For a portion of 2006, I was working on the assignment to my SCEA (Sun Certified Enterprise Architect) certification. This assignment requires to provide the architecture of a software system as a number of UML diagrams.
Needless to say, without a UML tool it is difficult to maintain consistency, so from the beginning, I sketched my design using the “Community License” to a well-known UML tool. “Community License” seems to be a popular euphemism in the UML business, in general these are heavily limited in some way, making the tool practically unusable for projects of reasonable size. In this case, I purchased a license, so I could at least save my work. Unfortunately, I soon found out that the tool suffered from two fundamental problems:
- it’s slow
- it’s unreliable
As soon as my design reached a certain size, I could barely edit my diagrams because of the slow performance. On top of that, the software had the tendency to crash unexpectedly and write invalid data files. I would not have expected that from a software product where some editions cost thousands. Unfortunately, it is not the only example.
After wasting a month’s work only fighting with the shortcomings (when you pay for it, you try to use it, right ?), I decided to give up on it and to cash out a little more money to buy a different software. I evaluated a total of six software packages and decided to purchase the “Personal Edition” of the one that appealed to me most. It is fast, reliable, powerful and on top of that, it’s written in Java.
My overall experience I gained from the evaluation of free and commercial UML tools was, that there is not a single one that covers what I think a “Personal Edition” should include. Also in my opinion, a “Personal Edition” needs to be free, I do not think it makes any sense to milk users who use a tool for education or private purposes.
After the Z-machine Preservation Project , TinyUML is the next larger spare time project that I am doing. It first and foremost will scratch my personal itches, but if there are a number of people with the same fleas, feel free to use my scratcher.