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Create a Glossary as a Package Structure

Using the modeling approach to defining glossaries provides great flexibility and additional features not available in the dialog-list approach. In this approach the glossary, the categories and the terms themselves are modeled as first-class citizens. This allows the categories and the terms to be located in the Browser window and visualized in diagrams, and for the terms to participate in relationships that model their semantic and lexical connections. The terms can have additional properties defined, such as an alias or status, or any user-defined property such as Custodian. Hyperlinks can also be added that target an online resource used to define or clarify the term, and discussions can be posted to facilitate the collaboration needed to ensure all stakeholders agree on the term's name and meaning. Governance and fine-grained control of the creation and update of the Glossary content can be added down to a term level, using the Package and element locking feature in conjunction with model security.

You can define your Project Glossary using a model structure in which the Glossary itself is represented by a Package, and each type of term (such as Business terms or Technical terms) is represented by a child Glossary Category Package containing Glossary Entry elements that define the terms. The structure resembles this illustration:

The Glossary Package is an optional convenience to collate Glossary content - the Glossary loader searches for and acts on the Category Packages which, with their Entry elements, can actually live anywhere in the model.

Anything you create or edit in the structure becomes active after you reload the Glossary. That is, a term defined in the Glossary is underlined and, when you move the cursor over it, the term, category and definition display in either a pop-up text box beside the term or at the bottom left of the screen in the Status Bar (depending on which location you have set in the 'Window Behavior' page of the 'Preferences' dialog).

The advantages of using this method are:

  • You can set up the structure to create a functional Glossary very quickly
  • It is extremely easy to add, change and remove categories of term, either on a diagram or in the Browser window
  • You have great versatility in categorizing and changing the categories of defined terms
  • The ease and speed with which you can add and edit term descriptions and definitions
  • Glossary terms can be connected together to define semantic and lexical relationships
  • Security can be set at any level to apply governance and federated control on the terms
  • Discussions can be posted to assist with definition and clarification of the terms' meanings
  • Built-in or user-defined Properties can be added to the terms used to define meta-level information such as status, alias, the business or technical custodian and more

The same modeling principles are used to manage translation of the text you enter in Enterprise Architect; see the Create a Translation Glossary Model Help topic.

This feature is available in Enterprise Architect from Release 15.1 onwards.

Set up the Glossary Model

The first stage in setting up your Glossary model is to locate or create the parent Package for the Glossary. This could be directly as a Root Node, a View, a Model Package (created from the Model Wizard) or one or more simple Packages. Your choice depends on how you want the Glossary structure to sit within your overall Project.

The simplest and most structured method is to create a model using the Model Wizard.

  1. In the Browser window, click on the host Root Node, View or Package for the Glossary (perhaps within an Administration or Resources section of your project).
  2. Click on the New Package icon. icon in the Browser window toolbar. The Start Page displays at the 'Create from Pattern' tab.
  3. Click on the <perspective name> button just underneath the tab name, and select 'Publishing | Glossary'. The Glossary Perspective patterns list displays, providing a number of options that are described later in this topic; for this process click on 'Structured Model Glossary Template'.
  4. Click on the Create Model(s) button. A Glossary Package is added to the Browser window under the host Package, containing a Glossary diagram and a <<GlossaryCategory>> Package, which in turn contains a Category diagram and a <<GlossaryEntry>> element.
  5. In the Browser window, click on the <<GlossaryCategory> Package and, using the Properties window (press Ctrl+2 if it is not open), change the name to represent the first of your glossary categories, such as 'Business Terms'. Do the same thing with the name of the diagram in the <<GlossaryCategory>> Package.
  6. In the Browser window, click on the <<GlossaryEntry>> element and change the name to the first of the glossary terms in the current Glossary Category; for example, 'BPMN'.
  7. In the Notes window for the element (press Ctrl+3 if the window is not open) type the description or definition of the term.

You now have the structure of the Glossary model with one term definition in one of the term categories.

Right-click on the name of any GlossaryCategory Package or GlossaryEntry element in the Browser window and select the 'Reload Glossary' option. Choose an object in the model and type your term in the Notes window, then move the cursor over that term.  You will see the term description or definition in either a pop-up text box or the Status Bar, as defined in the 'Preferences' dialog.

If the description is too long to display in the initial location, press Ctrl and click the left mouse button to display the Project Glossary View. This shows the details of all Glossary items, including the definition of each item.

If a term has more than one definition (as might occur with multiple technologies and/or pre-defined text translations) all definitions are shown in the tool-tip, although they are listed as separate items in the Project Glossary View.

Add Categories and Terms to the Model

Having set up the basic structure of the Glossary model, you can create further categories and add terms to each category.

Your first step is to double-click on the Glossary diagram name in the Browser window, to open it. You will see that it contains the initial <<GlossaryCategory>> Package element, itself listing the first <<GlossaryEntry> element. The Diagram Toolbox will also open at the 'Glossary' page, containing the Glossary Category icon.

  1. For each Glossary Category you want to group terms and definitions under, drag the Glossary Category icon from the Toolbox onto the diagram and provide a name for it, such as 'Technical', 'HR' or 'Management'. A <<GlossaryCategory>> Package is created on the diagram and in the model.
  2. Save the diagram.

You can now add Glossary Terms to each of the categories. This is one method - you can also add the Glossary Entry elements via other windows and views, and directly through the Browser window. See the Create Elements Help topic.

  1. Double-click on the first Category Package under which to define some terms. A new diagram opens with the same name as the Category, and the Toolbox displays the 'Category' page, containing the Glossary Entry icon.
  2. For each term you want to define in this category, drag the Glossary Entry icon onto the diagram. A <<GlossaryEntry>> element is created on the diagram and in the model.
  3. Double-click on the element and, in the 'Properties' dialog, type the term being defined in the 'Name' field and the definition of the term in the 'Notes' panel. Click on the OK button. You begin to build up the set of Glossary terms relevant to the category.

    Again, save the diagrams, right-click on the name of any GlossaryCategory Package or GlossaryEntry element and select the 'Reload Glossary' option to activate the new terms in the Glossary of the model.

Create a Domain-Specific Glossary

You can create a number of types of Glossary to suit your requirements, either under one overall Glossary Package or dispersed under separate context-Glossary Packages, or even as individual GlossaryCategory Packages. One example of a glossary type is the natural language Translation model, which is discussed in the Create a Translation Glossary Model Help topic. Others include Glossaries specific to, say, individual modeling languages or development domains.

You can create domain-specific glossaries from scratch. However, Enterprise Architect provides patterns to help you load a number of ready-made domain glossaries. To see those available, on the Start Page 'Create from Pattern' tab (Model Wizard) click on the <perspective name> button, select 'All Perspectives' and set the filter field directly underneath it to 'Glossary'.

Amongst the patterns listed you will see those for glossaries of BPMN terms, SysML terms, BABOK terms and TOGAF terms. You can simply create glossaries directly from these patterns and - if necessary - add to or edit the term definitions. If a pattern does not exist for your required modeling language or domain, you could use one of the listed patterns and more radically edit the resulting glossary to adapt it to your language or domain.

Create an Ad-Hoc Glossary

Whether you have a structured glossary model or not, you might find that you need to define or capture a set of terms quickly, or without any real consideration for what specific category they might belong to. For example, you might have a solid glossary for SysML but decide to define a number of more general MBSE terms or more localized company jargon terms.

In these contexts, you can use the Glossary Definition Diagram pattern to create an empty diagram in which you can create GlossaryEntry elements or into which you can drag any other type of existing element from the Browser window.  The only things to consider are:

  • The diagram name should indicate some relationship with the glossary, such as 'Unassigned Glossary Terms'
  • The element name should represent the term and
  • The element notes should provide an appropriate definition or description of the term

Once the elements are on the diagram, just right-click on the name of any GlossaryCategory Package or GlossaryEntry element and select the 'Reload Glossary' option. The element names and notes text are added to the glossary, and when you mouse-over the term in text, the definition displays preceded by the diagram name, identifying where the definition is held.


  • In the Corporate, Unified and Ultimate Editions of Enterprise Architect, if security is enabled you must have 'Manage Glossary' permission in order to create, update or delete Glossary Categories and Entries; if security is not enabled, you can manage Glossary items without any permissions
  • Glossary Categories defined as Packages in the model are not offered as 'Type' options in the 'Glossary Detail' dialog; to assign dialog items to the same category as model items, you have to specify the category as a new type in the dialog (click on the  icon at the end of the 'Type' field)
  • In the Project Glossary View the items created as model elements (Model Item = True) have different context menu options to those generated though the 'Glossary Detail' dialog; for example, you cannot add or delete Model Items in the Project Glossary View

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