Monday, May 14, 2007

JDeveloper Use Case Modeler Revisited

The other day I wrote about the UML Class Modeler of JDeveloper 10.1.3 and concluded that not much has been changed since JDeveloper 10.1.2. I cannot say the same for the UML Use Case Modeler of 10.1.3. Well, number-wise there still are not that many enhancements, but importance-wise the more.

First of all two new use case objects have been added, being the System Boundary and Milestone. The System Boundary can be used to organize use cases by subject, and typically will be used to organize use cases by (sub)system. The Milestone boundary can be used to organize use cases, for example by iteration in case you develop the system incrementally. You can put all use cases that are within the scope of a specific increment in the Milestone of that increment.

In the example I have used System Boundaries to organize use cases by subsystem. One subsystem being the front-office and the other one the back-office of some service request system.

System Boundaries and Milestones can be used together and a use case can be in more than one of each. For example, the use case Enter Service Request can be in both the "Service Request Front-Office" System Boundary as well as in the "First Increment" Milestone.

The most appealing change concerns user-defined use case templates. The JDeveloper UI has been changed and now allows you to create new pallet pages with user-defined components. There are four different type of pallet pages you can create, one for cascading style sheets, one for Java, one for code snippets and one for use case objects. The latter is the one I'm interested in right now.

You can create your own version for every type of use case objects (actor, use case, system boundary, or milestone), the most interesting one being that for use cases. Normally on a project you will have two different types of use cases, so-called "casual" ones and "fully dressed" ones. The difference is in the number of properties you specify, where a fully dressed one has more properties. The casual one is typically used for simple use cases for which "just a few words" will suffice to describe them. For more complex use cases you will use the fully dressed version.

To my taste both use case templates that are shipped with JDeveloper lack a few properties, being:
  • Use Case number (it is a good practice to number use cases for reference)
  • Priority (in general it is good practice to prioritize everything you do in a project)
  • Status (is the use case just started, draft, or more or less stable)
  • Brief Description (describe what the use case is about in just a few sentences).
To adjust the templates to include the above properties I normally had to adjust the original ones in the appropriate JDeveloper folder (after making a backup copy, of course). But now I can make a copy to a project specific folder (which I can put under version control) rename them to whatever I want, and add them to JDeveloper as components in a newly created pallet page.

There is one caveat though. When you start creating use cases, it might not always be clear if a use case is simple or complex. Normally you will create use cases in iterations, starting with just a Brief Description and add the scenario later. It then may turn out that the use case is a lot more complex than you initially thought. Unfortunately you cannot transform a casual use case to a fully dressed one (or visa versa).

But rather than creating every use case as a fully dressed one to be on the safe side, I choose to live dangerously and add extra properties when needed. Under the hood every use case starts as a copy of one of the templates and consists of XML/HTML tags. Using the Source view you can simply copy the extra fully-dressed properties from a fully dressed use case to a casual one and fill them out.

Last thing to say is that the use case editor has become a lot more userfriendly. Also nice to know, wouldn't you say so?


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