[Guide] Customizing VP's default styles & options

Hi gang,

Over the past weeks I’ve been using Visual Paradigm both professionally as well for some hobby based scenarios, it’s actually a program I can enjoy in both ways. And when I like something I sometimes can’t help vent a little, so here you go. Hope this is in the right place and can help some of you guys out.

Customizing the Visual Paradigm interface

The toolbar

One of the key features of Visual Paradigm is that you can pretty much customize the environment entirely to your needs. For example: are there any tabs on the toolbar which you’d rather not see all the time? Or options on those tabs? The problem is that sometimes you may run into a situation where your license doesn’t allow you to use specific features and seeing all those disabled options could become bothersome or maybe even annoying. Are Visual Paradigm (“VP”) trying to lure you into another license? :?

Naah! This is actually easily solved! Open the help tab (or menu item) and find the option “Customize UI” and click it. This is roughly what you’ll see:

This may look overwhelming at first, but don’t worry… Basically every section in the program is an item on this list. And this window allows you to hide all those items, so that you’ll never have to bother with them again until you unhide them. License or no license 8).

Now, there are a few important rules to keep in mind:

Other than these rules you’re really home free, anything can be hidden if you want it to.

Some examples…

I’m using the Modeler license, something which I can honestly seriously recommend, it’s well worth the money if you ask me. Now, if you check the VP feature list you’ll notice that my license doesn’t support code engineering nor database generation. However, some options are still shown on my toolbars, and I don’t want that.

More specifically: while using the classic interface I don’t want to be bothered with the Modeling, Doc and Code options on the toolbar. On top of that I also want to hide these menu options: “Modeling => Storyboard”, “Modeling => Play Storyboard”, Modeling => Animation". Next: “Tools => Doc composer”, “Tools => Code Engineering” and “Tools => Hibernate”. Here I’ve illustrated some of those “annoying” options:

Note that the same applies to the sleek interface, I’m only using classic because my shown examples will be more obvious.

So, how to proceed from here? Click the help menu (or help tab!) and select the Customize option (“Help => Customize UI…”). Now find these options in the list on the left and after you selected them click the ‘Add selected’ option (greater than sign in the middle). Note that you can select multiple items by keeping control pressed:

Menu/Modeling/Play Storyboard
Menu/Modeling/Requirements List
Menu/Tools/Code Engineering

As you will probably notice some of these items have ‘sub items’. For example there are plenty of options ‘behind’ “Menu/Tools/Code Engineering” (like “Menu/Tools/Code Engineering/Instant Generator/Java”). Basically you need to hide main items and don’t bother yourself with sub-items unless you want to keep some of those around.

When done click on ‘Ok’ and VP will tell you that you need to restart the program in order for your changes to take effect. Do so. Here’s what the customized (classic) UI looks like on my end:

As you can see several items on the right side of the toolbar are now gone.

And of course the same applies when using the ‘sleek’ interface, which I personally prefer to use. Just make sure that you’re selecting the right options. So keep in mind to select “Sleek Toolbar” instead of “Toolbar” or vice versa…

Also keep the “VP Coolness factor” in mind! When you switch between the classic and the sleek user interface then VP will automatically convert your hidden items as well. So items which you hid on the classic toolbar will also become hidden on the sleek toolbar after switching. How cool is that? 8)

If you messed up :cry:

So what to do if you accidentally hid the Customize UI option itself? :shock: Then you’re pretty much stuck: in order to unhide this option you’ll be needing the option which you just hid. Basically creating the perfect loop:

Now you might be tempted to tell me: “But Peter… you can’t hide this option because it’s not listed in the hide option screen!”, but you’d be partially right. Although you can’t hide this specific option itself you still can hide the entire Help tab, yikes! :mrgreen:

Fortunately there’s still hope :slight_smile:

Editing the VP UI config file

Make sure VP isn’t running and locate your VP application directory, usually this is set to: C:\Users<yourname>\AppData\Roaming\VisualParadigm. (edit): An easy way to access this is to paste this (without the quotes) into your file explorer window: “%userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\VisualParadigm”.

Then find the file called vpuicustomization.xml. You will need to remove one specific entry:

After you deleted this save the file, start VP again and you should see your Help tab once again. When in doubt you can also chose to simply delete this file entirely, but keep in mind that this would also reset all your changes, effectively requiring you to manually hide all your options again. My approach might be easier for you.

Next time

Now, this has become quite the write-up so I’m leaving it here for now. If appreciated then I’ll explain those custom styles another time soon!

Well… It has been a while since I was eager to see if my post got accepted :wink: So now onto part II…

Customizing model elements

When you start a new project and make a new diagram you’ll probably notice that Visual Paradigm’s default color scheme is blue (or cyan?). It does a good job, and certainly sets a standard, but it also doesn’t always appeal. For example, here I have a deployment diagram showcasing how an upcoming plugin project should manifest itself:

It looks good enough, but it’s also a bit difficult to look at. I mean… Everything is the same color so it’s hard to separate one element from the other. Fortunately there’s something we can do about that: apply formatting to our model elements. Here I have the same diagram but this time applied a bit more variation. I think you’ll agree that it makes a big difference:

Setting up formatting

In order to change the appearance of a model element you’ll need to customize its formatting. Doing this is very easy: simply select the element you want to change and then use the ‘Format’ option on the Diagram tab. Or right click, find the ‘Styles and Formatting’ section and select the ‘Formats…’ option. You’ll open an options screen in which you can change everything you might want to: the foreground, background and even the shape of the model element (though I would be careful with that last one because you could risk invalidating your element).

After you made your changes you can click OK and that will change the model element you worked on. But you have more options at your disposal: you can also use the “Set as Default” option. This allows you to apply your changes to all related elements on the current diagram (or those in the whole project) while also ensuring that any new elements which you add will be using the same new formatting as well. Note however that since you can change all the different parts of an element individually (the outline, the font and the background) you’ll also need to apply those changes separately as well.

Note that if you only want to customize your model elements in the current diagram then you don’t need to use the ‘Set as Default’ option. Simply customize one of the elements, open the ‘Diagram’ tab and find the “Format copier” option. This allows you to copy a formatting scheme from one element and apply it onto another. Using it is very easy: click on an element which formatting you want to copy, click on the ‘Format copier’ option and then click on the element which you want to change:

Here I selected the ‘Node’ element, clicked on the format copier and I’m about to click on the ‘SVN Repository’ node in order to make it gray as well. See the green annotations which highlight the options. Note that you can also double click on the copier option to make it “sticky”. This will allow you to copy the currently selected formatting to multiple elements.

Styles: make your formatting portable

So what to do when you want to apply your formatting to some model elements in another diagram but don’t want to change the default? Then you have 2 options. You can use the format copier as previously explained, but that will only work for your current session. You can also use styles. Styles allow you to save your formatting settings so that you can re-use them with other elements whenever you want. Even if those elements are located in different projects!

If you look at the above screenshot which showed the ‘formats dialog’ you’ll notice that the top of that dialog shows a preview, a “style area” on the left as well as several buttons on the right. That section allows you to save your formatting as a specific style. Using it is very easy: perform all the steps which I explained earlier to change the formatting of a model element. Then when you’re done click on the “Save as” button in the top right corner, this will save your current formatting as a new style. You can give your style a name and then it will be shown in the list on the top left corner of the formats dialog. Then click ‘OK’ to apply your changes to the model element.

Now open the diagram which contains the element(s) that you want to change, click on the styles option which you can find on the view tab to open the styles dialog. Then click on the model element which you want to change, select the style which you want to apply and then click on the apply button:

As you can see the advantage of using styles is that you can build up a collection of different formats and then simply select the right formatting for the element(s) which you want to change. But there’s more…

When you start working on a new project you’ll quickly notice that everything has switched back to the default cyan color. So what to do about that? Well, as I briefly mentioned earlier you can even use styles between projects. Simply open the style dialog and then click the ‘Import’ button. Find the project which contains the style(s) which you want to use and after you opened it the import style dialog will be shown:

The list shows all your custom styles on top followed by the rest of the default styles. Select the style(s) which you want to use and click ‘OK’. Then simply select the element which you want to change, select the style which you want to apply and click apply. Basically the same procedure which I already explained earlier.

Setting up default custom styles (and other settings)

The above procedures are a very easy way to add some customization to your projects, but you’ll soon notice that every time when you start a new project you’ll be reset back to the default (cyan) formatting. When you need to work on multiple new projects this could become quite tedious. Another way to look at this is that over time you might be developing your own specific style for your diagrams. So wouldn’t it be easier if Visual Paradigm would use your own custom settings every time you start the program or create a new project?

Guess what? You can! 8)

Visual Paradigm uses what I tend to call an anonymous project (probably not the official name). The anonymous project is basically an environment which defines all of the VP defaults. And better yet: it’s also fully customizable.

Start VP (or if you’re already working on something close your current project). Now you’re in the ‘anonymous project’. Open the diagram tab, click ‘New’ and select a diagram which contains the element(s) which you want to change. Note that it helps if you already saved a few custom styles in another project, but this isn’t required. Don’t trouble yourself with giving the diagram a name nor worry about the location. Just open a new diagram.

Now add the element(s) which you want to customize, select an element and use the ‘Format’ option to customize it (as I already explained above). The easiest way to go about this is to use the ‘Import’ function which you’ll find on the top of the dialog; this allows you to import already defined styles from another project. Then all that’s left to do is to select the style which you want to use, and apply it as a new default.

Do note that any imported styles won’t become part of the default. So, as soon as you start a new project your model elements will use your custom formatting, but you won’t have access to any predefined styles.

Applies to all project settings

Another cool feature is that this customization isn’t restricted to the element formatting. If you apply changes to your project settings then those will also become the new default. For example: I don’t like the notation in which a Use case shows an extension point, so I usually turn that option off. By changing this in the ‘anonymous project’ you can make this the default behavior for all future projects. The same applies to the textual analysis (one of my favorite features): the font size is set to 22 which is way too big for me. So I opened the ‘anonymous project’, changed this setting in the project settings to 14, and then applied it.

The result? Well…

This is what it looks like when I copy & paste the last section of this guide. You’ll have to forgive my force of habit: every time I work with the textual analysis I can’t help extracting some elements from it. As mentioned earlier this is one of my favorite features of Visual Paradigm because it can really help you to get an analysis project started: just copy your description, manual or whatever, extract the elements you’re going to need and your first Use case is most likely already half-way done :slight_smile:

And that’s all for now!

I hope this guide can be useful for some of you out there. I think it gives a very good impression on how extensive Visual Paradigm actually is!

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This helped a lot, thanks, ShelLuser!

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Thanks for your reaction, I’m happy to hear that it could help you out!

I know that the layout of that post is a bit weird, but that’s because it’s an old one, this post even predates the current Discourse forum! :sunglasses:

… aah, back in the good old days when I was still running Modeler :wink: