Order of Things

Sequence Diagrams

I am not a huge fan of traditional UML diagrams for long term documentation. Most diagrams are quickly rendered old and useless. There are times though when you need to convey the sequence of operations between several entities. It is hard to beat the Sequence Diagram for those situations.

There are plenty of tools that let you build some very sophisticated Sequence Diagrams. I try to avoid spending more time building a Sequence Diagram than it would take to write the code behind the diagram. Luckily there is a good alternative that is almost as good as the back of a napkin.

Web Sequence Diagrams allows you to enter some simple text and it produces a variety of diagram styles. It diagrams as you type plus it has a menu of examples that you can easily insert into your text. Here is a small example of how SAML should work.

title Simple SAML

Browser->Resource: Resource Request
Resource->Browser: Redirect
STS->STS: Cook up assertions
STS->Browser: Assertions
Browser->Resource: Assertions
Resource->Resource: Authorize with Assertions
Resource->Browser: Return Resource

Which produces this diagram:

Simple SAML

So if you need a quick Sequence Diagram try Web Sequence Diagrams. You can copy the above example and paste it into the diagram editor to see how easy it is to use.

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