Associations

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1 Introduction

An association describes a relation between entities. In the domain model, an association is represented by a line or arrow between two entities.

1.1 Ownership

The value of an association should be viewed and edited from the object of the entity that is the owner of the association. Ownership in an association is signified by an arrow (note that the arrow does not signify direction). Either one entity or both entities can be the owner of the association. If one entity is the owner, there is an arrow that points from the owner to the other entity. If both entities are owners, there is a line between the two entities but no arrow. This is the only way the arrow can be controlled.

It is important to understand why ownership exists. Ownership is implemented in Mendix so that you can change relationships dynamically rather than being stuck with your first design. For example, if you design something as a one-to-many association and then need it to be a many-to-many association with default ownership, you do not need to rebuild your database, because Mendix handles it for you.

1.2 Multiplicity

The multiplicity (or number of referred objects) of an association is indicated by the number one (1) or a star (*) at either side of the association.

In the example below, the arrow indicates that Order is the owner of the association, and the 1 and * indicate that one customer is associated with many orders:

2 Creating Associations

The quickest way to create an association is to draw the association between two entities in a domain model. By default this will create a one-to-many association starting at the owner/many side of the association and ending at the one side of the association. The association will be named by joining the names of the two entities with an underscore. You can then edit the association as discussed in the next section.

You can also create associations between entities in different modules of your app. In this case it is not possible to draw the association. You can create an association to an entity in another module’s domain model by creating a new association in the Association tab of the entity which owns the association. You can then choose any entity within your app as the target of the association. For more information see Association Tab Properties.

3 Editing Associations

There are two ways of editing an association.

3.1 Edit the Association Directly

You can edit the association itself. In this case you will define the association using multiplicity and navigability.

For more information see Association Properties.

3.2 Edit from Associations in the Entity

You can edit the associations as members of the entity. In this case you will define the association using type and owner.

For more information see Association Tab Properties.

4 Association Examples

4.1 One-to-Many Association

In this example, drawing an association from the Order entity to the Customer entity results in the following:

The type property has its default value Reference, and the owner (the Order entity) is Default. This is the same as having multiplicity set to One 'Customer' object is associated with multiple 'Order' objects so a customer can have multiple orders, but an order can only have one customer.

In XML, instances of these entities and their association look as follows (note that the association is only stored in the Order element):

<Order id="101">
	<number>1</number>
	<date>9/30/2008</date>
	<Order_Customer>id_201</Order_Customer>
</Order>

<Customer id="201">
	<fullname>Apple Inc.</fullname>
	<address>1 Infinite Loop</address>
	<telephonenumber>1-800-MY-APPLE</telephonenumber>
</Customer>

4.2 Many-to-Many Association with Default Ownership

A many-to-many association with default ownership is created by drawing an association and then setting the type property to Reference set and leaving the owner as Default.

In this example, a Customer can have multiple Groups, and a Group can have multiple Customers. This is the same as having multiplicity set to Multiple 'Group' objects are associated with multiple 'Customer' objects with Navigability set to 'Customer' objects refer to 'Group' objects:

In XML, instances of these entities and their associations look as follows (note that the association is only stored in the Customer element):

<Customer id="201">
	<fullname>Apple Inc.</name>
	<address>1 Infinite Loop</address>
	<telephonenumber>1-800-MY-APPLE</telephonenumber>
	<Customer_Group>id_301 id_302</Customer_Group>
</Customer>

<Group id="301">
	<name>Multinational corporations</name>
</Group>

<Group id="302">
	<name>Hardware suppliers</name>
</Group>

4.3 One-to-One Association

A one-to-one association is created by setting the owner property to Both (while leaving the type property at its default value Reference).

In this example, a Customer can have one Profile, and a Profile can have one Customer. This is the same as having multiplicity set to One 'Customer' object is associated with one 'Profile' object:

In XML, instances of these entities and their associations look as follows (note that the association is stored both in the Profile element and the Customer element):

<Profile id="401">
	<religion>Buddhism</religion>
	<job>Chief Executive Officer</job>
	<website>http://www.apple.com/ </website>
	<Customer_Profile>id_201</Customer_Profile>
</Profile>

<Customer id="201">
	<fullname>Steve Jobs</fullname>
	<address>1 Infinite Loop</address>
	<telephonenumber>1-800-MY-APPLE</telephonenumber>
	<Customer_Profile>id_401</Customer_Profile>
</Customer>

4.4 Many-to-Many Association with Dual Ownership

A many-to-many association where both entities are owners is created by setting the owner property to Both and the type property to Reference set.

In this example, an Accountant can have multiple Groups and a Group can have multiple Accountants. This is the same as having multiplicity set to Multiple 'Group' objects are associated with multiple 'Accountant' objects with Navigability set to 'Accountant' and 'Group' objects refer to each other:

In XML, instances of these entities and their association look as follows (note that the association is stored both in the Accountant element and the Group element):

<Accountant id="501">
	<idnumber>1</idnumber>
	<name>Earl Grey</name>
	<telephonenumber>1-800-EARL-GREY</telephonenumber>
	<Accountant_Group>id_301 id_302</Accountant_Group>
</Accountant>

<Accountant id="502">
	<idnumber>2</idnumber>
	<name>Scrooge McDuck</name>
	<telephonenumber>1-800-SCROOGE-MCDUCK</telephonenumber>
	<Accountant_Group>id_301 id_302</Accountant_Group>
</Accountant>

<Group id="301">
	<name>Multinational corporations</name>
	<Accountant_Group>id_501 id_502</Accountant_Group>
</Group>

<Group id="302">
	<name>Hardware suppliers</name>
	<Accountant_Group>id_501 id_502</Accountant_Group>
</Group>