Class and Interaction Diagrams

Class diagrams

 A class diagram describes the static structure of a system. It shows how a system is structured rather than how it behaves. The static structure of a system comprises of a number of class diagrams and their dependencies. The main constituents of a class diagram are classes and their relationships: generalization, aggregation, association, and various kinds of dependencies.


 The classes represent entities with common features, i.e. attributes and operations. Classes are represented as solid outline rectangles with compartments. Classes have a mandatory name compartment where the name is written centered in boldface. The class name is usually written using mixed case convention and begins with an uppercase. The class names are usually chosen to be singular nouns. An example of a class.

 Classes have optional attributes and operations compartments. A class may appear on several diagrams. Its attributes and operations are suppressed on all but one diagram.


 An attribute is a named property of a class. It represents the kind of data that an object might contain. Attributes are listed with their names, and may optionally contain specification of their type, an initial value, and constraints. The type of the attribute is written by appending a colon and the type name after the attribute name. Typically, the first letter of a class name is a small letter. An example for an attribute is given.


 Operation is the implementation of a service that can be requested from any object of the class to affect behavior. An object’s data or state can be changed by invoking an operation of the object. A class may have any number of operations or no operation at all. Typically, the first letter of an operation name is a small letter. Abstract operations are written in italics. The parameters of an operation (if any), may have a kind specified, which may be ‘in’, ‘out’ or ‘inout’. An operation may have a return type consisting of a single return type expression. An example for an operation is given.

issueBook(in bookName):Boolean


 Associations are needed to enable objects to communicate with each other. An association describes a connection between classes. The association relation between two objects is called object connection or link. Links are instances of associations. A link is a physical or conceptual connection between object instances. For example, suppose Amit has borrowed the book Graph Theory. Here, borrowed is the connection between the objects Amit and Graph Theory book. Mathematically, a link can be considered to be a tuple, i.e. an ordered list of object instances. An association describes a group of links with a common structure and common semantics. For example, consider the statement that Library Member borrows Books. Here, borrows is the association between the class LibraryMember and the class Book. Usually, an association is a binary relation (between two classes). However, three or more different classes can be involved in an association. A class can have an association relationship with itself (called recursive association). In this case, it is usually assumed that two different objects of the class are linked by the association relationship.

Association between two classes is represented by drawing a straight line between the concerned classes. Fig. 7.9 illustrates the graphical representation of the association relation. The name of the association is written alongside the association line. An arrowhead may be placed on the association line to indicate the reading direction of the association. The arrowhead should not be misunderstood to be indicating the direction of a pointer implementing an association. On each side of the association relation, the multiplicity is noted as an individual number or as a value range. The multiplicity indicates how many instances of one class are associated with each other. Value ranges of multiplicity are noted by specifying the minimum and maximum value, separated by two dots, e.g. 1.5. An asterisk is a wild card and means many (zero or more). The association of fig. 7.9 should be read as “Many books may be borrowed by a Library Member”. Observe that associations (and links) appear as verbs in the problem statement.

Association between two classes

Associations are usually realized by assigning appropriate reference attributes to the classes involved. Thus, associations can be implemented using pointers from one object class to another. Links and associations can also be implemented by using a separate class that stores which objects of a class are linked to which objects of another class. Some CASE tools use the role names of the association relation for the corresponding automatically generated attribute.


 Aggregation is a special type of association where the involved classes represent a whole-part relationship. The aggregate takes the responsibility of forwarding messages to the appropriate parts. Thus, the aggregate takes the responsibility of delegation and leadership. When an instance of one object contains instances of some other objects, then aggregation (or composition) relationship exists between the composite object and the component object. Aggregation is represented by the diamond. symbol at the composite end of a relationship. The number of instances of the component class aggregated.

Representation of aggregation

Aggregation relationship cannot be reflexive (i.e. recursive). That is, an object cannot contain objects of the same class as itself. Also, the aggregation relation is not symmetric. That is, two classes A and B cannot contain instances of each other. However, the aggregation relationship can be transitive. In this case, aggregation may consist of an arbitrary number of levels.

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