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Selecting relationships and roles
Editing relationship properties
Adding binary relationships
Adding an n-ary relationship
Advanced use of the toolbar while creating relationships
Moving relationships
Editing role properties
Working with role breakpoints and target points
Adding, deleting and reconnecting roles
Deleting relationships

4.1.3 Relationships and Roles

Selecting relationships and roles

To select a relationship or role, you must click with the mouse in or near one of its selection areas. For relationships, the selection area is at the meeting point of the role lines, and is either the graphical symbol or label text for the relationship, or a red dot if there is no symbol. For roles, the selection area is the role line and possible symbol at the end of it. When a relationship is selected it displays selection handles around its symbol, or a single selection handle if it has no symbol. When a role is selected it displays a selection handle at both ends of its line, and also for any breakpoints along the line.

To select multiple relationships or roles, select the first element by clicking it with the left mouse button, then holding Ctrl down while you click each of the other elements. Alternatively, you can select all design elements in an area by clicking and dragging with the left mouse button to define the area you want to select.

To select all elements in the drawing area (i.e. all objects, relationships and roles), select Edit | Select All or use the shortcut key Ctrl+A.

Editing relationship properties

Relationships are connections between objects. In the Diagram Editor these are represented as the meeting point of role lines, possibly with an associated symbol. Relationships can be viewed and edited similarly to objects. To edit the properties of a relationship:
1)Select the relationship.
2)Open the relationship’s pop-up menu (with the right mouse button) and select Properties... Alternatively you may use a keyboard shortcut by pressing Enter, or select Edit | Properties....

 As a result a property dialog appears allowing you to edit the information about the relationship.
->By default, the right mouse button first selects an element then opens the pop-up menu for it. This can be changed to just open the pop-up menu. See Section 3.1.3 Options Tool.

Adding binary relationships

To add a new binary relationship (i.e. a relationship between two objects):
1)Select the relationship type from the toolbar or the Types menu.
2)Move the cursor over the first object so that it becomes highlighted as in Figure 4–12.

 The highlighted part of the symbol is called its connectable. Usually there is only one connectable per symbol. It is also possible to have multiple connectables, each of them being a representation of a port (for more information about ports, see Section 6.2.3). Hovering over a port will show its name and type in the Status bar. If you try to connect a relationship to an illegal port, a warning dialog will show up.

Creating Binary Relationship

Figure 4–12.Creating binary relationship.

3)Press and hold down the left mouse button, drag the cursor over the other object so its connectable becomes highlighted, and release the mouse button.

As a result a dialog window opens with possible relationships to be added. Each item is a binding, consisting of a relationship, the roles that will be created with the relationship, and which object will be in which role. Selecting an item will show a preview of the selected binding in the drawing area. Depending on your preference settings for relationship creation (Section 3.1.3), the order in which you select objects may affect the choices and assignment of roles to objects. If only one combination of relationships and roles is possible the tool bypasses this dialog and the property dialog appears immediately. This dialog contains tabs for property dialogs on the relationship and each of the roles.
->If a relationship or a role does not have properties, the tab label text on the notebook page is italicized. The tab label for roles also shows the name of the object to which that role attaches.

4)Fill in the properties of the new relationship and roles. Click the tab labels to move between relationship and role pages.
5)Accept the new relationship and its roles by clicking All OK.

Alternatively, you can also create a binary relationship as in previous versions of MetaEdit+. Selecting the first object, and choose Connect... from its pop-up menu. As you move the cursor to another object, a line will follow it from the first object. Press the left mouse button over the second object, and fill in the property dialogs as above.

Adding an n-ary relationship

To create an n-ary relationship (i.e. a relationship involving more than two objects):
1)Select the type for the new relationship from the toolbar or the Types menu, and click the first object (as in Figure 4–13).
2)Click in the spot where you want to place the relationship. A red dot will appear there as a placeholder for the relationship.
3)Add each role by clicking each required object.

Creating n-ary Relationship

Figure 4–13.Creating an n-ary relationship.

4)Once you have added all roles, finalize the relationship creation by pressing the right mouse button. You can avoid this step and finalize the relationship creation while creating the last role by double-clicking the last object.
5)Answer the property dialogs if necessary.

It is also possible to skip step 1, by placing the relationship first. The role to the first object should then be drawn as the first role in step 3.

N-ary relationships can also be created as in previous versions of MetaEdit+: first select all the objects that you want in the relationship (e.g. by Ctrl-clicking them) and then select Connect... from the pop-up menu. You must then click in the drawing area to fix the position of the relationship, where any relationship symbol will appear.
->During the relationship creation MetaEdit+ always checks if it is possible to add more roles. If the current relationship type in the current graph type does not allow any more connections than the relationship already has, MetaEdit+ does not offer to add more connections (i.e. if a language only has binary relationships, the user will never be prompted to add a third role).

Advanced use of the toolbar while creating relationships

The type toolbar provides two useful options for easing the creation of relationships in certain situations. The first such option is the generic relationship button (as shown in Figure 4–3) that initiates the creation of any relationship type. The type for the created relationship is determined from context, or the user is prompted to choose between legal relationship types in that context when the creation is confirmed.

The other option is the sticky mode for relationship creation, which can be enabled by holding down the Ctrl key when selecting the relationship type. This enables the user to create several relationships of the same type sequentially, without needing to re-select the relationship type after each one is created. The sticky mode is retained until a new type is selected or the right mouse button is pressed to cancel the creation of a relationship. Sticky mode applies also to the generic relationship creation.

Moving relationships

As with objects, relationships can be moved. To do this:
1)Click on the relationship with the left mouse button.

->If the relationship has no symbol, click on the red dot that indicates its position. If it has a symbol that is currently not visible (e.g. an empty string property), you can find the relationship’s point by default as the midpoint of the role lines.

2)Drag the relationship to a new location.

The relationship symbol can be moved to the midpoint between its objects, and all existing break points in all roles of the relationship can be removed by selecting Straighten Relationship (or Straighten Relationship(s) if you have selected multiple relationships) from the pop-up menu of the relationship. Normally, this will not affect the target points of roles, but if Shift is held down it will also reset the target points.

It is also possible to move straight binary relationships so that their straightness is preserved, i.e. the target points at the end of both roles are also moved in relation to the position of the relationship (as in Figure 4–14). This can be done by holding down the Ctrl and Shift keys while moving the relationship.

Moving Relationships

Figure 4–14. Moving straight binary relationships.

Scaling relationship symbols and aligning them to the grid is described at the end of Section 4.1.6.

Editing role properties

Relationships are connected to objects through roles. Each relationship has at least two roles and they too can have properties. An example of a property for a role is a cardinality constraint in an Entity-Relationship-Attribute Diagram.

Because roles are attached to relationships their management is closely related to the management of relationships. When a relationship is created, you are also asked for values for its roles, and when a relationship is removed the roles too are removed.

Property dialogs for roles can be accessed as with relationships. To edit role properties:
1)Select the role by clicking it with the left mouse button. The ends of the role, and any breakpoints along it, are marked with small squares. Figure 4–15 below shows the Diagram Editor with a role selected.
2)Open the pop-up menu with the right mouse button.
3)Select Properties... and the property dialog opens.

->As in other editors, you may also press Enter or double-click to open the property dialog for the selected role.

Working with role breakpoints and target points

Roles consist of a line, possibly with breakpoints along the line, and a target point at the end of the line where the role connects to the object (Figure 4–15). Normally the breakpoints and target point move together with the relationship and objects, but it is also possible to move them separately.

For target points, it is important to understand that they do not lock the end of the role line at a certain fixed point in the drawing area. Rather, role lines aim at target points, which are specified as offsets from the centre of the object’s connectable. This means while moving or scaling an object with roles that have specified target points, the role lines stay aimed at those target points, but do not necessarily stop at the target point. Role lines are always drawn to stop where they cut the object’s connectable. If a line aimed at the target point will not cut the object connectable, the target point is ignored and the line is retargeted to the closest point on the connectable.

To add a new breakpoint to an existing role line:
1)Select the role line by clicking it.
2)Move the cursor over the role line at the point where you want to add the breakpoint.
3)Press and hold down the left mouse button and drag the new breakpoint to its desired location.
1)Select the role line by clicking it.
2)Select Add Point from the role line’s pop-up menu.

You can remove a breakpoint either by control-clicking it or by choosing Delete Point from its pop-up menu. All existing break points in all roles of a relationship can be removed by selecting Straighten Role from the pop-up menu of the relationship. Normally, this will not affect the target point, but if Shift is held down it will also reset the target point.

Breakpoints and Target point
Figure 4–15. Breakpoints and target point.

To move the target points, drag them along the symbol perimeter (as in the lower part of Figure 4–15). If the current selection includes multiple roles, dragging one role’s target point drags the target points of all selected roles attached to that object — useful in Sequence Diagrams. To restore a target point into its original position, control-click it or select Restore Target Point from its pop-up menu.

Adding, deleting and reconnecting roles

You can add a new role to the relationship by selecting it and choosing Add a New Role... from its pop-up menu. An alternative way to add a role is to activate the respective relationship creation from the type toolbar, then click left mouse button on the relationship you want add a role to (the relationship must be of the same type as selected in the toolbar) and then drag the role line on the target object.

Roles can be deleted either by pressing the Delete key when the role is selected, by choosing Delete from the pop-up menu or toolbar or by selecting Edit | Delete. Note that if the relationship will be left with fewer than two roles the relationship is removed as well.

It is also possible to reconnect a role from one object to another, or to a different port. To do this, select the role then hold down Shift and drag its target point handle from the current object to the new object or port. Alternatively, you can select Reconnect from the role’s target point’s pop-up menu. Unlike the Shift-drag method, selecting Reconnect from the menu will also discard any existing breakpoints along that role line; to keep them, hold down Shift when selecting from the menu. You can cancel the reconnect in either method by right-clicking.

If reconnecting was not possible with the original role, but a role of a different type would work, MetaEdit+ will prompt you to select that type.

Deleting relationships

To delete a relationship, either press the Delete key when the relationship is selected, choose Delete from the relationship’s pop-up menu or toolbar, or select Edit | Delete. When a relationship is deleted its roles are also deleted.

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