Online Collaborative Modeling; Still Sketchy
First, our specifications. We want something we can share with a link, that everybody can edit simultaneously. Since we don’t want to get into discussion around what various shapes mean, we need to use UML notation. We’d like to be able to sketch freeform as well, but that’s not critical. Finally, since there actually exists something called “modeling” that is different from playing around with Visio. Visio is fun for doing org charts and whatnot, but in technology development we are actually making a model, where pieces are reused and meaning refined by re-use in other areas, we need a model tree that has components that we can then annotate and reuse.
This product does not exist.
Sure, there are plenty of heavyweight modeling tools that do all sorts of things — for a really expensive price tag. There’s also a hoard of online Visio clones, some of which offer real time collaboration. But nobody has real time collaborative UML modeling.
Here’s the breakdown in features:
|Public link to diagram||Real time collaboration||Freeform sketching||Visio-like sketching||UML Notation||Real structural diagrams||Real behavior diagrams||Actually having a UML model||Deep/rich comment fields||Export Code Gen|
|Google Docs Drawing||YES||YES||YES||YES||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO|
You can assign your own rating to these to figure out what’s best for you. For us, it looks like LucidChart is the winner, but I can’t say I’m happy with that conclusion, because it’s a completely different tool from the one we’re looking for. After all, it’s just a really cool online Visio. The product I really like is GenMyModel, but it lacks enough features to make it a deal-breaker. Such is life. It’s still in early beta, however. Here’s hoping the product evolves well over the next year or so.
All-in-all, I was really surprised that it was 2013 and nobody had mastered online UML modeling. With as much enterprise money as there is on the table, you’d think this would be an attractive area for startups to pursue. Lots of online sketch tools support UML patterns. Perhaps that’s enough for most developers? If so, there are a lot of people missing out on the real value that UML brings.
November 21, 2013