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FlowLine - a business process modelling tool married with an outliner

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Posted by Rochus
Nov 7, 2018 at 01:54 PM

 

Me again: I open-sourced yet another of my tools which I developed during the last ten years as a byproduct of my consulting work. It is a modelling tool supporting Functional Analysis and Business Process Modelling using Event-driven process chain (EPC) syntax with BPMN extensions (instead of Functional Flow Block Diagrams). Besides that it shares most features with my CrossLine outliner. In case you are interested, here is the project site: https://github.com/rochus-keller/FlowLine2 . Again there are pre-compiled binaries for Windows and Linux as well as a demo repository containing some (work in progress) documentation.

 


Posted by Alexander Deliyannis
Nov 7, 2018 at 03:18 PM

 

Rochus, you are going to heaven!

 


Posted by Rochus
Nov 10, 2018 at 12:55 PM

 

Alexander Deliyannis wrote:
>> Rochus, you are going to heaven!

Thanks, although I hope not too soon ;-)

Had anyone a look at the tool? Any comments or questions?

 


Posted by Slartibartfarst
Nov 12, 2018 at 04:55 AM

 

Slartibartfarst reply to @Rochus: 2018-11-12 1515hrs
Many thanks for the opportunity to review FL2 (FlowLine2).
I haven’t had time to give the thing a thorough going-over, but here’s my initial response: Absolutely blown away by it.
I haven’t been so pleasantly surprised by a piece of process modelling software since I first met Platinum Software’s BPWin (IDEF0/3 and ABC modelling).
FL2 seems to be very stable - I can usually “break” a piece of Beta software, so I’d guess this version had been well-tested in the field.
FL2 seems to be a really rather beautiful piece of programming, pulled together by intelligent design using consolidation/integration of different components/modules in the public domain (why reinvent a mousetrap?). Sure, it seems to have some idiosyncrasies, but when I explored them, they seemed to be elegant approaches to the real-world problem of ensuring that the UI was ergonomically as intuitive and simple to use as possible - e.g., for someone who was working on building AND documenting a process model. Nice and easy combination of the two - model building AND process documenting.

I haven’t used BPM notation in many years (having preferred to stay with IDEF0 etc., because of the latter’s elegant simplicity and the ability to logically prove the models). However, if one were to use BPMN then one would arguably be bonkers not to try FL2 out - and it has the very useful outlining tool built-in.
Not sure whether there is a BPMN FIPS or whether FL2 is aligned with such a FIPS.

Examples of really useful ergonomics in the UI:
- Scrolling up/down/sideways in the model, using the main diagram page OR the little Overview pane.
- Direct entry of text into the model symbols (shapes).
- Copy/paste of document sections creates a wiki-link to a section.

Examples of missing/room for improvement (or of my lack of understanding after a cursory examination):
- Chiral scrolling works for up/down navigation in the diagram, but not for sideways navigation (might be a problem with my TouchPad software?).
- Undo/Redo functionality works in text edit mode, but not apparent otherwise(?); could be a timesaver, if added.
- DELETE key doesn’t seem to do what it might intuitively be expected to do in some circumstances.
- INSERT key functionality?

Would like to explore about viewing/printing on A4 or A3 layouts, with off-page linkages correctly tagged, horizontal swim-lane representations, etc.

Summary: Really rather good - from this cursory look-see. Potentially VERY useful.

Thanks again.
      S.
_______________________________
Rochus wrote:
Me again: I open-sourced yet another of my tools which I developed
>during the last ten years as a byproduct of my consulting work. It is a
>modelling tool supporting Functional Analysis and Business Process
>Modelling using Event-driven process chain (EPC) syntax with BPMN
>extensions (instead of Functional Flow Block Diagrams). Besides that it
>shares most features with my CrossLine outliner. In case you are
>interested, here is the project site:
>https://github.com/rochus-keller/FlowLine2 . Again there are
>pre-compiled binaries for Windows and Linux as well as a demo repository
>containing some (work in progress) documentation.

 


Posted by Rochus
Nov 12, 2018 at 01:54 PM

 

Slartibartfarst wrote: Slartibartfarst reply to @Rochus: 2018-11-12 1515hrs >Many thanks for the opportunity to review FL2 (FlowLine2).
Thank you very much for your review and your well-founded feedback.
>FL2 seems to be very stable - I can usually “break” a piece of Beta >software, so I’d guess this version had been well-tested in the field.

It’s been developed since ten years and a couple of my colleagues are using it, so its actually not Beta software; since it isn’t a commercial product documentation is lacking; but I’m working on this.

>different components/modules in the public domain

FlowLine is mostly based on Qt and some of my own modules I also use in other developments; I even use my own object database (which uses the backend of sqlite).

>Not sure whether there is a BPMN FIPS or whether FL2 is aligned with >such a FIPS.

FlowLine does actually not use BPMN symbols, but instead the syntax of Scheers Event-driven process chains (EPC, see en.wikipedia.org/.../Event-driven_process_chain) extended by (or should I say “relaxed by”) some BPMN semantics. It is no formal system though like Petri nets but rather a documentation an brain-storming tool. I use it e.g. to sketch workflows and draft schedules together with my team, where I present the live FlowLine display by desktop-sharing or wall projection.

>or of my lack of understanding after a cursory examination

I’m aware that the documentation is currently too sparse; thank you for your courage to just try.

> - Chiral scrolling works for up/down navigation in the diagram, but not >for sideways navigation (might be a problem with my TouchPad software?).

If you click in a white area of the diagram and press the CTRL key at the same time, you can scroll around in all directions. The same gestures changes the size of the object if you click in a frame or note. If you CTRL-click in the other diagram object types, the linking function is started (and stopped if you click in the target object).
You can zoom by framing the required section (click + drag) in the overview pane. Restore the original zoom by double clicking in the overview pane.

> - Undo/Redo functionality works in text edit mode, but not apparent >otherwise(?); could be a timesaver, if added.

FlowLine follows the database philosophy. Whatever you type or draw is directly stored in the database without ever explicitly saving. On the other hand if you want do delete something you are asked if you really want. There is no undo as in a document based tool. I actually missed it a few times during the last ten years, but implemnting undo for all functions would be quite an effort.

> - DELETE key doesn’t seem to do what it might intuitively be expected >to do in some circumstances.

The Delete key is only used for text. To remove objects, use the CTRL+D shortcut. If you open the context menu (right click) you can see the shortcuts assigned to the functions.

> - INSERT key functionality?

The Insert key is not used. Instead right-click in the diagram at the position where you want a new object and select the object type from the context menu. You can connect two diagram objects by CTRL-clicking in the first object and clicking in the second. If you click on the white background during link creation, a handle point is created; if you instead CTRL-click on the white background, a context menu is shown from where you can select an object to be created and linked in one operation.

>Would like to explore about viewing/printing on A4 or A3 layouts, with >off-page linkages correctly tagged, horizontal swim-lane >representations, etc.

FlowLine does not directly support printing (yet), but you can copy/paste diagrams or diagram parts to a word processor, or export to bitmaps, HTML, PDF or SVG.
Also note that you can either layout diagrams manually or - if graphviz is installed on your machine - let FlowLine do the layout (but watch out that layout changes cannot be restored).
Since FlowLine includes a scripting environment (based on Lua), additional GUI and export functions can be implemented by the user in principle (I should document the API first though).

Best, Rochus

 


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