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File Based Projects

Model sharing and team deployment.

Enterprise Architect provides a convenient light-weight, low-barrier and portable file-based repository out-of-the-box, which is ideal for modelers who want to start work immediately; with a file-based repository you can be modeling within a few minutes. All editions of Enterprise Architect support these types of repository in the form of:

  • A .qea or .qeax file as a SQLite database, the default type in Enterprise Architect Release 16.0 and later (recommended in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions)
  • A .feap file as a Firebird repository in all editions of Enterprise Architect
  • A legacy .eap or .eapx file in all editions of Enterprise Architect except Release 16.0 64-bit
  • A .eadb file as an MS Access 2007+ database

You can create your own repository from scratch, but default repositories (EABase files) are conveniently supplied in .qea, .feap and .eap formats, located in the Enterprise Architect installation directory. The EABase files act as templates for creating new projects and can be copied freely to easily allow you to create new repositories. You can tailor these repositories to suit your organization or create your own base repository.

Note that:

  • QEA files are based on the well regarded open source SQLite3 code base, which has many useful tools and is extendable to meet emerging and changing needs; it does not require third party or custom drivers to be installed
  • QEA files are the default file-based format, recommended and preferred for single user, single desktop, file-based modeling
  • QEA files work seamlessly across Windows, Linux and  Mac (the last two using Wine) on both 32-bit and 64-bit versions
  • QEA files also provide basic replication support for merging changes between a replica set
  • QEAX files are recommended for very small work groups sharing a file on a network share
  • EAP/EAPX files are not supported under Linux/Mac but may work with additional third-party drivers
  • EAP/EAPX files are generally supported under Windows, but require additional drivers installed from Microsoft

QEA files (SQLite databases) have been incorporated to better support the 64-bit version of Enterprise Architect, and to avoid dependency on various operating system capabilities. 

File-based Project Tasks

Firstly, to create any file in Enterprise Architect, select one of:

  • Project list | New Project menu option
  • 'Local File | New Project' option on the 'Manage Projects' dialog, or
  • 'Create new' option on the Start Page

All of these options display the 'New Project' dialog; select a directory and enter a file name for your project, using an appropriate file extension.

Once the project has been saved, the 'Create from Pattern' tab (Model Wizard) displays, which makes a selection of model patterns available; select the pattern(s) to use.

Enterprise Architect adds a model containing the selected model Packages to the Browser window.

Task

Detail

See also

Create .QEA and .QEAX Project Files

From Enterprise Architect version 16.0 onwards, .qea/.qeax is the default and recommended file based format, due to its easy of setup and general performance.

  • Files with the extension of .QEA support single users.
  • The .QEAX support muilti-user access for a small group less than five users.

The internal format of both files is identical, however the .QEAX extension indicates that file sharing will be enabled. A QEAX file can be renamed back to QEA - no data transfer is required.

Create .FEAP Project Files (Firebird)

When you create a .feap file in Enterprise Architect, the system will check your input and display an error message if:

  • Your Firebird repository is not located on the local drive; a Firebird repository is not appropriate for a network shared project
  • The file path contains characters that are not in the system codepage

Create .EAP/.EAPX Project Files (MS Access Jet)

Create your project file with the .eap extension under JET 3.5 (does not support unicode text) or .eapx under JET 4 (does support unicode text).

You can also copy and rename the EABase.eap or .eapx template file, and build your project up from that.

Note that you cannot create or load a .eap or .eapx file in Enterprise Architect 16.0 64-bit under Wine. Under any other operating system, if the 64-bit access driver is not installed, the system prompts you to convert the file to another format such as .feap.

Managing Connections to Projects The Model Wizard

Create .EADB Project Files

Introduced in Enterprise Architect v16, if you have MS Access 2007+ (or the MS Access database engine) installed, you can create a .eadb project file in these ways:

  • Select to create a new project file and give it the .eadb file extension
  • Copy and rename the EABase.eadb file (in the installation folder) and build up your project from that

Prior to Enterprise Architect v16 the only way to make use of MS Access 2007+ databases was with the .ACCDB ODBC driver (see the next point).  However, the .eadb extension is now internally recognized by Enterprise Architect, so once MS Access 2007+ (or the database engine) is installed, Enterprise Architect can work with these databases without any further configuration, thereby greatly improving the usability of this database format.

The .eadb files can be opened in all editions of Enterprise Architect, including the Professional.

Create .ACCDB Project Files

Enterprise Architect can use a MS Access 2007+ database (extension .ACCDB) as repository; however, the local machine requires either MS Access 2007 (or later) or the MS Access 2013 (or later) database engine installed.  Having one of these products provides the local machine with a Microsoft Access ODBC driver that Enterprise Architect can make use of.

Create a Project in a MS Access 2007 Database

Location of default (EABase) repository template

The default installation directories, depending on which edition you have installed, are:

  • Registered Edition: C:\Program Files\Sparx Systems\EA
  • Trial Edition: C:\Program Files\Sparx Systems\EA Trial
  • Lite Edition: C:\Program Files\Sparx Systems\EA Lite

A base project contains templates and reference data from which you can quickly develop your own project.

Note that in addition to deriving a new model from EABase, it is also possible to start a new project by copying an existing one. While it is possible to simply 'copy' the EABase file at the file system level, this results in two identical models and should only be used when that is the required behavior; for example, when distributing a model to a client for verification. If you use the built in functions of Enterprise Architect to create a new model based on an existing one, Enterprise Architect will modify the unique identifiers (GUIDs) for all elements and related constructs so that the new model is essentially unique, and not a simple copy of the existing one.

Copy a Base Project

Configure Project

Having created your project, there are a number of things that you might want to do to set it up for use by yourself or other team members. You might want to:

  • Enable Security and set up Users, Groups and Permissions
  • Set Project Options and Personal Preferences
  • Set up Technologies, Perspectives and Ribbon Sets
  • Create a Repository structure in the Browser
  • Use patterns to create initial project content
  • Set up Report Templates
  • Set up default database and programing language options
Reference Data Advanced Customization

Create Custom Templates

You can customize any Enterprise Architect project as a template project - meaning that you can use it as the basis for creating other project files. This could include company standards, tutorials, frameworks and any other common piece of modeling already in-built; with careful planning you can save yourself many hours of work at project start-up.

Incorporate Model Wizard Templates

Best Practices for File Based Repositories

Single User

Simple file based repositories (.qea, .feap and .eap files) are best suited to single user development with the model file placed on the modelers local drive. This is a fast and a very efficient means of getting started in modeling a particular solution. Many models will start out as single user repositories and only later be migrated into a DBMS or Cloud-based repository for larger team access. If you need to quickly start work on a project and do some exploratory work, or you are working alone as a consultant, the .qea, .feap or .eap file format is ideal.

Small Workgroup

With all versions of Enterprise Architect it is possible to share a project file at the network file level.

Note that this is a suitable solution for small workgroups (less than five members) who are collaborating on a shared model.

The solution very much depends on the quality of the network connection as Enterprise Architect on the user's machine is still running all the queries and performing all database operations on a network file. Therefore, it is less suitable as collaborating users increase in number and/or the model grows larger, at which stage it is best to upsize to either a DBMS or Cloud-based architecture.

In Conjunction with Version Control

One additional scenario in which file-based repositories can be used to great effect is with a Version Control system such as SVN. If the SVN system holds the master content, then individual developers/modelers can check out the material of interest to them into a local .qea .feap or .eap file. When they have made their changes they can migrate their work back into the shared master. This style of development is quite effective, and as the import and export of model material from the Version Control system works best with single user local project files, it is a good match and a good use of the two technologies.

Copy of Repository for Storage or Review

A further use of the single file repository is for distribution to clients and others for review and comment, where the original model(s) is located in a DBMS or Cloud that the recipient would not have access to. As it is relatively easy to bulk copy a DBMS model to a local project file, this is a good method for passing on a model to a client or another interested party. If some of the material is restricted, it is possible to delete sections from this single file repository after the bulk copy is complete and before passing it on.

Replication

If network access is limited and DBMS and Cloud-based solutions are not possible, another possibility for team-based development is to use the built-in replication features of the file format. By creating a design master and distributing replicas to other modelers, it is possible to effectively share and contribute to a model without having direct shared access to the common model. On the down side, someone will have to perform the model merges as required and if there are replication conflicts (two changes to the same item) this will require manual resolution.

Up-sizing

A project to be easily scaled up when the team further increases in size or when organizational policy dictates. In particular, given that file based multi-user access is limited to the workgroup having fewer than 5 concurrent users, there are two good options:

  • A file-based repository can be easily transferred to a DBMS-based repository using the Project Transfer feature
  • The free Pro Cloud Server can be used with either a .feap file, or a free DBMS like MySQL, with both supporting unlimited users

Notes

  • You can also add Model Packages to a project by clicking on the Browser window header bar and selecting the 'New Model From Pattern' menu option

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