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Sequence Diagrams Reference

Notation Description

A Lifeline is shown using a symbol that consists of a rectangle forming its “head” followed by a vertical
line (which may be dashed) that represents the lifetime of the participant.

Lifeline with name "data" of class Stock.

Anonymous lifeline has no name - arbitrary representative of class.

Anonymous lifeline of class User.

Selector could be used to specify some lifeline from collection.

Lifeline "x" of class X is selected with selector [k].


Execution (full name - execution specification, informally called activation) is interaction fragment
which represents a period in the participant's lifetime when it is
executing a unit of behavior or action within the lifeline,
sending a signal to another participant,
waiting for a reply message from another participant.
The duration of an execution is represented by two execution occurrences - the start occurrence
and the finish occurrence.

Execution is represented as a thin grey or white rectangle on the lifeline.

Execution specification shown as grey rectangle on

the Service lifeline.

Execution can be represented by a wider labeled rectangle, where the label usually identifies the
action that was executed.

Execution represented as wider rectangle labeled as


Overlapping executions on the same lifeline are represented by overlapping rectangles.

Overlapping execution specifications on the same

lifeline - message to self.
Overlapping execution specifications on the same
lifeline - callback message.


Message is a named element that defines one specific kind of communication between lifelines of an
interaction. The message specifies not only the kind of communication, but also the sender and the
receiver. Sender and receiver are normally two occurrence specifications (points at the ends of

A message is shown as a line from the sender message end to the receiver message end. The line
must be such that every line fragment is either horizontal or downwards when traversed from send
event to receive event. The send and receive events may both be on the same lifeline. The form of the
line or arrowhead reflects properties of the message.

Messages by Action Type

Depending on the type of action that was used to generate the message, message could be one of:
synchronous call
asynchronous call
asynchronous signal

Synchronous Call

Synchronous call typically represents operation call - send message and suspend execution while
waiting for response. Synchronous Messages are shown with filled arrow head.
Web Client searches Online Bookshop and waits for

Asynchronous Call

Asynchronous call - send message and proceed immediately without waiting for return value.
Asynchronous Messages have an open arrow head.

Service starts Task and proceeds in parallel without


Asynchronous Signal

Asynchronous signal message corresponds to asynchronous send signal action.

Create Message

Create message is sent to lifeline to create itself. Note, that it is weird but common practice in OOAD to
send create message to a nonexisting object to create itself. In real life, create message is sent to some
runtime environment.

Create message is shown as a dashed line with open arrowhead (same as reply), and pointing to
created lifeline's head.
Online Bookshop creates Account.

Delete Message

Delete message (called stop in previous versions of UML) is sent to terminate another lifeline. The
lifeline usually ends with a cross in the form of an X at the bottom denoting destruction occurrence.

UML 2.3 specification provides neither specific notation for delete message nor a stereotype. Until they
provide some notation, we can use custom «destroy» stereotype.

Online Bookshop terminates Account.

Reply Message

Reply message to an operation call is shown as a dashed line with open arrow head.

Web Client searches Online Bookshop and waits for

results to be returned.

Messages by Presence of Events

Depending on whether message send event and receive events are present, message could be one of:
complete message
lost message
found message
unknown message (default)

Lost Message

Lost Message is a message where the sending event is known, but there is no receiving event. It is
interpreted as if the message never reached its destination. Lost messages are denoted with as a small
black circle at the arrow end of the message.

Web Client sent search message which was lost.

Found Message

Found Message is a message where the receiving event is known, but there is no (known) sending
event. It is interpreted as if the origin of the message is outside the scope of the description. This may
for example be noise or other activity that we do not want to describe in detail.

Found messages are denoted with a small black circle at the starting end of the message.

Online Bookshop gets search message of unknown


Destruction Occurrence

Destruction occurrence is a message occurrence which represents the destruction of the instance
described by the lifeline. It may result in the subsequent destruction of other objects that this object
owns by composition. No other occurrence may appear below the destruction on a given lifeline.

Complete UML name of the occurrence is destruction occurrence specification. Until UML 2.4 it was
called destruction event, and earlier - stop.

The destruction of instance is depicted by a cross in the form of an X at the bottom of a lifeline.

Account lifeline is terminated

State Invariant

A state invariant is an interaction fragment which represents a runtime constraint on the

participants of the interaction. It may be used to specify different kinds of constraints, such as values of
attributes or variables, internal or external states, etc.

State invariant is usually shown as a constraint in curly braces on the lifeline.

Attribute t of Task should be equal to complete.

It could also be shown as a state symbol representing the equivalent of a constraint that checks the
state of the object represented by the lifeline. This could be either the internal state of the classifier
behavior of the corresponding classifier or some external state based on a "black-box" view of the

Task should be in Finished state.

Combined Fragment

Interaction operator could be one of:

alt - alternatives
opt - option
loop - iteration
break - break
par - parallel
strict - strict sequencing
seq - weak sequencing
critical - critical region
ignore - ignore
consider - consider
assert - assertion
neg - negative

The interaction operator alt means that the combined fragment represents a choice or alternatives of
behavior. At most one of the operands will be chosen. The chosen operand must have an explicit or
implicit guard expression that evaluates to true at this point in the interaction.

Call accept() if balance > 0, call reject() otherwise.


The interaction operator opt means that the combined fragment represents a choice of behavior where
either the (sole) operand happens or nothing happens. An option is semantically equivalent to an
alternative combined fragment where there is one operand with non-empty content and the second
operand is empty.

Post comments if there were no errors.


If loop has no bounds specified, it means potentially infinite loop with zero as lower bound and infinite
upper bound.

Potentially infinite loop.

If only min-int is specified, it means that upper bound is equal to the lower bound, and loop will be
executed exactly the specified number of times.
Loop to execute exactly 10 times.

If both bounds are specified, loop will iterate minimum the min-int number of times and at most the
max-int number of times.

Besides iteration bounds loop could also have an interaction constraint - a Boolean expression in
square brackets. To add to the other confusions, UML 2.3 also calls both of them guards.

UML tries to shuffle the simplest form of for loop and while loop which causes weird UML 2.3 loop
semantics on p.488: "after the minimum number of iterations have executed and the Boolean
expression is false the loop will terminate". This is clarified - with opposite meaning - on the next page
as "the loop will only continue if that specification evaluates to true during execution regardless of the
We may guess that as per UML 2.3, the loop is minimum number of iterations specified in the loop."
expected to execute minimum 5 times and no more
than 10 times. If guard condition [size<0] becomes
false loop terminates regardless of the minimum
number of iterations specified. (Then why do we need
that min number specified?!)


The interaction operator break represents a breaking or exceptional scenario that is performed instead
of the remainder of the enclosing interaction fragment.

Note, UML allows only one level - directly enclosing interaction fragment - to be abandoned. This could
become really annoying if double loop or loop with other combined fragments should be broken.
Break enclosing loop if y>0.


The interaction operator par defines potentially parallel execution of behaviors of the operands of the
combined fragment. Different operands can be interleaved in any way as long as the ordering imposed
by each operand is preserved.

Search Google, Bing and Ask in any order, possibly


Parallel combined fragment has a notational shorthand for the common situations where the order of
events on one lifeline is insignificant. In a coregion area of a lifeline restricted by horizontal square
brackets all directly contained fragments are considered as separate operands of a parallel combined
Coregion - search Google, Bing and Ask in any order,
possibly parallel.

Strict Sequencing

The interaction operator strict requires a strict sequencing (order) of the operands on the first level
within the combined fragment.

Search Google, Bing and Yahoo in the strict

sequential order.

Weak Sequencing

Weak sequencing seq is defined by the set of traces with these properties:
The ordering of occurrence specifications within each of the operands are maintained in the result.
Occurrence specifications on different lifelines from different operands may come in any order.
Occurrence specifications on the same lifeline from different operands are ordered such that an
occurrence specification of the first operand comes before that of the second operand.
Thus weak sequencing seq reduces to a parallel merge when the operands are on disjunct sets of
participants. Weak sequencing reduces to strict sequencing when the operands work on only one
Search Google possibly parallel with Bing and Yahoo,
but search Bing before Yahoo.

Critical Region

The interaction operator critical defines that the combined fragment represents a critical region. A
critical region is a region with traces that cannot be interleaved by other occurrence specifications (on
the lifelines covered by the region). This means that the region is treated atomically by the enclosing
fragment and can't be interleaved, e.g. by parallel operator.

Add() or remove() could be called in parallel, but each

one should run as a critical region.


Interaction operator ignore means that there are some messages that are not shown within this
combined fragment. These message types can be considered insignificant and are implicitly ignored if
they appear in a corresponding execution.
The list of ignored messages follows the operand enclosed in a pair of curly braces "{" and "}". Ignore
operation is typically combined with other operations such as "assert ignore {m, s}."

Ignore get and set messages, if any.


The interaction operator consider defines which messages should be considered within this combined
fragment, meaning that any other message will be ignored.

The list of considered messages follows the operand enclosed in a pair of curly braces "{" and "}".
Consider operation is typically combined with other operations such as "assert consider {m, s}."

Consider only add() or remove() messages, ignore

any other.


The interaction operator assert means that the combined fragment represents the assertion that the
sequences of the assert operand are the only valid continuations (must be satisfied by a correct design
of the system). All other continuations result in an invalid trace.

Commit() message should occur at this point,

following with evaluation of state invariant.

The interaction operator neg describes combined fragment of traces that are defined to be negative
(invalid). Negative traces are the traces which occur when the system has failed. All interaction
fragments that are different from the negative are considered positive, meaning that they describe
traces that are valid and should be possible.

Should we receive back timeout message, it means

the system has failed.

Interaction Use

Interaction use is interaction fragment which allows to use (or call) another interaction. Large and
complex sequence diagrams could be simplified with interaction uses. It is also common reusing some
interaction between several other interactions.

The interaction use is shown as a combined fragment with operator ref.

Web customer and Bookshop use (reference)

interaction Checkout.

The syntax of the interaction use of the ref operator is:

interaction-use ::= [ attribute-name '=' ] [ collaboration-use   '.' ]   interaction-name [ io-

arguments ]   [ ':' return-value ]
io-arguments ::= '(' io-argument   [ ',' io-argument ]*   ')'
io-argument ::= in-argument   |   'out'   out-argument

Use Login interaction to authenticate user and assign

result back to the user attribute of Site Controller.