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Action

A simple example of an Action as used in Activity diagrams modeled using Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect.

Description

An Action element describes a basic process or transformation that occurs within a system, and is the basic functional unit within an Activity diagram. Actions can be thought of as children of Activities; both represent processes, but Activities can contain multiple steps or decomposable processes, each of which can be embodied by an Action. An Action cannot be further broken down or decomposed.

A simple example of an Actions used in Activity diagrams modeled using Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect.

For the purposes of simulation, you can define the effect of a basic (Atomic) Action on the 'Action' tab of the Properties window for the element, using a JavaScript expression in the 'Effect' field to define the duration of the effect and selecting to display the effect on the diagram. An Action can be further defined with pre-condition and post-condition notes.

Certain properties can be graphically depicted on the Action. When you first drag the 'Action' icon from the Toolbox onto a diagram, the system prompts you to select from a list of the more common types of Action to create. If you select the 'Other' option on this list, the 'New Action' dialog displays; the 'Other' drop-down list on this dialog enables you to select a more specialized type of Action from a complete list of Action types.

A drop-down list of Action types available for selection in Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect. A drop-down list of Action types available for selection in Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect.

If you later decide that the Action type is not appropriate, you can change it on the 'Action' tab of the Properties window - select the required new type from the 'Kind' drop-down list. For a Value Specification Action, you can also set the value on this tab.

The data values passed out of and into an Action can be represented by Action Pins. For an Action type other than a basic Action, you can also assign Action Pins to represent specific properties.

An Action can also be depicted as an Expansion Node to indicate that the Action consists of an Expansion Region.

If you have defined a Decision Table for the Action element, you can select options on the element's context menu to render the element on a diagram as the Decision Table, showing the rules as either rows or columns. You can also return the element to its normal element shape.

Toolbox icon

Action element

Learn more

OMG UML Specification:

The OMG Unified Modeling Language specification, (v2.5.1, p. 443) states:

An Action is a fundamental unit of executable functionality contained, directly or indirectly, within a Behavior. The execution of an Action represents some transformation or processing in the modeled system, be it a computer system or otherwise.

The OMG Unified Modeling Language specification, (v2.5.1, p. 443) also states:

An Action may accept inputs and produce outputs, as specified by InputPins and OutputPins of the Action, respectively. Each Pin on an Action specifies the type and multiplicity for a specific input or output of that Action.