A use case illustrates a unit of functionality provided by the system. The main purpose of the use-case diagram is to help development teams visualize the functional requirements of a system, including the relationship of "actors" (human beings who will interact with the system) to essential processes, as well as the relationships among different use cases. Use-case diagrams generally show groups of use cases — either all use cases for the complete system, or a breakout of a particular group of use cases with related functionality (e.g., all security administration-related use cases). To show a use case on a use-case diagram, you draw an oval in the middle of the diagram and put the name of the use case in the center of, or below, the oval. To draw an actor (indicating a system user) on a use-case diagram, you draw a stick person to the left or right of your diagram (and just in case you're wondering, some people draw prettier stick people than others). Use simple lines to depict relationships between actors and use cases, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Sample use-case diagram
A use-case diagram is typically used to communicate the high-level functions of the system and the system's scope. By looking at our use-case diagram in Figure 1, you can easily tell the functions that our example system provides. This system lets the band manager view a sales statistics report and the Billboard 200 report for the band's CDs. It also lets the record manager view a sales statistics report and the Billboard 200 report for a particular CD. The diagram also tells us that our system delivers Billboard reports from an external system called Billboard Reporting Service.
In addition, the absence of use cases in this diagram shows what the system doesn't do. For example, it does not provide a way for a band manager to listen to songs from the different albums on the Billboard 200 — i.e., we see no reference to a use case called Listen to Songs from Billboard 200. This absence is not a trivial matter. With clear and simple use-case descriptions provided on such a diagram, a project sponsor can easily see if needed functionality is present or not present in the system.
The class diagram shows how the different entities (people, things, and data) relate to each other; in other words, it shows the static structures of the system. A class diagram can be used to display logical classes, which are typically the kinds of things the business people in an organization talk about — rock bands, CDs, radio play; or loans, home mortgages, car loans, and interest rates. Class diagrams can also be used to show implementation classes, which are the things that programmers typically deal with. An implementation class diagram will probably show some of the same classes as the logical classes diagram.The implementation class diagram won't be drawn with the same attributes, however, because it will most likely have references to things like Vectors and HashMaps.
A class is depicted on the class diagram as a rectangle with three horizontal sections, as shown in Figure 2. The upper section shows the class's name; the middle section contains the class's attributes; and the lower section contains the class's operations (or "methods").
Figure 2: Sample class object in a class diagram
In my experience, almost every developer knows what this diagram is, yet I find that most programmers draw the relationship lines incorrectly. For a class diagram like the one in Figure 3, you should draw the inheritance relationship using a line with an arrowhead at the top pointing to the super class, and the arrowhead should be a completed triangle. An association relationship should be a solid line if both classes are aware of each other and a line with an open arrowhead if the association is known by only one of the classes.
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