My 5 Favorite (Recently Discovered) Visual Modeling Tricks
My 5 Favorite (Recently Discovered) Visual Modeling Tricks by Adam Fothergill
I’ve been working in the Mendix Business Modeler for over two and a half years. During this time, I’ve been on projects of all sizes – large projects with 10+ Mendix engineers, and small projects where I acted as developer, ScrumMaster, and project manager. During these projects I’ve worked with many rapid developers and learned additional shortcuts and tricks that they use when modeling. The list below highlights five recently discovered tricks that I now use regularly.
1. Documentation Tab
Documentation is a key part of any well-maintained application. Depending on what you are documenting (a Microflow, page, or domain model), there are different places within the Business Modeler where you may enter documentation.
While these fields are available by default, they can be difficult to use. They may be small, or only appear in a popup box that blocks the view of what you’re documenting. Luckily, there’s an easy fix. Just add the documentation tab.
This tab opens within the Modeler at the bottom of the page. You can add documentation in a way that is easy to access and read, as it has enough size to display all of the documentation in one glance. Simply click the item you would like to add documentation to, and if it’s possible, the ‘Edit’ option becomes available.
2. Export Documentation
While adding documentation is important, it’s also critical that you have an easy way to share it. In Mendix, when you can right-click in the Project Explorer, you have an option to ‘Export Documentation.’
This will generate an HTML file that includes all of your added documentation, divided by module and entity so that it is easily understood.
3. Export Domain Model or Microflow as Image
Mendix takes documentation one step further by helping users interpret their Microflows and domain models. This can be achieved using the ‘Export as Image’ option.
This function creates an image file so that you can share the business logic behind the Model. However, these image files are not usable functionality; I’ve used these files to share domain models, and Microflows from applications that I built in older versions of the Mendix Modeler. If you want to share your Microflow and are using Mendix 5.14 or higher, check out Model Share! It allows working functionality, the visual Microflow, and the documentation, to all be shared in one simple way.
4. Searching for Add-On Widgets
In a recent project, I was using the Input Reference Selector across multiple forms. After developing each form, it was decided that the auto-complete option created some confusion for the user and I was asked to turn off the functionality. In order to ensure that I had updated the settings in all uses of the widget, I used the advanced find feature accessible by clicking CTRL+Shift+F.
Once you’ve selected Add-on Widgets, you can search for specific widgets or all widgets. This will give a list of all widget usages – making it easy to go through each one and make sure they’re up to date!
5. Keyboard Shortcuts for Errors and Find Results
There are many keyboard shortcuts in the modeler; a few of my favorites are:
By no means is this a full list – although I’ve noticed that most people use these. For additional ideas, check out this blog listing additional shortcuts. After reading the post, there are four I started using almost immediately:
|F3||Next Find Result|
|Shift+F3||Previous Find Result|
I use the Next/Previous Find Result in combination with the Advanced Find of the Add-on Widgets. It makes navigating through the list of widgets quick and easy! I just had to perform the search, use F3 to open the first result, and it automatically selected the widget I was looking for so I hit enter and opened the properties window. If I had to use my mouse for everything, it would have taken significantly longer.
The F8 shortcut is also very useful. One of my strategies for refactoring is to delete an item (be it an Entity, Microflow, or Page) and then ‘follow’ the resulting errors, by navigating to each one to fix it. Having the F8 shortcut makes this much easier – I don’t have to open the errors tab and click through one by one; simply click F8 to go to the first error!
These are just a few of the new tips and tricks that I’ve learned recently. I’m sure there are others that I still don’t know – share your favorites below!