nAML (.NET Application Modeling Language, pronounced as “namel”) is a visual modeling semantics to model .net applications with wide range of specific details. It contains extremely power visual notations and semantics to illustrate complex application components, processes and operations easily. It overcomes the limitation of traditional modeling languages by providing a single space to describe an application system with its structural and behavioral, as well as physical and logical components. One of it’s the most powerful objectives is nAML requires near to zero knowledge on notation semantics to understand an application system from readers perspective.
Example: Using nAML, for instance, a software architect can model a whole or part of a web application in a single visual diagram with respect to interaction, communication and structure between end user, web interface, .net classes, database objects, physical tiers (web server, business logic server, database server etc) and so on.
The primary objectives of nAML can be considered as follows:
- Provides a single space to visually describe one or more application systems with structural and behavioral components.
- Provides a single space to visually describe one or more application systems with logical and physical components.
- Provides a single space to visually describe one or more application systems from top to low level.
- Provides a single space to visually describe a part or whole of one or more application systems.
- Extremely simple and easy understand and learn from readers and designers perspective.
- Concentrates on .NET applications, with its related logical and physical entities (user interface, application logic, business logic, database etc).
Terms and Definitions
An Element is a structural notation that is the physical or logical object that holds one or more physical and/or logical objects.
In an ASP.NET web application, an ASP.NET page can be an Element, having controls embedded within it as sub-Element and the event handler methods as defined Operation within it. For a .net class, the member Elements are the properties, data fields etc. For a physical database, its member Elements is the tables.
An Operation is a behavioral notation that is the set of one or more actions to be performed that are defined in an Element.
For instance, an ASP.NET page code behind class, as an Element, can have controls event handlers (click event handler of button etc) as Operation. For a .net class, the members Elements are the methods etc. For a physical database, its “Operation” can be defined within the stored procedure, functions.
Association is a structural notation that illustrates how the Elements or Operations are connected to other Elements or Operations.
Attribute is a structural notation that is the Meta data information that describes an Element, Operation or Association.
The notation of attribute can be simple text of an Element, Operation to be expressed as characteristics of another Element or Operation.
For a .NET class “Employee” can have an Attribute as, Class Name: Employee
An Element lifeline is a behavioral notation which is the time span within which all activities related to the corresponding Element is illustrated. The life line also shows the active and inactive state of the Element. Each lifeline for a given Element applies to only one instance of that Element.
If an instance of a .net class is being created, then its activation will be illustrated from the moment it created.
Common Semantic Guideline
- To distinguish structural and behavioral components of system, consider solid line diagrams as the behavioral component and dashed line diagrams as the structural component.
- Element Lifeline reflects the time span for behavioral components only, rather structural components
The Hello World! Sample
The sample illustrated below shows the “Hello World” message in an ASP.NET Label server control, when a user clicks on a ASP.NET Button server control.
Now let’s see the corresponding nAML notations implemented in this example.
Links and Download
Here is the nAML project site: http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/nAML
Download the latest specification, examples and Visio 2003 Stencil for nAML tutorial from here.
Download Visio 2003 Stencil for nAML from here.
Points of Interest
In last couple of years in my software development career, I have worked several mid and large scale projects, from system analysis, designing architecture, implementation to tester level. To express both requirements and technical concepts, visual modeling became a vital need for me, especially for very complex level problems and corresponding candidate solutions. I became (and still) a big fan of UML, which has very powerful notations and semantics to describe a system visually from different point of view. This smart visual modeling language made my software development life much easier, even while I was reviewing the requirement and technical models after a long interval.
In many cases, on my recent software projects, I have been feeling need of a simpler semantic notation, where I can model an existing and proposed system in a single diagram, both from structural (static) and behavioral (dynamic) point of view, from physical to logical point of view and moreover which will be easy enough to be implemented quickly with a small set of notations. Having both structural and behavioral components along with low level view in a single diagram, may require a considerable big space. However for a complex system and/or concept this can be considerable to have the whole model illustrated in a wide big whiteboard or wall enabling the system stakeholders and architect to view the system from deeper view.
After establishing the notations and semantics for nAML and its successful implementation, I just wanted to share the idea with others, so that others can be benefitted. Using nAML doesn’t mean that you have to leave your existing modeling practices, but if the new concept really adds some benefit on your developer life, don’t forget to have your own feedback to make nAML better.
Sep 12, 2008: Article posted.
Sep 11, 2008: nAML v1.0 (Beta 1) released at code.msdn.microsoft.com.