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Spotlight on Spira 6.11 – Diagrams, Drawing and Flowcharts

July 26th, 2021 by inflectra

Many of our customers use SpiraPlan to design and manage requirements for complex systems and products including aerospace, automotive and industrial systems. Accordingly, a common need is to be able to create requirements and associated documentation that includes diagrams, flowcharts, and mind-maps. We are excited to announce that we have added free, built-in diagram support to SpiraTest, SpiraTeam, and SpiraPlan version 6.11 that is being released next month (August 2021).

What Kind of Diagrams Can I Create?

The new diagram editor is integrated into the Spira document management system. In addition to the ability to create textual content in Markdown, Rich Text, and BDD Gherkin formats, you can now choose to create three different types of diagrams in Spira:

  • Generic¬†flowchart diagrams¬†using a variety of shapes
  • Specialized¬†organization charts, also useful for website sitemaps
  • Mind-map¬†brainstorming diagrams

To create a new diagram, simply use the new option on the “Add Document” dropdown menu on the document management homepage:

Now you can create one of the three different types of diagrams. We shall discuss each one in turn.

Flowchart Diagrams

The flowchart diagram editor lets you view diagrams directly inside the system using the ‘View’ tab. You can also choose to export the diagrams as either a PNG graphics file or an Adobe Acrobat PDF document.

The built in editor lets you choose a variety of shapes that you can combine with line connectors to create different types of flowchart or diagram. We have included some samples based on the default artifact workflows in Spira to illustrate its power and flexibility:

This type of diagram is especially useful for business and system flowcharts, data flow diagrams, system architectures and network diagrams.

Organization Charts

When you create a diagram of type ‘Organization Chart’ the system provides special color-coded organizational unit boxes and hierarchical connectors to make it easy to create tree views, sitemaps, or other hierarchical data really easily:

The editor for organizational charts is a simplified version of the main diagram editor. It automatically color-codes the organizational units based on their depth in the hierarchy and has options for displaying the charts either horizontally or vertically, depending on your preference:

This type of diagram is especially useful for creating personnel organization charts, web information architecture sitemaps, high-level requirements hierarchies, and other diagrams that are hierarchical in nature.

Mind-map Diagrams

The third and final type of diagram is the mind-map. Although Spira already has the ability to display actual requirements as a mind-map, sometimes you are not ready to write down actual requirements, you just want to quickly brainstorm ideas and have it be captured in the system. With this diagram type, you can take the main idea and then decompose it into a set of related ideas that come from the initial idea.

Mind maps are a great way to take a new concept and explore all the possible implications and outcomes related to that idea. Sometimes they can then become formal requirements, but sometimes they just remain a brainstorm for future reference.

The mind-map diagram editor lets you quickly add new idea “bubbles” to a mind map (linked to the parent idea) and the system takes care of automatically color-coding them based on their proximity to the initial, central idea. That way you can focus on brainstorming, vs. manually changing the colors or adding lines.

Features of the Diagram Editor

Depending on the type of diagram you are creating, there are various different features available:

The Shapes Pane

The left-hand side of the editor contains a set of shapes that you can drag into the main diagram editor. This is available for flowchart diagrams, but not for mind maps or organization charts since they have standard boxes/bubbles that are auto-styled based on the hierarchy. Once you have dragged the shapes into the main drawing grid, you can add lines or text to the items.

The Properties Pane

The right-hand side contains the properties pane. This displays the properties associated with the currently selected item. This could be the color, size, and orientation of the shape, as well as the text. When you have nothing selected, it lets you adjust the properties of the main drawing grid itself.

Finally, above the drawing grid is the context menu. When you select a shape, depending on the type of diagram, it will let you add new shapes, add connecting lines, and remove existing shapes.

Future Plans

Let us know if you like the new diagram editing functionality. We are considering adding support for additional content editors, potentially including a lightweight spreadsheet editor.  For all your Inflectra and Spira needs and questions in Asia-Pacific, contact peter.brackstone@inflectra.com