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Umbrello UML Modeller is a UML diagram tool that can support you in the software development process. Especially during the analysis and design phases of this process, Umbrello UML Modeller will help you to get a high quality product. UML can also be used to document your software designs to help you and your fellow developers.

Having a good model of your software is the best way to communicate with other developers working on the project and with your customers. A good model is extremely important for medium and big-size projects, but it is also very useful for small ones. Even if you are working on a small one man project you will benefit from a good model because it will give you an overview that will help you code things right the first time.


  • In Ubuntu, open Terminal & give,
$ sudo apt-get install umbrello

Working with Umbrello UML Modeller

This will introduce you to Umbrello UML Modeller's user interface and will tell you all you need to know to start modelling. All actions in Umbrello UML Modeller are accessible via the menu and the toolbars, but Umbrello UML Modeller also makes extensive use of right mouse button context menus. You can right mouse button click on almost any element in Umbrello UML Modeller's work area or tree view to get a menu with the most useful functions that can be applied to the particular element you are working on. Some users find this a little confusing at the beginning because they are more used to working with the menu or tool bars, but once you get used to right clicking it will greatly speed up your work.

User Interface

Umbrello User Interface

Umbrello UML Modeller's main window is divided in three areas that will help you keep an overview of your entire system and access the different diagrams quickly while working on your model.

These areas are called:

  • Tree View
  • Work Area
  • Documentation Window

Tree View

The Tree View is usually located on the top left hand side of the window and shows the all the diagrams, classes, actors and use cases that build up your model. The Tree View allows you to have a quick overview of the elements composing your model. The Tree View also gives you a quick way to switch between the different diagrams in your model and inserting elements from your model into the current diagram.

If you are working on a model with more than just a few classes and diagrams, the Tree View may help you stay on top of things by organizing your model elements in folders. You can create folders by selecting the appropriate option from the context menu (right mouse button click on one of the folders in the tree view) and you can organize your elements by moving them to the appropriate folder (drag and drop)

Documentation Window

The Documentation Window is the small window located on the left bottom of Umbrello UML Modeller, and it gives you a quick preview of the documentation for the currently selected item. The Documentation Window is rather small because it is intended to allow you just a quick pick into the element's documentation while taking as little screen space as possible. If you need to view the documentation in more detail you can always open the item's properties.

Work Area

The Work Area is the main window in Umbrello UML Modeller and is where the real action takes place. You use the Work Area to edit and view the diagrams in your model. The Work Area shows the currently active diagram. Currently only one diagram can be shown on the Work Area at any time.

Creating, Loading and Saving Models

The first thing you need to start doing something useful with Umbrello UML Modeller is to create a model to work on. When you start Umbrello UML Modeller it always loads the last used model or creates a new, empty model (depending on your preferences set in the configuration dialog). This will allow you to start working right away.

New Model

If at any time you need to create a new model you can do this by selecting the New entry from the File menu, or by clicking on the New icon from the application toolbar. If you are currently working on a model which has been modified Umbrello UML Modeller will ask you if it should save your changes before loading the new model.

Save Model

You can save your model at any time by selecting the option Save from the File Menu or by clicking on the Save button from the application toolbar. If you need to save your model under a different name you can use the option Save As from the File Menu.

For your convenience Umbrello UML Modeller also offers you the option to automatically save your work each certain time period. You can configure if you want this option as well as the time intervals in the Settings from Umbrello UML Modeller

Load Model

For loading an already existing model you may select the option Open from the File Menu or click on the Open icon from the application toolbar. The most recently used models are also available under the submenu Open Recent in the File Menu to speed up access to your most frequently used models.

Umbrello UML Modeller can only work on one model at a time, so if you ask the program to load a model for you and your current model has been modified since the last time you save it, Umbrello UML Modeller will ask you whether your changes should be saved to prevent any loss of work. You can start two or more instances of Umbrello UML Modeller at any one time, you can also copy and paste between instances.

Editing Model

In Umbrello UML Modeller, there are basically two ways for editing the elements in your model.

  • Edit model elements directly through the Tree View
  • Edit model elements through a Diagram

Using the context menu of the different items in the Tree View you are able to add, remove, and modify almost all the elements in your model. Right clicking on the folders in the Tree View will give you options for creating the different types of diagrams as well as, depending on whether the folder is a Use Case View or a Logical View, Actors, Use Cases, Classes, etc.

Once you have added elements to your model you can also edit an element by accessing its properties dialog, which you find by selecting the option Properties from the context menu shown when right clicking on the items in the Tree View.

You can also edit your model by creating or modifying elements through diagrams. More details on how to do this are given in the following sections.

Adding and Removing Diagrams

Your UML model consists of a set of UML elements and associations between them. However you cannot see the model directly, you use Diagrams to look at it.

Creating Diagrams

To create a new diagram in your model simply select the diagram type you need from the New submenu in the Diagram menu and give a name to it. The diagram will be created and made active, and you will immediately see it in the tree view.

Remember that Umbrello UML Modeller makes extensive use of context menus: you can also right mouse button click on a folder in the Tree View and select the appropriate diagram type from the New submenu in the context menu. Note that you can create Use Case Diagrams only in Use Case View folders, and the other types of diagram can only be created in the Logical View folders.

Removing Diagrams

Should you need to remove a diagram from your model, you can do this by making it active and selecting Delete from the Diagram Menu. You can also achieve this by selecting Delete from the diagrams context menu in the Tree View

Since deleting a diagram is something serious that could cause loss of work if done by accident, Umbrello UML Modeller will ask you to confirm the delete operation before actually removing the Diagram. Once a diagram has been deleted and the file has been saved there is no way to undo this action.

Renaming Diagrams

If you want to change the name of an existing diagram you can easily do this by selecting the Rename option from its right mouse button menu in the Tree View.

Another way to rename a diagram is to do this via its properties dialog, which you obtain by selecting Properties from its Context Menu or by double clicking on it in the Tree View.

Editing Diagrams

When working on a diagram, Umbrello UML Modeller will try to guide you by applying some simple rules as to which elements are valid in the different types of diagrams, as well as the relationships that can exist between them. If you are an UML expert you will probably not even notice it, but this will help UML novices create standard-conformant diagrams.

Once you have created your diagrams it is time to start editing them. Here you should notice the (for beginners subtle) difference between editing your diagram, and editing the model. As you already know, Diagrams are views of your model. For example, if you create a class by editing a Class Diagram, you are really editing both, your Diagram and your model. If you change the color or other display options of a Class in your Class Diagram, you are only editing the Diagram, but nothing is changed in your model.

Insert Elements

One of the first things you will do when editing a new diagram is to insert elements into them (Classes, Actors, Use Cases, etc.) There is basically two ways of doing this:

  • Dragging existing elements in your model from the Tree View
  • Creating new elements in your model and adding them to your diagram at the same time, by using one of the edit Tools in the Work Toolbar

To insert elements that already exist in your model, just drag them from the Tree View and drop them where you want them to be in your diagram. You can always move elements around in your Diagram using the Select Tool

The second way of adding elements to your diagram is by using the Work Toolbar's edit tools (note that this will also add the elements to your model).

The Work Toolbar was by default located on the far right of the application window, Umbrello UML Modeller 1.2 has moved this to the top of the window. You can dock it into other edge or have it floating around if you prefer. The tools available on this toolbar (the buttons you see on it) change depending on the type of diagram you are currently working on. The button for the currently selected tool is activated in the toolbar. You can switch to the select tool by pressing the Esc key.

When you have selected an edit tool from the Work Toolbar (for example, the tool to insert classes) the mouse pointer changes to a cross, and you can insert the elements in your model by single clicking in your diagram. Note that elements in UML must have a Unique Name. So that if you have a class in one diagram whose name is “ClassA” and then you use the insert Class tool to insert a class into another diagram you cannot name this new class “ClassA” as well. If these two are supposed to be two different elements, you have to give them a unique name. If you are trying to add the same element to your diagram, then the Insert Class is not the right tool for that. You should drag and drop the class from the Tree View instead.

Deleting Elements

You can delete any element by selecting the option Delete from its context menu.

Again, there is a big difference between removing an object from a diagram, and deleting an object from your model: If you delete an object from within a diagram, you are only removing the object from that particular diagram: the element will still be part of your model and if there are other diagrams using the same element they will not suffer any change. If, on the other hand, you delete the element from the Tree View, you are actually deleting the element from your model. Since the element no longer exist in your model, it will be automatically removed from all the diagrams it appears in.

Editing Elements

You can edit most of the UML elements in your model and diagrams by opening its Properties dialog and selecting the appropriate options. To edit the properties of an object, select Properties from its context menu (right mouse button click). Each element has a dialog consisting of several pages where you can configure the options corresponding to that element. For some elements, like actors you can only set a couple of options, like the object name and documentation, while for other elements, like classes, you can edit its attributes and operations, select what you want to be shown in the diagram (whole operation signature or just operation names, etc) and even the colors you want to use for the line and fill of the class' representation on the diagram.

For most UML elements you can also open the properties dialog by double clicking on it if you are using the selection tool (arrow). The exception to this is Associations, in which case a double click creates an anchor point. For associations you need to use the right mouse button context menu to get the properties dialog.

Note that you can also select the properties option from the context menu of the elements in the Tree View. This allows you to also edit the properties for the diagrams, like setting whether the grid should be shown or not.

Editing Classes

Even though editing the properties of all objects was already covered in the previous section, classes deserve a special section because they are a bit more complicated and have more options than most of the other UML elements.

In the properties dialog for a class you can set everything, from the color it uses to the operations and attributes it has. Class General Settings

The General Settings page of the properties dialog is self-explanatory. Here you can change the class' name, visibility, documentation, etc. This page is always available.

Class Attribute Settings

In the Attributes Settings page you can add, edit, or delete attributes (variables) of the class. You can move attributes up and down the list by pressing the arrow button on the side. This page is always available.

Class Operations Settings

Similar to the Attribute Settings Page, in the Operation Settings Page you can add, edit, or remove operations for your class. When adding or editing an operation, you enter the basic data in the Operation Properties dialog. If you want to add parameters to your operation you need to click the New Parameter button, which will show the Parameter Properties dialog. This page is always available

Class Template Settings

This page allows you to add class templates which are unspecified classes or datatypes. In Java 1.5 these will be called Generics.

Class Associations Page

The Class Associations page shows all the associations of this class in the current diagram. Double clicking on an association shows its properties, and depending on the type of association you may modify some parameters here such as setting multiplicity and Role name. If the association does not allow such options to be modified, the Association Properties dialog is read-only and you can only modify the documentation associated with this association.

This page is only available if you open the Class Properties from within a diagram. If you select the class properties from the context menu in the Tree View this page is not available.

Class Display Page

In the Display Options page, you can set what is to be shown in the diagram. A class can be shown as only one rectangle with the class name in it (useful if you have many classes in your diagram, or are for the moment not interested in the details of each class) or as complete as showing packages, stereotypes, and attributes and operations with full signature and visibility

Depending on the amount of information you want to see you can select the corresponding options in this page. The changes you make here are only display options for the diagram. This means that “hiding” a class' operations only makes them not to be shown in the diagram, but the operation are still there as part of your model. This option is only available if you select the class properties from within a Diagram. If you open the class properties from the Tree View this page is missing since such Display Options do not make sense in that case

Class Color Page

In the Widget Color page you can configure the colors you want for the line and the fill of the widget. This option obviously makes sense only for classes displayed in diagrams, and is missing if you open the class' properties dialog from the Tree View.


Associations relate two UML objects to each other. Normally associations are defined between two classes, but some types of associations can also exists between use cases and actors.

To create an association select the appropriate tool from the Work Toolbar (generic Association, Generalization, Aggregation, etc.) and single click on the first element participating in the association and then single click on the second item participating. Note that those are two clicks, one on each on the objects participating in the association, it is not a drag from one object to the other.

If you try to use an association in a way against the UML specification Umbrello UML Modeller will refuse to create the association and you will get an error message. This would be the case if, for example, a Generalization exists from class A to class B and then you try to create another Generalization from Class B to class A

Right clicking on an association will show a context menu with the actions you can apply on it. If you need to delete an association simply select the Delete option from this context menu. You can also select the Properties option and, depending on the association type edit attributes such as roles and multiplicity.

Anchor Points

Associations are drawn, by default, as a straight line connecting the two objects in the diagram.

You can add anchor points to bend an association by double clicking some where along the association line. This will insert an anchor point (displayed as a blue point when the association line is selected) which you can move around to give shape to the association

If you need to remove an anchor point, double click on it again to remove it

Note that the only way to edit the properties of an association is through the context menu. If you try to double click on it as with other UML objects, this will only insert an anchor point.

Notes, Text and Boxes

Notes, Lines Of Text and Boxes are elements that can be present in any type of diagram and have no real semantic value, but are very helpful to add extra comments or explanations that can make your diagram easier to understand.

To add a Note or a Line Of Text, select the corresponding tool from the Work Toolbar and single click on the diagram where you want to put your comment. You can edit the text by opening the element through its context menu or in the case of notes by double clicking on them as well.


Anchors are used to link a text note and another UML Element together. For example, you normally use a text note to explain or make some comment about a class or a particular association, in which case you can use the anchor to make it clear that the note “belongs” to that particular element.

To add an anchor between a note and another UML element, use the anchor tool from the work toolbar. You first need to click on the note and then click on the UML element you want the note to be linked to.

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