How to work model-first

LLBLGen Pro supports both Database First and Model First development. This article describes briefly which functionality of the designer is available to you when you want to work Model First as well as how the typical Model First work flow looks like.

Work flow of Model First

The schematic workflow of Model First development looks like the following:

Workflow Model First

Schematic workflow of Model First

The flow of data is from the editors for the Abstract Entity Model towards the RDBMS using the Relational Model Data storage in the project as a stop in between them. This has the advantage that you can keep working on the relational model data through the Abstract Entity Model without the necessity to be connected to the RDBMS.

A couple of processes are used to get from an Abstract Entity Model to a schema definition in an RDBMS: Syncing Relational Model Data and Generate Database Schema Create / Update Scripts. Sync Relational Model Data results in relational model data in the Relational Model Data storage, if new elements have to be created, and mappings between the elements in the Abstract Entity Model and the elements in the Relational Model Data storage.

The changes made to the relational model data are exportable as a Create script or Update script. The scripts are then usable to create a new schema or update an existing schema in an RDBMS.

Let's break this down into smaller steps, from creating an entity in the Abstract Entity Model to a Create script for a schema. The following steps use the conventional tools, not Quick Model, however if you want to create the entity using Quick Model, you're free to do so.

  1. Create a new project in the LLBLGen Pro designer and choose a target framework. For 'Initial contents' for the project, select 'Relational Model Data container for a databases (Model First)'.
  2. Click OK in the Create New Project dialog to create the project. The 'Relational Model Data Store Database Type Selector' dialog opens to allow you to select the database type for which the designer should create a Relational Model Data container to store the relational model data like table definitions. In the dialog, select the database you want to use in your project and click OK. Keep in mind that DDL SQL scripts aren't supported on MS Access, so choose a database other than MS Access. In an empty project you can open this dialog by right-clicking the 'Relational Model Data' node in the Project Explorer or Catalog Explorer and select Add Relational Model Data Storage for a Database from the context menu.
  3. Examine and eventually adjust the Project Settings so creating entities and the like are created comform the settings you want.
  4. Click the New Entity button on the toolbar, or press ctrl-shift-E or select Project -> New -> Entity, to create a new entity definition. Specify a name for the entity in the dialog, e.g. 'Customer', and click OK.
  5. Right-click in Project Explorer the entity you just created and select Edit... from the context menu. The entity is opened in its Entity Editor.
  6. Click the top row in the grid on the Fields tab and specify a name and a type for the first field, e.g. 'Id' and 'int', using the TAB key to move between columns and complete pre-selections in the columns. Press TAB to move the cursor to the Optional column and press cntrl-Enter to add the field.
  7. Press ctrl-shift-F to add a new field, e.g. 'Name' and as type 'string'. Again press cntrl-Enter to add the field
  8. Repeat step 7 a couple of times till you have enough fields in your entity.
  9. Click the Edit... button next to the Identifying Fields text box. In the dialog popping up select the Id field you created in step 6 to mark it as the Identifying Field (the 'pk')
  10. Select Project -> Sync Relational Model Data from the main menu or click the Sync button button in the toolbar.
  11. The Sync Relational Model Data tab is opened. Make sure the sync sources for your schema elements are set to Model and click Perform Tasks. This will make LLBLGen Pro create a new table in the Relational Model Data storage added in step 2 and mappings between the entity you created in steps 4-8 and the newly created table. A log is shown what actions have been taken for you. To examine the mappings, click the Field Mappings tab of the editor of the entity you created. To quickly find the table created, click the Lookup button button next to the Mapping Target on the Field Mappings tab to go to the node of the table in Catalog Explorer. You should now see a table definition with primary key and fields in the Catalog Explorer.
  12. In Catalog Explorer rename the schema and / or catalog node if you want to have a different name for these in your actual database.
  13. Right click the 'Relational Model Data' node in the Project Explorer or Catalog Explorer and select Generate Database Schema Create Script (DDL SQL) from the context menu. This will bring up the Code Generation Task Viewer dialog to guide you through the DDL SQL script creation process of exporting a create/update script.
  14. Run the generated script on the relational database you have chosen to work on. Keep in mind that it's likely that you have to manually create the database / schema in the RDBMS as these operations are often not scriptable or require manual input. The script contains, when applicable, code to help you with this.

With Model First you walk every time the steps 4-9 to create entities, relationships and the like, and after that the steps 10-14 to finalize your changes to be usable by generated code.


Steps 4-9 can also be done in Quick Model which offers a quick way to specify entities through a text-based DSL.

Tools and functionality available to you

The designer contains a lot of functionality, both visible and hidden beneath the surface, which help you work with an Abstract Entity Model using a Model First workflow. The following list of features are mainly used for and designed for working Model First.

  • Quick Model. A text based DSL system which lets you quickly specify entities, relationships and other Abstract Entity Model elements.
  • Entity Editor. The editor for editing entity fields, mappings and other entity related details.
  • Normal Relationship Editor. The editor which allows you to specify / edit 1:n/m:1/1:1 relationships between entities
  • Many-to-Many Relationship Editor. The editor which allows you to specify / edit a Many-to-Many relationship based on two m:1 relationships.
  • Syncing Relational Model Data. The process of synchronizing the relational model data in the Relational Model Data storage with a source (in this case, the Abstract Entity Model), by auto-creating relational model data elements and mappings based on the elements in the Abstract Entity Model.
  • Designer Preferences and Project Settings, especially the relational model data element naming construction and validation sections.
  • Catalog Explorer with its context menus on various nodes to for example exclude a set of elements (like a set of tables) or to rename a schema or table or mark an element (e.g. a field) for deletion.
  • Working with Types and Default values using Type Shortcuts
  • On the Field Mappings tab of the Entity Editor or other project element editors the following utilities:
    • Create mapping, Remove mapping, New target... and New sequence... buttons.
    • Sync selected... button. This button makes it easier to sync a model field's type specification with its mapped target field, e.g. if you changed the mapping
    • Auto-map unmapped fields to new target fields button, which makes it easier to create new target fields on the fly
    • Edit field..., New field... and Auto-new field buttons which allow you to make micro changes to an existing table field, or create a new table field, either from scratch or from the current selected field mapping.
  • Generate Database Schema Create / Update Scripts. The functionality to export changes to the relational model data in script form to apply them to the schema in the RDBMS you want to target.

Additionally, the rich editing system of the designer for the Abstract Entity Model elements is at your disposal.

Mixing Model First with Database First

It's ok to mix a Database First workflow with a Model First workflow. In the Sync Relational Model Data tab, you can specify which elements are sourced from which source, e.g. source the tables from the Abstract Entity Model and views / stored procedures from a database. You can do that by setting the sync sources in the Sync Relational Model Data tab of the involved schemas to Mixed.