Architecture Diagrams in Structure101 are mapped to the physical code by patterns associated with each cell in the diagram. This enables the visual specification of rules that can then be applied to a specific version of your code so that Structure101 can overlay any violations on the diagram and let you discover the offending code items.

When you let Structure101 create the diagrams for you, and stick to changes like adjusting the layering, expanding packages, or moving packages to new parents, etc., you can mostly leave it to Structure101 to handle the patterns. However, occasionally you may see some behavior that seems odd unless you understand how patterns interact.  And of course you may want to take advantage of the more advanced capabilities.

A key aspect that is not obvious at first is the “most specific pattern” rule. This says that where a physical class maps to more than one cell, the Architecture Diagram associates the class with the cell that has the “most specific” pattern.

Here’s an example diagram which was automatically generated from part of the Findbugs code-base:

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… and here is the same diagram showing the pattern associated with each cell:

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If I have a code-base that happens to contain a class edu.umd.cs.findbugs.classfile.impl.ClassFactory, then that class matches the pattern associated with the cell called ClassFactory. However it also matches the patterns for both ancestor cells “impl” and “classfile”. Since the ClassFactory cell’s pattern is the most specific (no wildcards), that is the cell to which Structure101 associates our physical class. And since a class is associated with at most one cell, that class is not associated with either ancestor cell, even though it matches their (less specific) patterns.

As expected, here are the associated items that Structure101 reports for the ClassFactory cell:

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… and the parent “impl” cell:

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Now I delete the 3 inner cells so that the diagram looks like this (the patterns for the remaining cells are unaltered):

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Since the cells with the more specific patterns are gone, the classes that were associated with them now match the next most specific pattern – the parent “impl” cell:

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This can be puzzling – I click on the “expand” button, the child cells are added to the diagram (which I expect), but the list of items associated with the parent is suddenly empty (which I don’t).

Why would we do it this way? We figured it was the best way to be future proof (the wildcards handle any added/removed classes) while at the same time supporting refactoring (e.g. if I move a class to a new package, the most specific pattern goes with it, but all the other classes still match to the original parent).

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