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Diagram Behavior Options

As you create and edit diagrams in your model, the system can respond in different ways to the types of object you are adding to a diagram. You can configure a range of options to control what response the system makes to the object you are adding or the action you are performing.



Start > Appearance > Preferences > Preferences > Diagram > Behavior

Keyboard Shortcuts

Ctrl+F9 | Diagram | Behavior

Control Diagram Behavior



See also

Auto Instance

Select the checkbox to automatically create object instances when dragging certain element types - such as Class and Component - from the Browser window onto the diagram, with the dragged element as the classifier.

Deselect the checkbox to paste the element as a link.

This option has no effect on Sequence diagrams.

Drop Elements from Browser Window

Instance has Classifier style

Select the checkbox to automatically apply the classifier style of the element from which an instance is instantiated, when the instance is created either through the 'Paste Element' dialog or when 'Auto Instance' is selected.

The classifier style is the default appearance of the classifier, such as fill color and text font.

Show Life Lines

Select the checkbox to adjust the alignment of life lines for Sequence elements.

Layout uses all relations

Select the checkbox to automatically take connectors of all types into account when you lay out the diagram; deselect the checkbox to ignore Association connectors in automatically laying out the elements.

The elements with Association connectors are moved as if they do not have those relationships, although the connectors themselves are still depicted on the diagram.

This option acts through the 'Design > Diagram > Manage > Properties > Diagram : Set Layout Style' option, and through the 'Digraph' option of the Layout Tools window ('Layout > Tools > Diagram Layout > Open Diagram Layout Tools').

Layout Diagrams

Auto Save Changes

Select the checkbox to automatically save your changes as you work. No prompts are displayed asking you to save the changes.

Deselect the checkbox to display prompts to save your changes when you attempt to close the diagram without having saved it.

Show 'Hidden' Parents

Select the checkbox to list each element's parent elements that are not already part of the diagram, in the top right corner of the element in the diagram.

Deselect the checkbox to not list the parent elements.

Set Element Parent

Show Linked Items in Package

Select the checkbox to include external elements in the Package contents list in a Package element on a diagram. For this to take effect, the 'Package Contents' checkbox must be selected on the 'Elements' tab of the 'Properties' dialog for the diagram.

Deselect the checkbox to omit external elements from the list.

Define Element Characteristics

Show Package Item Scope

Select the checkbox to display the scope indicators (such as +, # and -) against the elements in the contents list within a Package element. For this to take effect, the 'Package Contents' checkbox must be selected on the 'Elements' tab of the 'Properties' dialog for the diagram.

Deselect the checkbox to hide these indicators in the list.

Modeling Conventions Define Element Characteristics

Shift-Mouse Autoscroll

Select the checkbox to enable you to autoscroll around diagrams by pressing and holding Shift and pressing the middle mouse button while you move the mouse.

Use Automatic SubActivities

Select the checkbox to automatically create a new Structured Activity element when you drag one Activity diagram from the Browser window onto another Activity diagram, and select the 'Hyperlink' option.

Structured Activity Diagram Frame

Auto Group Elements

Select the checkbox to also move contained (child) elements when you are moving their container (parent) elements. Deselect the checkbox to move the container elements independently.

You can toggle to the opposite setting of this option when moving an element on a diagram, by pressing or tapping the Alt key.

Always Highlight Context Element

Select the checkbox to show a hatched border around any element when you select it, along with the tracking handles (see Tracking Handle Size).

Deselect the checkbox to show only the tracking handles when you select an element.

Highlight Context Element

Objects Snap to Grid

Select the checkbox to make all elements on a diagram always align with the nearest grid point.

Deselect the checkbox to position elements at a precise point regardless of the grid.

Show Grid

Select the checkbox to display the grid points as pale gray dots. If you specify a large grid size the grid points can be hard to see.

Deselect the checkbox to hide the grid points.

Grid Size

If you have selected the 'Objects Snap to Grid' checkbox, type in the separation of the grid points, in pixels.

If you deselect the 'Objects Snap to Grid' checkbox the value is grayed out, but it remains in the field and is applied again if you re-select the checkbox.

Auto Tidy

Select the checkbox to automatically tidy line angles for custom connectors; this 'nudges' the custom line into horizontal and vertical increments.

Connector Styles

Tidy line gap

Type in the maximum distance, in pixels, that the 'Auto Tidy' option can adjust the end point of a non-orthogonal line to make it orthogonal, for custom connectors.

Connector Styles

Alias only

Select the radio button to display, on elements with aliases, the alias instead of the element name.

This option and the next two options take action on diagrams for which the 'Use Alias if Available' checkbox is selected on the 'Properties' dialog for the diagram.

Configure Diagram Display

Alias and Name

Select the radio button to display, on elements that have aliases, both the element name and the Alias in the format '(Alias) name'.

Use alias field for role

Select the checkbox to use the Alias property of instances of elements to show the Role property.

Enable Presentation Mode

Select the checkbox to display your unlocked diagrams in Presentation Mode. Locked diagrams are automatically displayed in this mode.

In Presentation Mode, when you click on an element on the diagram the element is highlighted with a solid colored border, the color being identified in the 'Highlight' field. This provides a more visually appealing highlight of any element you might be discussing in a presentation.

In Presentation Mode, the 'tracking handles' are hidden.

Show Presentation Logo

Select this checkbox to display the Enterprise Architect logo down the right-hand edge of diagrams - this is very useful to add software identification in presentations, but also during work sessions.


Click on the drop-down arrow and select the color in which to highlight the borders of a selected element both in Presentation mode and when the 'Rect Style' field is set to 'Thin'. The color is also applied to element tracking handles when the 'Handle Color' option is set to 'Use Highlight'.

You can select either:

  • One of the available colors
  • The More Colors button, or
  • (If you have previously changed the color) the Default color button (Aqua)

The More Colors button displays the 'Colors' dialog, from which you can select a preset color from the 'Standard' tab or define a custom color on the 'Custom' tab.

Click on the OK button to apply the new color as the highlight for selected element borders.

Standard Colors

Handle Color

Click on the drop-down arrow and select the fill color of the 'size change handles' or 'tracking handles' on an element, connector or label in a diagram. These display when you click on the object to select it. 

  • White
  • Light Gray
  • Dark Gray
  • Black or
  • Use Highlight - applies the color you selected in the 'Highlight' field, so the tracking handles and selection border are the same color

Rect Style

Click on the drop-down arrow and select the thickness of the hashed selection outline. You can select from:

  • 'Normal' - the hashed outline is thick and obscures the highlighted border of the element
  • 'Thin' - the hashed outline is thin and not apparent against the highlighted element border

Handle Position

Click on the drop-down arrow and select the position of the 'tracking handles' on the object outline - either Outside the outline or Inside. Alternatively, if you do not want 'tracking handles' to display at all, select the 'Hidden' option.

Handle Size

Click on the drop-down arrow and select the size of the 'tracking handles' from the list.

You can select:

  • Small (the default, 8 pixels)
  • Medium (12 pixels), or
  • Large (16 pixels)

If 'Enable Presentation Mode' is selected, the 'tracking handles' are hidden. You can still expand or contract the element by dragging on the corners, ends or mid-points of the object.

Reset BPMN Prompts

Working on a BPMN 2.0 diagram can result in certain prompts being displayed, which you can hide by selecting the 'Do not show this message again' checkbox on each prompt.

Click on this Reset BPMN Prompts button to clear that checkbox so that the prompts are again displayed.

Modeling with BPMN 2.0


Click on this button to save your changes and close the 'Preferences' dialog.


  • If you have a diagram open when you reset any of these diagram behavior options, you might need to close the diagram and open it again to see the effect