Convert data to diagrams with yEd

Loud and Clear

© Lead Image © Galina Peshkova,

© Lead Image © Galina Peshkova,

Article from Issue 176/2015

Build complex data structures into simple but illuminating diagrams using the yEd graph editor.

Diagrams and images liven up dry talks and lectures, but some find it difficult to design drawings and graphs with popular office suites. The yEd graph editor [1] makes this process much easier and faster.

Getting Started

The yEd installer is actually a shell script Because the script itself ensures that the required run-time environment is in place, the system has no additional dependencies. To install the program, pop up a terminal window, change to the directory with the script, and type the command

$ bash

where the name depends on the version you downloaded. This command launches the graphical installer (Figure 1). After presenting the proprietary freeware license, the routine prompts you for the path of the installation, the default directory being /home/<user>/yEd. Although the software does not create a launcher in the start menu of the desktop environment, it does offer to create one on the desktop. If this is not done automatically, copy the file yEd graph Editor.desktop from the program directory to the desktop.

Figure 1: A wizard facilitates the installation of the graph editor.

First Launch

A small dialog covers the main window at startup time. In this window, select whether you want to create a new document or open an existing one (or one of the examples). If you do not want to see this dialog on future launches, uncheck the box next to Show at startup.

After selecting a function for editing, you will find a large area at the center of the main window in which you can create or edit a diagram. On the right, the Palette section groups different symbols; below this, the Properties View window gives you quantitative information about the diagram currently being processed.

On the left, after creating a graphic, you will find statistical information below Overview and Neighborhood. Additionally, the program window includes a horizontal bar with buttons at the top, offering quick access to important functions. Above this is a traditional menubar.

To create a first diagram, select topically organized symbols from a large palette. The application offers not only geometric shapes but also IT symbols and tables: Simply drag the desired symbol while holding down the left mouse button into the pane in the middle, and drop it there. If you want to remove a symbol from the diagram, right-click with the mouse, and in the context menu, select Delete.

You can change each symbol in terms of size and proportions. Left-click on the element in question to do so. The software displays several boundaries around the symbol and in the corners. You can use the mouse to move them if necessary; this also modifies the element's size at the same time.

Properly Connected

Depending on the direction, the software adjusts the entire size of the symbol in the horizontal or vertical direction. After drawing and possibly modifying the symbols in the workspace, you can connect them in the next step. To help you with this, yEd, provides a number of lines in the Edge Types tab.

You can set the starting point of the line by dragging one of the entries onto one of the icons in the workspace using the left mouse button. Then, drag the line to the end point above the desired symbol. If you discover that you have drawn a line incorrectly, highlight it by clicking with the mouse; the line is highlighted in yellow. A click on the Delete entry in the context menu which then appears removes the element from the diagram (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Creating charts in the WYSIWYG editor. You can choose from a wide range of symbols, which are organized by topic in the Palette pane at the top right.

Special formatting of the links lets you show relationships between two or more elements. To do this, select the line to be edited with the right mouse button and then select the Properties item in the context menu that appears.

You can now set the attributes for the line in the Properties window, such as its thickness, or arrows at the tips. To better highlight a connection, you can also change the color of the line in this dialog as needed. An input field also lets you add short notes that you can freely place next to the line.

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