Introduction to UML

Systems being developed now are more complex than ever, and old software development methods simply do not efficiently scale up to the size of current systems. New paradigms are needed to keep up.

Engineers in other disciplines have long used blueprints and models to design and construct complex systems. They are concise, precise and allow the viewer to understand at a glance what is going on. They also contain an enormous amount of information. The standards used for blueprinting buildings are the same, a door or window is always rendered the same way. In the past, this was not the case with software blueprints. Notational lanugages were language and method specific, so that a class in one language could look completely different in a different notation.

Not so anymore. The Unified Modeling Language (UML) is a standard widely-adopted graphical language that describes the artifacts of software systems with a focus on conceptual and physical representations. It provides a good bird's eye view as well as the minute details of the structural and behavioral aspects of a single system through the various views offered by UML. It is proprietary and languageindependent so that it may be used in any number of development environments.

The Object Management Group (OMG) is the body responsible for creating and maintaining the language specifications. They define UML as, “a graphical language for visualizing, specifying, constructing, and documenting the artifacts of a softwareintensive system”. It is based on the UML Metamodel, which is a UML class diagram that specifies the syntactic and semantic charactersitics of elements and relationships.

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