Survey on the Applicability of Textual Notations for the Unified Modeling Language

Conference paper
Part of the Communications in Computer and Information Science book series (CCIS, volume 692)


The Unified Modeling Language (UML) is the most commonly used software description language. Today, textual notations for UML aim for a compact representation that is suitable for developers. Many textual notations exist but their applicability in engineering teams varies because a standardized textual notation is missing. Evaluating notations in order to find a suitable one is cumbersome and guidelines found in surveys do not report on applicability. This survey identifies textual notations for UML that can be used instead of or in combination with graphical notations, e.g. by collaborating teams or in different contexts. Additionally, it rates the notation’s applicability with respect to UML coverage, user editing experience, and applicability focused on engineering teams. Our results facilitate the otherwise unclear selection of a notation tailored for specific scenarios and enables trade-off decisions. We identified and characterized 21 known notations and 12 notations that were not covered in previous surveys. We used 20 categories to characterize the notations. Our findings show that a single notation does not cover more than 3 UML diagram types (mean 2.6), supports all surveyed state of the art editing features (only one notation supports all), and fits into existing tool chains.


UML Textual notation Survey Editing experience 



This work is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs under grant 01KM141108.


  1. 1.
    Spinellis, D.: On the declarative specification of models. IEEE Softw. 20, 94–96 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Luque, L., Brandāo, L., Tori, R., Brandāo, A.: On the inclusion of blind people in UML e-learning activities. In: RBIE 2015, vol. 23, p. 18 (2015)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Luque, L., Brandāo, L.O., Tori, R., Brandāo, A.A.F.: Are you seeing this? what is available and how can we include blind students in virtual UML learning activities. In: SBIE 2014 (2014)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Luque, L., Veriscimo, E.S., Pereira, G.C., Filgueiras, L.V.L.: Can we work together? on the inclusion of blind people in UML model-based tasks. In: Langdon, P.M., Lazar, J., Heylighen, A., Dong, H. (eds.) Inclusive Designing, pp. 223–233. Springer, Cham (2014). doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-05095-9_20 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Mazanec, M., Macek, O.: On general-purpose textual modeling languages. In: DATESO 2012, pp. 1–12 (2012)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Seifermann, S., Groenda, H.: Survey on textual notations for the unified modeling language. In: MODELSWARD 2016, pp. 28–39. SciTePress (2016)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Kitchenham, B., Charters, S.: Guidelines for performing systematic literature reviews in software engineering (version 2.3). EBSE Technical report, EBSE-2007-01, Keele University (2007)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Wohlin, C.: Guidelines for snowballing in systematic literature studies and a replication in software engineering. In: EASE 2014, pp. 38:1–38:10. ACM (2014)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    OMG: Unified Modeling Language (UML) - Version 2.5. (2015).
  10. 10.
    OMG: XML Metadata Interchange (XMI) - Version 2.5.1. (2015).
  11. 11.
    Open Source Initiative: Licenses by name (2015). Accessed 04 Aug 2015
  12. 12.
    Kern, H.: Study of interoperability between meta-modeling tools. In: FedCSIS 2014, pp. 1629–1637 (2014)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Wikipedia: List of unified modeling language tools (2015). Accessed 04 Aug 2015
  14. 14.
    Safdar, S.A., Iqbal, M.Z., Khan, M.U.: Empirical evaluation of UML modeling tools–a controlled experiment. In: Taentzer, G., Bordeleau, F. (eds.) ECMFA 2015. LNCS, vol. 9153, pp. 33–44. Springer, Cham (2015). doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-21151-0_3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Khaled, L.: A comparison between UML tools. In: ICECS 2009, pp. 111–114 (2009)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    OMG: Action language for foundational UML (ALF). PDF (2013).
  17. 17.
    Jackson, D.: Alloy: a lightweight object modelling notation. ACM TOSEM 11, 256–290 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Information technology - z formal specification notation - syntax, type system and semantics. Standard, International Organization for Standardization (2002)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Winikoff, M.: Towards making agent UML practical: a textual notation and a tool. In: NASA/DoD Conference on Evolvable Hardware, pp. 401–412 (2005)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Walton, D.: CKWNC - UML sequence diagram editor (2013).
  21. 21.
    Zayan, D.O.: Model evolution: comparative study between clafer and textual UML (2012).;%20Clafer%20versus%20Textual%20UML.pdf. Project Report
  22. 22.
    Feng, H.: DCharts, a formalism for modeling and simulation based design of reactive software systems. Master’s thesis, School of Computer Science, McGill University, Montreal, Canada (2004)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    EventHelix: Eventstudio system designer 6 (2016).
  24. 24.
    Vieritz, H., Schilberg, D., Jeschke, S.: Access to UML diagrams with the HUTN. In: Jeschke, S., Isenhardt, I., Hees, F., Henning, K. (eds.) Automation, Communication and Cybernetics in Science and Engineering 2013/2014, pp. 751–755. Springer, Cham (2014). doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-08816-7_58 Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Doi, T., Yoshioka, N., Tahara, Y., Honiden, S.: Bridging the gap between AUML and implementation using IOM/T. In: Bordini, R.H., Dastani, M., Dix, J., Fallah Seghrouchni, A. (eds.) ProMAS 2004. LNCS (LNAI), vol. 3346, pp. 147–162. Springer, Heidelberg (2005). doi: 10.1007/978-3-540-32260-3_8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Gheorghies, O.: MetaUml - GitHub (2015). Accessed 14 Aug 2015
  27. 27.
    Roques, A.: PlantUml: Open-source tool that uses simple textual descriptions to draw UML diagrams (2015). Accessed 14 Aug 2015
  28. 28.
    Washizaki, H., Akimoto, M., Hasebe, A., Kubo, A., Fukazawa, Y.: TCD: a text-based UML class diagram notation and its model converters. In: Kim, T., Kim, H.-K., Khan, M.K., Kiumi, A., Fang, W., Ślęzak, D. (eds.) ASEA 2010. CCIS, vol. 117, pp. 296–302. Springer, Heidelberg (2010). doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-17578-7_29 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Chaves, R.: TextUml toolkit (2015). Accessed 14 Aug 2015
  30. 30.
    Jouault, F., Delatour, J.: Towards fixing sketchy UML models by leveraging textual notations: application to real-time embedded systems. In: OCL 2014, pp. 73–82 (2014)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Dévai, G., Kovács, G.F., An, Á.: Textual, executable, translatable UML. In: OCL 2014, pp. 3–12 (2014)Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Grönniger, H., Krahn, H., Rumpe, B., Schindler, M., Völkel, S.: Text-based modeling. CoRR abs/1409.6623 (2014)Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Auer, M., Tschurtschenthaler, T., Biffl, S.: A flyweight UML modelling tool for software development in heterogeneous environments. In: EUROMICRO 2003, pp. 267–272. IEEE (2003)Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Lethbridge, T.: Umple: an open-source tool for easy-to-use modeling, analysis, and code generation. In: MoDELS 2014 (2014)Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Nero Grillo, F., Mattos Fortes, R.P.: Tests with blind programmers using AWMo: an accessible web modeling tool. In: Stephanidis, C., Antona, M. (eds.) UAHCI 2014. LNCS, vol. 8513, pp. 104–113. Springer, Cham (2014). doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-07437-5_11 Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Harris, T.: Create UML diagrams online in seconds, no special tools needed (2015). Accessed 14 Aug 2015
  37. 37.
    Dobing, B., Parsons, J.: How UML is used. Commun. ACM 49, 109–113 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Erickson, J., Siau, K.: Can UML be simplified? practitioner use of UML in separate domains. In: EMMSAD 2007, pp. 89–98 (2007)Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Reggio, G., Leotta, M., Ricca, F., Clerissi, D.: What are the used UML diagram constructs? a document and tool analysis study covering activity and use case diagrams. In: MODELSWARD 2014, pp. 66–83 (2014)Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    He, Y.: Comparison of the modeling languages alloy and UML. In: SERP 2006, pp. 671–677 (2006)Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Cabot, J.: Modeling languages - UML tools (2015). Accessed 04 Aug 2015

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.FZI Research Center for Information Technology, Software EngineeringKarlsruheGermany

Personalised recommendations