Work smarter with #PowerDesigner – Choosing your Conversion Table

In yesterday’s blog post, I described how to convert CamelCase object Codes into ‘Proper Case’ object Names, using a combination of GTL and VBScript in a model extension. This took advantage of the built-in conversion routines, which enable us to convert abbreviations into plain language, such as replacing “acct” with “account”.

I didn’t show you how to tell PowerDesigner where to look for those abbreviations, so that’s what I’m going to do now. The secret lies with the Naming Conventions in the Model Options. There are three ways to access the Model Options:

  • near the bottom of the Tools menu
  • right-click the model in the Browser
  • right-click a blank area of a diagram

Click on the “Naming Conventions” section, then on the “Code to name” sub-tab, as shown below.  You need to do two things:

  1. Select “Enable conversions”
  2. Choose from the drop-down list of conversion tables – in the example below, I’ve chosen one of my CSV files

PDM model options - conversion table

The drop-down list of conversion tables will include entries from the following sources:

  • if you have a repository, one entry for ‘glossary terms’ (these are the Terms in the PowerDesigner Glossary)
  • CSV files that have been checked into the ‘Library’ folder in the repository
  • CSV files in the target folder(s). Click on the folder icon to the right of the drop-down to change the target folders – the default folder is “C:\Program Files\SAP\PowerDesigner 16\Resource Files\Conversion Tables”, which contains a single sample, called “stdnames.csv”, so you’ll probably want to add at least one more folder to the list.

You can edit your conversion table directly, without using Excel – just click on the ‘Edit Selected Conversion Table’ button.

edit selected conversion table

Each time you run the menu options I showed you yesterday, it will use the current conversion table. If, for example, you haven’t defined ‘BBC’ as an abbreviation, the code ‘BBCNews’ will be converted to ‘BBC News’. If you decide that ‘BBC’ should be converted to “British Broadcasting Corporation”, just add the following entry to your conversion table, and run the menu options again.

British Broadcasting Corporation BBC

Lastly, it’s worth pointing out that the Conversion table that you select on the Naming Conventions tab is used for every type of object, unless you select a different Conversion table in one of the object-specific sections. In this example, I’ve chosen a different Conversion table for Columns:

naming for columns

So, you could use different conversion tables for different types of object, if you want to.

Work smarter with #PowerDesigner – Converting Camel Case Codes to Mixed Case Names

Every object in PowerDesigner actually has two labels, which we refer to as the Name and the Code. The Name is the ‘business’ or ‘human’ name for an object, and the Code is a technical name for the object. The Naming Conventions allow you to automatically convert the ‘business’ names into the ‘technical’ codes, like this set of LDM attributes:

att names and codesAs well as changing the case, and replacing spaces with underscores, we can replace words and phrases with their abbreviations, using a CSV file or the PowerDesigner glossary as the source. Here are the same attributes, after changing the standard for codes to UpperCamelCase, and applying abbreviations from a CSV file.

att names and codes 2

That’s fine if you’re forward-engineering, creating technical artefacts from your models, but what if you’re reverse-engineering, and those technical names (the PowerDesigner codes) are your starting point?

When you reverse-engineer a database in PowerDesigner, the only names available are the technical names, so the PowerDesigner Names and Codes are the same. Synchronisation is automatically turned off, so you can manually edit names without accidentally changing the codes (the technical names). For example, here’s part of the model created by reverse-engineering the Demo database that gets installed with SAP SQL Anywhere 17:


SQL Any 17 Demo DB

The table and column names are all in UpperCamelCase. If I want to create a Logical data Model, I will need to convert them into a more human-friendly format. Out of the box, I can easily convert some standards – for example, it’s trivial to convert “SALES_REPRESENTATIVE” to “Sales Representative”. However, converting Camel Case names is not trivial. After reading a Sandhill blog entry about how to do this in ERwin yesterday, I decided to finally figure out how to do it in PowerDesigner – I’ve thought about it on and off, but never took the time to work it out. I didn’t want to do it outside PowerDesigner, as I wanted to make use of PowerDesigner’s standard naming conventions as much as possible, especially the ability to replace abbreviations with the real thing. For example, here’s part of a CSV file I was using today, which I’ll use in the next example:

abbrevsI also wanted to come up with a mechanism that was as easy to use as possible – the result is a simple model extension, that adds menu options to the model, to tables, and to columns, so you can reset the names of:

  • all tables and columns in the models
  • a selected table
  • all the columns in a selected table
  • a selected column

For example, I have a column called “BBCOrderLn”, and want to set the Name to “BBC Order Line” – “Ln” is the abbreviation for “Line” in my CSV file. With my model extension, I just right-click the column on the diagram or in the browser, and select the option “set Proper Name”,

column Proper

and the result is

column Proper after

Here’s a made-up example for a whole table:

Proper Table

How does it work? It’s based on a single model extension that contains a number of GTL templates – GTL is PowerDesigner’s Generation Template Language, which is great at turning metadata into text. One of the templates contains embedded VBScript, which is the part that does the real work. I shan’t bore you with the whole model extension here, I’ll just show you the part that converts a single column.

It includes a menu, which allows you to run the Method called “set Proper Name”, which contains a little bit of VBScriptxem proper column.

Sub %Method%(obj)
Dim candidate
candidate = obj.evaluatetemplatefor("newName","PDM-ProperCase")
 if not candidate = obj.Name then
   reportChange "Column", obj.Table.Name & "." &, obj.Table.Name & "." & candidate
   obj.Name = candidate ' need to change it
 end if
End Sub

The key part here is “evaluatetemplatefor“, which runs a shared GTL template called “newName”. Because it’s shared, I only have to define it once, and then I can use it wherever I like.proper shared templates This is a very simple template, containing a single line of GTL, which calls the standard template (.convert_code) that PowerDesigner uses to convert codes into names, changing the case and reversing abbreviations. Instead of supplying the object code to be converted, it passes the result of the other template, “ProperCase”

.convert_code(%ProperCase%," ")

“ProperCase” does the real work here, with some embedded VBscript. If you find any problems with this code, please let me know.

Dim obj : set obj = activeselection.item(0)
Dim myString : myString = obj.Code
Dim ProperCase

' converts a string into Proper Case, one character at a time
' the first character is always upper case
' if an existing character is already upper case, it is not converted
' if an existing character is a space, it is output as is
' ignore underscores - convert_code will deal with them
' acronyms are left intact
' multi-word conversions only made if they're separated by a space
Dim i
Dim prevSpaceInd ' was previous character a space?
Dim prevUpperInd ' was previous character upper case?
Dim nextChar ' the next character in the string 
Dim myStringLength ' the length of myString
myStringLength = len(myString)

Select Case myStringLength
 ' If there are 0 or 1 characters, just return the string.
 Case 0
   ProperCase = myString
 Case 1
   ProperCase = Ucase(myString)
 Case else 
   ' Start with the first character - this will always be upper case
   ProperCase = Ucase(Left(myString,1))
   prevUpperInd = true ' remember this for the next character

  ' Add the remaining characters
   Dim myChar
   For i = 2 To len(myString)
      myChar = Mid(myString,i,1)

     If myChar = " " then
         prevSpaceInd = True ' remember this for the next character
         myChar = " "
     ElseIf myChar = "_" then ' ignore
         myChar = myChar
         prevSpaceInd = True ' force script to act as if it was a space
     ElseIf myChar = Ucase(myChar) then
         ' the current character is upper case
         If prevSpaceInd then ' previous character was a space
            myChar = myChar
            prevSpaceInd = False
         ElseIf prevUpperInd then ' previous character was also Upper Case
            	nextChar = Mid(myString,i+1,1)
         	If i = myStringLength then ' this is the last character in the string
            		myChar = myChar ' don't insert a space
         	ElseIf nextChar = Lcase(nextChar) then ' next char is lower case
            		' If the next character is not upper case, 
            		' assume the current letter is beginning of new word
            			myChar = " " & myChar ' make this 1st letter of new word
            			myChar = myChar ' continue an acronym
         		End If
        	 	myChar = " " & myChar
      		End If
      		prevUpperInd = true ' remember this for the next character
	Else ' must be lower case or perhaps a number, leave it alone
		prevUpperInd = False
		myChar = myChar
	End If
       	ProperCase = ProperCase & myChar
    Next ' i
End Select
ScriptResult = ProperCase

Finally, you need to add a simple Global Script, which reports actions to the Output window:


Work smarter with #PowerDesigner – use a Dependency Matrix to assign Domains to Attributes

PowerDesigner’s dependency matrices are really powerful, and I don’t ever remember seeing anything similar in a data modelling tool. They allow me to visualise and even edit links between objects.

In a Conceptual, Logical, or Physical Data Model, or in a UML Object Model, Domains are a useful object, allowing you to manage the ways in which your data is represented. Take this simple data model, for instance.

1. initial model

I’ve reached the point where I need to assign a Domain to each attribute. I can edit each attribute one at a time, and select a Domain from the drop-down list, like this:

3, Assigning a Domain

In a large model, that could take some time. There are a couple of ways we could speed up the process:

  • edit multiple attributes at once using a list of attributes
  • use a Dependency Matrix

In this blog post, I’ll cover the second option. A Dependency Matrix is a model object, so  like any other model object there are several ways of creating one. The simplest way is to right-click the model name in the Browser, then select “New”, and “Dependency Matrix”. The first thing we have to do is choose the types of objects to display in the rows and columns.

4. Create matrix

I want to use this matrix for editing attributes, so I have to make sure that the rows contain Entity Attributes, and the columns contain Domains. The matrix cell will show the “Domain” property of the Entity Attribute. When I click on <OK>, the matrix is created, and appears in the Browser

4a. browser

Now I can double-click the matrix to show the content

5. Matrix Content - initial

Three attributes already have the domain assigned – two of those are foreign keys for Building.Building Name, so I only had to set one of them, PowerDesigner set the other two automatically. Now, if I click inside one of the cells, such as the intersection of Elephant.Elephant Name and Animal Name, I can assign the domain to the attribute with one press of the keyboard – I use the Spacebar.

6. instructions

Now all I have to do is use the cursor keys to move around the matrix, and press the Spacebar every time I want to assign a Domain. It doesn’t take long to finish them all. Here’s the final matrix:

7. Matrix Content - final

Here’s the model:

8. final

The toolbar allows me to use the matrix in flexible ways, such as choosing which attributes or domains to include, hiding ’empty’ or populated rows, and exporting to Excel. Press <F1> to find out more.

9. Toolbar

Work smarter with #PowerDesigner – How to display a ‘Relationships’ tab for entities

Data modelling tools vary in the kinds of dependencies that you can create between objects. For example, they all recognise that entities in a Conceptual or Logical Data Model (CDM or LDM) can participate in Relationships – when you view or edit the properties of an entity most (perhaps all) tools will show you a list of relationships as part of the dialogue. They might also show you other dependencies, such as a list of diagrams the entity appears on, a list of related tables in Physical Data Models, or some Data Lineage or other mappings. With most tools, that’s the limit. PowerDesigner goes beyond these basic modelling and development connections, allowing you to create several other different types of dependencies:

  • shortcuts – the entity is used in another model, but cannot be amended
  • replications – the entity is used in another model, and can be amended, subject to limitations
  • traceability links – the entity can be connected to virtually anything else in any type of model, if it makes sense to you
  • related diagrams – the entity can be connected to a diagram in any type of model, if it makes sense to you
  • extended collections – using a model extension, you can create your own links between entities and other objects

One side-effect of this power and flexibility is the impact on the entity properties dialogue – most of these dependencies are all shown on the same tab. In the example below, the Contribution entity participates in four relationships, listed on a sub-tab; I can see that the entity also appears on at least one Diagram (indicated by the presence of the Diagrams sub-tab). There could be more tabs, if the entity has other types of dependencies.


If you’re used to other data modelling tools, you might prefer to see relationships listed in a tab of their own. Well, with a little work, you can add that tab for yourself; you just need a simple model extension.

You create or use Model Extensions to change the way that PowerDesigner works, usually by adding additional metadata, or additional features such as imports, exports, and new object properties. In this example, we’re not adding a new feature, merely exposing some metadata – the Relationships collection – that already exists.

You may already have one or more extensions attached to your model, such as the Excel Import extension, but I’ll assume that you don’t.

  • On the Model menu, select Extensions
  • Create a new entry in the list – just type the name – then click on OKadd extension
  • The new extension will appear in the Browser

extension in Browser

  • Double-click the extension to open it, then right-click Profile, and add the Entity metaclass to the extension


  • Add a new Form to the metaclass, call it Relationships

add form

  • Add the Relationships collection to the Form, then close the extension editor
  • Here’s the new tab

the new tab

It’s possible to add more than one collection to a Form, plus lots of other things; I’ll cover these in future tips.

Work smarter with #PowerDesigner – How to display ‘missing’ toolbars

Like many other modelling tools, PowerDesigner provides tools to help you control the layout of the symbols on your diagrams. For example, I would probably want to align these three sub-type entities in my diagram using the top edge:

misaligned entities

By the way, these are not standard entity symbols, I’ve customised the display to show the name of the super-type entity, and the Generate property. I’ll probably show you how to display these properties in another blog post.

The alignment commands are available from the Symbol menu. All I need to do is select the three symbols, then click on the Align Top tool on the menu:

Symbol menu

I prefer to use the toolbar to do things like this, probably because it needs fewer clicks. Unfortunately, the required toolbar (the ‘Layout’ toolbar) isn’t always visible, it’s often hidden. Exactly how well hidden it is depends on your version of PowerDesigner. I’ll start with the current situation, which probably applies to most PowerDesigner users.

the Layout Toolbar

Here are the toolbars you’re most likely to see when you start PowerDesigner (they’re usually in a long strip – I’ve moved them around for this image).

standard toolbars

The layout toolbar is not visible, here’s how to change that:

  • right-click on a blank area to the right of the visible toolbars
  • choose a toolbar to show or hide

choose toolbar

That’s it, nice and simple.

Some of you will be saying to yourselves, “Hang on, the toolbar I’m looking for isn’t listed!”. That’ll be because you’re using an older version of PowerDesigner than the one I’m using today. In PowerDesigner 16.1, Sybase decided to make several toolbars optional. By default, the Layout, Check, Format, Window and Repository toolbars were not visible; they did not appear in the list of available toolbars. You needed to use one of the customisation features of PowerDesigner to enable the missing toolbars.

On the Tools menu, select Customize Menus and Tools, select the Toolbars tab, click on the word Toolbars, then click on Add Command and select the toolbar you want to use. Repeat this action for each toolbar you want to enable.

Work smarter with #PowerDesigner – showing both the Name and the Code on a symbol

I answer a lot of questions on the SAP Community Network; a couple of years ago, a user wanted to know how to display the object codes on her diagrams instead of the object names. In PowerDesigner every object has both a Code and a Name – the Name is what it’s known as inside PowerDesigner, and the Code is what it’s known as outside PowerDesigner. In a Physical Data Model, for example, the Name of a table might be “Customer Account”, and the Code might be “CUST_ACCT” – in this case the table name is also the name of the Logical Data Model entity that the table was generated from. PowerDesigner has derived the Code from the model’s naming standards.

By default, PowerDesigner diagrams (and the Browser window) always show the object names; for a Physical Data Model (PDM), this could include:

  • Tables and Columns
  • Indexes
  • Views and View Columns
  • Dimensions
  • Facts


For example, here’s a sample PDM diagram showing the object Names, and the corresponding list of objects in the Browser:

The advantage of this view from my perspective, is that the names on show are descriptive, unencumbered by any restrictions imposed by the DBMS or local naming standards – I know what every column name means. The name of the bottom reference in the diagram was copied across from the LDM, the two called “Inheritance_1” were generated from an inheritance (super/sub-type) hierarchy.

The disadvantage of this view is that it doesn’t show the names used for the objects in the database. Those names are actally there, in the object definitions, in the Code property:

Column Name and Code

I’m sure that the vast majority of people who work with Physical Data Models would prefer to show the object codes on the Diagram, like this:

PDM - showing Codes

It’s really easy to change the view from Names to Codes; exactly how you do it depends on your version of PowerDesigner. The original method is by selecting ‘Code’ in the Naming Conventions in Model Options:

Showing codes - model options

The setting applies to every diagram in the model, and also affects the Browser content.

PDM - showing Codes - browser

In PowerDesigner 16.6, the setting was moved to the Display Preferences for the Diagram, though it still affects the whole model, including the Browser. Also, a new tool was introduced on the Standard toolbar  – Showing codes - toolbar – now you can toggle between displaying names or codes with a single click.

If you want to show both Names and Codes on diagrams, you can do this for individual diagrams via Display Preferences. The ability to customise the content of symbols is one of the features that helps PowerDesigner to stand out in comparison to ERwin Data Modeller and ER/Studio Data Architect. For example, here’s a table symbol that focuses on the table and column codes, but also shows the names for those objects:

Table with Name and Code

The Code is not available for display by default, so you’ll have to use the Advanced features to make it available. Right-click the diagram background, select Display Preferences, and select ‘Table’ on the left.

Display Prefs - default for Tables

Here’s where you choose what to display on Tables, based on the properties that SAP have made available. You’ll see that you can choose ‘Name’ or ‘Owner and Name’, but not ‘Code’. All is not lost, however, as we can make other properties available to display – just click on the Advanced button at the bottom right.

Now you can select what you want the user to be able to display on table symbols. You can move things around, add and remove things, and change the way they’re organised. Here’s the default view:

customise content

In this case, you want to make the Code visible. To do this, click on the ‘Add Attribute’ button, select ‘Code’ from the list of Attributes, and press <OK>. You will see more attributes than my clip shows, I’ve cropped the image.

my customisation - 3

Here’s my customised view, in which I’ve removed and added content, and amended the layout – notice the prefix and suffix for the Name:

my customisation - 1

I’ve changed the displayed content (a.k.a. ‘List columns’) for the Columns in each Table, making sure that it shows the code and then the name of each column:

my customisation - 2

I won’t show all the steps needed to reproduce my table symbol, due to lack of space; besides, I have to let you work out something for yourself, I can’t take away all the challenge for you.
You can apply these settings to other diagrams as well, just click on the ‘Apply To’ button in Display Preferences. Beware, this will apply all the current Display Preferences to the selected diagrams.

One last point – you can change the content of individual symbols – just right-click the symbol, slect ‘Format’, then click on the ‘Content’ tab:symbol format

In this version of my diagram, every table symbol has different content:

customised diagram