The Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) is very popular and is getting close to be the de facto standard for describing business processes in a graphical way. Basically BPMN can be used simply by pen and paper but using a good software tool which support this notation can make drawing much easier and is especially useful in case it is a little bit smarter by being able to check the syntax against the BPMN rules.

As usual some common information about BPMN can be found at Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_Process_Modeling_Notation) or the website of the OMG – Object Management Group (http://www.omg.org/) which I working on BPMN too.

The get a quick overview of the symbol, syntax and rules the so called BPMN posters are a good place to start. The poster is available as a PDF for free in multiple languages for this official website http://www.bpmb.de/index.php/BPMNPoster. As an alternative to this poster there is a project developing different kind of posters as training material and releasing them under the GPL. Aside of a BPMN-Poster the do offer other posters too. These posters are very nice and really worth a look:http://sourceforge.net/projects/itposter/

I do have a printed version on my desk when working with a modeler, because the tools I worked with in the past had different levels of checking the syntax and non of them was perfect in this discipline.

Until today did not find the perfect BPMN modeler/ tool. I do not look for a complete BPMN suite including the options to run the designed business process. The characteristics of the software I am looking for are:

  • Because I am a big fan of open source and free software especially if is is using an open license like GPL, Apache, BSD, CDDL, etc.
  • Support of BPMN 2.0
  • Graphical modeler which support BPMN diagrams and does the syntax check
  • Visual presentation of drawing shall be nice; good looking diagrams
  • Easy to go
  • Optional: Windows and Linux support

To find the software I want to review I simply searched the web using Google. I started with the key words “BPMN Linux” and adapted the keywords after looking through different hits and search catalogs. At the end I simply selected the pieces of software which made a goods impression to me based on the feature list and available screenshots.Therefore my list is far far away of being complete and my impression of the tools is reflecting how easy is was for me to get a drawing out of the tool. I can be that a tool which does not fit to me is a perfect fit for someone else.

The result is the following list:

  • Eclipse STP BPMN Modeler/ Intalio Designer
  • TIBCO Business Studio
  • Yaoqiang BPMN Editor
  • Aris Express

Eclipse STP BPMN Modeler/ Intalio Designer

was developed in 2006 by the company intalio which later on donated the BPMN modeler to the Eclipse foundation. The main website of the project is http://www.eclipse.org/bpmn/ but so far the modeler is not automatically integrated into Eclipse and the installation needs to be done via the STP site. How this works is described on the projects website. When writing this article it required Eclipse 3.5.1 instead of the current version 3.6.1.

As alternative to the BPMN modeler plugin for Eclipse 3.5.1 the company Intalio offers community edition of its commercial BPMN modeler which already included the needed Eclipse runtime files (http://www.intalio.com/downloads).

BPMN in the Intalio DesignerNevertheless the version of Intalio or the Eclipse foundation is available for Windows, Linux and Mac. For my short review I used the free commercial version from Intalio because I was not able to install the Eclipse plugins. I tried several times to install the BPMN modeler but also after adding every feature from the install repository there was not feature to activate the perspective of the BPMN modeler. So if anyone finds out how this works please notify me!

Pros

  • Good response times when drawing
  • Pools can be depicted
  • Offer context relevant options for connection per symbol
  • All pools do have the same length
  • Connection can be drawn from a symbol in both directions
  • Changing a symbol into a special subtype is done via the context menu

Cons

  • Not very colorful
  • Flow connectors and associations are available at the left or right side of an symbol only
  • When heavily editing drawings and moving object around some symbols disappeared and a pool was rearranged far far away from the other
  • No real control of connections and lines from one symbol to another

TIBCO Business Studio

is neither open source or under an open license like the GPL, but the tool is at least free. The website of the tool is http://www.tibco.com/products/bpm/process-modeling/business-studio/default.jsp where it is available as a download for Windows and Linux after completing a short registration form.

BPMN in TIBCO Business StudioAfter the installation is done under Linux I was looking for the executable file to start the editor. I found several executables from Eclipse inside the installation folder but nothing specific. In the end I found out that the file to execute is located here <installfolder>/studio-community-3.4/studio/3.4/studio-rcp/eclipse/studio-rpc

Pros

  • Looks very powerful
  • Is not designed as a pure modeler and support additional diagrams within the BPMN project. e.g. organizational structure

Cons

  • Drawing is very difficult – I was not able to resize a singe pool or lane. After adding a second lane to the first pool I was not able to put a task into the second pool anymore. In case dropping a task aside of a pool it lands automatically in the first pool.
  • All icons have by default a yellow touch (including START and END event!)
  • No graphical export function for drawing of BPMN diagrams

Yaoqiang BPMN Editor

is a very small java application less than one megabyte. Which is especially designed to support BPMN 2.0. The project is hosted on SourceForge.net: http://sourceforge.net/projects/bpmn/

BPMN in Yaoqiang BPMN EditorAfter staring the application it look a little bit like MS Visio regarding the layout of the modules of the GUI and the idea to display something like a piece of paper to draw on.

Pros

  • Very small application
  • No installlation needed
  • Exports diagrams into a lot of different graphic formats
  • Smart detection of connection type to use between symbols GPLv3!!
  • Open Source
  • Clear colors for the different symbols

Cons

  • All symbols are displayed on the same level. Instead of offering one main start event and than the option to specify which special start event should be.
  • No real control of connections and lines from one symbol to another
  • Limitation of a process drawing by page size

Aris Express

the light version of the all-time classic Aris. Aris Express is not available under an open source and open license but the usage is free and supported by a community. Aris Express is written in Java and starts everytime via Java Webstart – it does not matter if you already installed it or not you do need internet access and a free Aris Community account. To sign up and use Aris Express go to http://www.ariscommunity.com/aris-express.

Aris Express Windows looks as it shouldAris Express Linux is looking a little bit strange under Linux from time to time

Pros

  • Good look & feel
  • Intelligent handling of symbols and connectors of BPMN. Nice feature to add vertical and horizontal space between objects.
  • Support all main functions for BPMN including depiction of pools
  • A lot of export features of drawing including PDF, vector graphics and raster graphics
  • Multiple designs for BPMN symbols available

Cons

  • Does always require Java Webstart and access to the internet to register the user and downloading additional software
  • Strange optic using the Linux version under KDE 4.5 with Nvidia graphics card (and official SUN Java 1.6)
  • Can get quite slow

Conclusion

Every BPMN modeler has it strength as well as its weaknesses. In common every modeler is able to be used to draw BPMN charts. I was quite impressed by the very small and good looking Yaoqiang BPMN Editor. If you are looking for something small, simple and working this could be your tool. I do have to draw some bigger BPMN charts therefore it is not really useful to be forced to work on a paper-like canvas. Therefore and because the workflow within the program is quite smart I will use Aris Express. The GUI looks sometimes strange under Linux, but the program is not crashing and after swirling the mouse pointer over the buttons the appear again.

Very quick review of free BPMN modelers/ tools/ editors
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30 thoughts on “Very quick review of free BPMN modelers/ tools/ editors

  • 2015-04-10 April 2015 at 09:26
    Permalink

    Hi Nicholas,

    I stumbled upon your review while searching for a web-based BPMN tool. Let me suggest the one I’ve recently found: https://www.genmymodel.com

    GenMyModel is a modeling platform in the cloud supporting BPMN modeling, UML, database, flowchart, etc. It provides several export formats for BPM workflow engines and enables real-time collaboration. It’s really helpful for business analysts like me.

    Cheers,
    Tommy

    Reply
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  • 2014-04-30 April 2014 at 13:02
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    Hi Nicolas,
    thank you very much for your review. I evaluated many systems and ended up in IYOPRO at http://www.iyopro.com which is not on your list.
    Maybe you’l try it by yourself. It’s online and free in the basic edition – very impressive!

    Reply
  • 2014-02-19 February 2014 at 10:54
    Permalink

    Hi Nicolas,

    maybe this is interesting to you: we provide an open source standalone BPMN 2.0 modeling tool.

    http://www.camunda.org/bpmn/tool/

    The tool is based on eclipse and can easily be used as a desktop application. Download is free.

    Cheers
    Robert

    Reply
    • 2014-02-22 February 2014 at 23:59
      Permalink

      Hi Robert,

      thanks for sharing! It sounds very good… running on Windows, Mac OS and Linux. I will give it a try, next time I need to do something with BPMN.

      Reply
  • 2013-08-27 August 2013 at 07:54
    Permalink

    Hi Nicolas,

    Please rectify me if the following tool does not fit in your collection. However it is an open source tool and broadly offers the possibility to create fully BPMN diagrams:

    Dia
    http://dia-installer.de/shapes/BPMN/index.html

    Regards,
    Luis

    Reply
    • 2013-09-10 September 2013 at 22:15
      Permalink

      Hi Luis,

      thanks for the info that BPMN stencils exist for Dia. I really like Dia, it is a great peace of software and a very good alternative to MS Viso or so. Next time I need t BPMN modeler I will give it a try, because doing BPMN in Visio is quite the oposite of beeing good 😉

      Reply
  • 2013-07-16 July 2013 at 02:35
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    Don’t you just love it when you put in effort to write a review and then all kinds of advertisers pop up with recommendations of their own product, completely ignoring the article?

    And I sooooo love the alpha versions; those who already advertise products in alpha stage have a habit of never finishing them.

    Reply
    • 2013-09-10 September 2013 at 22:17
      Permalink

      Hey,
      actually I just collected some modelers I was able to find in the web and than I did a quick check and review. If there shall be some guys who want to advertise there piece of software – why not… if it is a valuable tool than I am really happy to be able to know it.

      Reply
  • 2013-05-30 May 2013 at 19:56
    Permalink

    I have always relied on Business Process Incubator as the best BPMN tool, it can do just about anything… from UML to Simulation… simply the best tool I’ve used for BPM.

    The website for the tool and plenty of BPM resources is:
    http://www.BusinessProcessIncubator.com

    Reply
  • 2012-05-20 May 2012 at 12:04
    Permalink

    Hi,

    Thank you for your nice post. I wanted to know if you are aware of any tool for converting BPMN models to UML activity diagrams?

    Regards,
    Samad

    Reply
    • 2012-05-20 May 2012 at 12:48
      Permalink

      Hi Samad,
      I don’t really know if this tool is capable to to what you want, but they offer a trail version as a download and you could give it a try:
      http://www.sparxsystems.com.au/products/ea/index.html

      I worked with Enterprise Architect a fews year ago (version 7 something) and I really liked it. At least for UML and documentation it was just great and the price quite low compared to other commercial UML Tools.

      On the specs page of EA you can see that it supports BPMN as well, so with a little bit of luck it may support converting BPMN into some kind of UML diagramm…
      In case it doesn’t this tool at least offers the option to integrate both into one project tool, which can be an benefit as well.

      Let me know if it works!

      Cheers
      Nicolas

      Reply
      • 2012-05-20 May 2012 at 14:24
        Permalink

        Hi Nicolas,

        thank you for your reply,
        I will check it and will tell you the result.

        best,
        Samad

        Reply
  • 2012-03-22 March 2012 at 15:21
    Permalink

    The name of the standard is now “Business Process Model and Notation”. It is no longer “Business Process Modeling Notation” as it was when it was before BPMI became part of OMG. If it is to become a true standard, I think it would help if we all called it by the same name. http://www.omg.org/spec/BPMN/2.0/

    Reply
    • 2013-07-16 July 2013 at 02:29
      Permalink

      No, it will not help. It is still BPMN. That is just a label in your head (which, BTW, should be checked).

      Reply
  • 2012-02-01 February 2012 at 17:12
    Permalink

    Checkout – Innovator for Business Analysts – it provides all the tools necessary to support the Business Analyst role. Features include; organisational and business resource charts, requirements management, process workflow in BPMN 2.0, process and path animation, export to BPMN 2.0 XML and data structure diagrams. A large proportion of these features are available in the FREE Personal Edition.

    Reply
    • 2011-08-31 August 2011 at 18:10
      Permalink

      Hi Nicholas,
      every hint for a good BMPN editor/ tool is very welcome. I will have a look on and come back to it. Many thanks for the link!!

      Reply
  • 2011-01-21 January 2011 at 22:35
    Permalink

    I stumbled upon your review while searching for a good BPMN-editor for Linux.

    Currently I’m using yEd: http://www.yworks.com/en/products_yed_about.html
    It’s a multi-purpose editor that I use for just about anything diagramming. It has the best result for printing (printing is the biggest flaw in almost every other Open Source BPMN-editor, and I tried every one I could find), it’s only drawback at this moment (for me) is that it doesn’t support BPMN 2.0 specific symbols and additions.

    Reply
    • 2011-01-23 January 2011 at 12:39
      Permalink

      yEd is a good editor. I used in the past to draw some diagramms with tree structures. The options for automatic sorting and structuring of trees a very good. So far I didn’t used it for BPMN. Regarding printing I made good experience with exporting the diagramms to PDF and than printing the PDF.
      I think after getting several hints about additional BPMN editors maybe I should create a new review. There are so many great products out there 😉

      Reply
  • 2011-01-18 January 2011 at 15:39
    Permalink

    Hello Nicolas,

    have a look at BizAgi Free Process modeler. A desktop application in Office 2007 look

    Building up processes is as easy as in ARIS Express but Process modeler has better export options.

    If you have any news on good BPMN-Tool then let me know.

    Best Regards

    Michael

    Reply
    • 2011-01-22 January 2011 at 11:26
      Permalink

      Hi Michael,
      I really forgot to mention thr BizAgi Editor. I’m used it several time within the last 3 month. I really like at this editor the way how it draws the diagramms and the good export options. I made some very big drawing with it (in case of printing them auf 100% they had a size of arround 10×10 DIN-A4 pages) and the editor lost all it’s responsiveness. I was and still is very very slow. But sure in case I setup a updated version of my review or simple an overview of editor I will add it.
      Kind Regards
      Nicolas

      Reply
  • 2011-01-12 January 2011 at 17:07
    Permalink

    Hello Nicolas,

    i am also currently searching for a BPMN Tool, my favorits so far are
    ARIS Express and BizAgi Free Process Modeler
    Both desktop applications and both have smart mini-symbols for building
    up processes very fast.

    If you find another good program please let me know.

    Best Regards
    Michael

    Reply
  • 2010-11-20 November 2010 at 02:40
    Permalink

    Hi Nicolas,
    Thanks for your interest in Yaoqiang BPMN Editor.
    Your review is quite useful. But there are some features about this software that i need explain. You can use the options on the File menu and toolbar to change the page size:

    Choose File > Page Setup (English version).
    Wählen Sie Datei > Seite einrichten (German version)

    I hope this will be helpful for you‎.

    Greetings,
    Blenta.

    Reply
    • 2010-11-07 November 2010 at 17:49
      Permalink

      Hi Jakob,
      thanks for the hint.
      So far I focused on desktop applications because of ease of installation and export functions. (At least I assumed that they can fulfil this requirement easier).
      I checked the screenshots and read the description. It sounds great in case looking for a whole BPM suite. Currently I am not at the point that I need a whole suite, but I think I will get a copy to play around with.

      Kind Regards
      Nicolas

      Reply

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