Working with Elements

Elements are the building blocks you use to create processes.

There are five main element categories in a diagram. Every element represents a unique aspect of a business process.

You find information on specific elements in the BPMN Element Reference.

Category Element Type Description
Flow Elements activities, events, gateways Define process behavior
Connecting Elements sequence flows, message flows, associations, data associations Connect flow elements to form a flow
Swimlanes pools, lanes Assign participants (organizational units, people or systems) to activities
Data Elements data objects data inputs, data outputs, data stores The data required, produced, stored or collected in a process
Artifacts text annotations Provide additional information about a process

Element Attributes

Every element has a set of attributes that you can edit.

Some attributes are essential if you want to run a BPMN model in Process Manager. Attribute descriptions are important if you want to generate a comprehensive process report.

You edit attributes in the Attributes panel.

Every element has an Attributes tab. Depending on the element, the Attributes panel can have additional Attribute tabs. For example, a User Task has an Attributes tab and a Conditions, Input, Output, Resource and Property tab.

Open the Attributes panel
  • Select the element in the diagram, and in the Panel Menu, click Attributes.

Add Elements

There are several ways to add elements to a diagram. You can add them using the Element Palette, the Ring, Magnetic Edge and by copy and paste.

Here you can also learn how to add elements to Pools and Subprocesses.

Add Elements - Element Palette

The Element Palette contains all the elements you can use in a diagram. Elements in the palette are divided into categories so you can easily find the element you’re looking for.

To add an element:

  • Select an element from the palette, then drag and drop it onto the diagram.

Add Elements - Ring

The Ring is an interactive context menu that helps you to create processes faster than manually dragging and dropping elements onto a diagram.

The Ring is divided in two parts: a right menu and a left menu.

The right menu contains actions for adding elements and automatically connects them. The left menu contains tools to edit the element.

Depending on the element you select, the Ring contains the actions and tools you can use for that element.

Hover over icons to see tooltips that help you understand the actions they perform.

Add Elements - Copy and Paste

You can add elements by copying an existing element and pasting it onto another part of the diagram.

  1. Select the element you want to copy and in the left Ring menu, click .

  2. Click an empty space on the diagram, open the Ring and click .

Add Elements - Magnetic Edge

You can activate the magnetic edge tool to automatically connect elements as you drag and drop them onto the diagram.

The tool acts like a magnet and connects to the closest element.

  1. In the Toolbar, click .

  2. Select an element from the Element Palette and drag and drop it onto the diagram.

  3. Select another element and drag it near the element you want to connect it to. Hold the element and drag it into position, then drop it.

To deactivate the tool:

  • In the Toolbar, click .

Add Elements to Pools

You add elements to Pools in the same way that you add elements to a diagram.

However, there are some rules to know before you start:

  • Sequence Flows can’t cross Pool boundaries

  • Message Flows can cross Pool boundaries.

  • Message Flows can’t connect to objects that are within the same Pool.

Add Elements to Subprocesses

You add elements to Pools in the same way that you add elements to a diagram.

However, there are some rules to know before you start:

  • Sequence Flows can’t cross Subprocess boundaries

  • Message Flows can cross Subprocess boundaries.

  • Message Flows can’t connect to objects that are within the same Subprocess.

Create a Data Association

You use Data Associations to move the flow of data between Data Elements and the Activities and Events in a diagram.

A Data Association can have a Data Object Reference, Data Input, Data Output or Data Store Reference at one end as its source or as its target. The Data Input or Data Output of the Activity or Event is at the other end of the Data Association.

Creating a Data Association requires the definition of these elements in a diagram:

  • the Data Element
  • the Activity or Event
  • the Data Association connecting the Data Element to the Activity or Event
Before You Begin

Before you configure a Data Association, you need a Data Element and an Activity or Event in the diagram that has a Data Association between them.

The order set out in this procedure is purely for the purpose of example. You can define the Data Association, Data Element and Activity/Event in the order you prefer.

For detailed information on how to define a specific element and its attributes, see the documentation for that element.

Define the Data Element
  • Select the Data Element and define its attributes.

If you use a Data Object Reference or a Data Store Reference, you need to associate it with a Data Object or a Data Store.

You can create a new Data Object or Data Store in the Attributes of the Data Object Reference and Data Store Reference:

  1. Click New.

  2. In the panel that opens, fill in the Name and (optional) Description fields and specify the Data Type (Item Definition) and Default value.

  3. Click Create and select.

Define the Data Association

The direction of the arrowhead of the Data Association determines whether the Data Element is a source for, or a target of, the Activity or Event.

In the Attributes tab of the Data Association:

  • Click and select the Source Reference or the Target Reference from the dropdown list or create a new reference.

To create a new reference:

  1. Click New.

  2. In the panel that opens, fill in the Name and (optional) Description fields and specify the Data Type.

  3. Click Create and select.

Tools for Editing Elements

Cardanit has several tools that enable you to edit elements in a diagram.

You can use them to create space between elements, align them, select elements, delete them and more.

Edit with the Ring

You can use the left menu of the Ring to edit elements.

Depending on the element you select, the Ring contains the editing tools you can use for that element.

Hover over icons to see tooltips that help you understand the actions they perform.

Tool Icon Description
Edit element type The options available depend on the type of element.
Copy Copy the element.
Paste Paste the element.
Delete Delete the element.
Add label Add labels to elements that don’t have room for an internal label.
Edit label Edit labels.
Collapse Supbrocess Collapses the Subprocess and hides its contents.
Expand Subprocess Expands the Subprocess to show its contents.

Auto Layout Tool

The Auto Layout tool automatically tidies up your diagrams by evenly aligning and spacing elements and connections. It enables you to create visually consistent and comprehensible diagrams and saves you time and the effort of manually moving elements into the proper position.

To automatically tidy up your diagram:

  • In the toolbar, click .

Create Space Tool

You can use the create space and remove space tools if you need to create space for additional elements or reduce the diagram size.

Create Space
  1. Click .

    The moment you activate the tool, guides appear in the diagram.

  2. Position the pointer over the area of the diagram where you want to create space.

  3. Click, hold and drag in the direction you need to create space — horizontally or vertically — then release.

    To deactivate the tool, click again or press ESC.

Remove Space
  1. Click .

  2. Position the pointer over the area where you want to remove space.

  3. Click, hold and drag in the direction you need to remove space — horizontally or vertically — then release.

    To deactivate the tool, click again or press ESC.

Select Elements

There are several ways to select elements in a diagram.

You can select an element by clicking on it or by using the Rectangular Selection or Select All tools.

Once you’ve selected the elements you can move, copy, delete or align them.

Rectangular Selection Tool

This tool enables you to select multiple elements in the diagram.

  1. In the Toolbar, click .

  2. Click and drag the pointer to define an area around the elements you want to select.

    To deactivate the tool, click again or press ESC.

Select All Tool

This tool enables you to select all the elements in the diagram.

  • In the Toolbar, click .

    To deactivate the tool, click again or press ESC.

Align Elements

You can align and distribute one or multiple elements using the Ring or align and distribute them manually using guides and margins.

Align with Ring

Use the Ring to align elements vertically or horizontally.

When you align elements vertically you can also align them to the right, left and in the center.

When you align elements horizontally you can also align them at the top, bottom or in the middle.

  1. Select the elements you want to align.

  2. Use the alignment options in the right Ring menu.

Align Manually

If you’re adding elements from the Element Palette you can use the guides that appear to help you align the elements.

Vertical and horizontal guides appear when you drag and drop an element near another element. Margins also appear to help you distribute the elements evenly.

Delete Elements

To delete elements in a diagram, select the element or elements:

  • In the Toolbar, click .

  • In the Ring, click .

  • Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + X.

Undo and Redo

When you’re adding elements to a diagram and editing them it can be useful to undo and redo your actions.

You find the undo and redo actions in the Toolbar and in the Ring.