns that represent their order in a staged process; resources working on the items can be visualized, creating a powerful way for a team to manage its model or product development. For more information see the Kanban topic.

Diagram Ribbons and Menus

There are a number of ribbons that are useful when working with diagrams. The starting point, as described earlier, is the 'Diagram' panel of the Design ribbon, which allows you to insert new diagrams and edit and change the view of existing diagrams.

The 'Element' panel on the Design ribbon will also be useful when working with elements on the diagram (or selected in the Browser window) allowing you to insert new elements, edit existing ones and manage element properties, features and responsibilities. For more information see the Design Ribbon Help topic.

Another important ribbon is the Layout ribbon, which contains a number of panels that will be useful for working with diagrams. This includes the 'Diagram' panel, which contains options to set themes and change the diagram mode, for example to Hand-Drawn. For more information see the Layout Ribbon topic.

Part of the Layout ribbon in Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect.

The 'Style' panel allows the visual style properties of diagram elements to be set either as a group or for individual elements.

Part of the Layout ribbon in Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect.

The 'Alignments' Panel provides a rich set of tools for aligning elements in a diagram.  These are very useful and provide a range of alignment options that are not typically available in most drawing Packages, allowing elements - for example - to be spaced evenly horizontally or vertically.

The 'Tools' Panel provides a series of tools for working with diagrams, allowing for filtering content in diagrams - for example, allowing a modeler to display only Constraint elements with a specified status, that were created after a specified date - Pan and Zoom and Layout options. The Filter panel provides a quick and ad-hoc way to filter content in the diagram without the need to create a diagram filter.

A series of helpers are also available for working with diagrams and their elements, controlling such things as horizontal and vertical hold to restrict element diagonal movement.

Diagram Properties

A diagram in Enterprise Architect has a rich set of properties, some being descriptive - such as the name - and others being prescriptive, specifying how the diagram should be displayed and what elements, compartments and other features should be visible, including line styles.

Many of these properties can be set both at a diagram level and at an element or connector level, allowing individual parts of the diagram to be displayed differently to others.

The ability to set the visibility of element compartments is particularly useful for engineering diagrams, as the SysML provides a rich set of compartments for a wide range of items. These compartments, if not managed, can clutter a diagram and attenuate a reader's ability to understand the meaning of the diagram.

The compartments, as with other properties, can be set at a diagram level or an element level, which allows a modeler to select the compartments to display for specific elements.