Getting Started with ERwin

by Dr. Peter Wolcott
Department of Information Systems and Quantitative Analysis
College of Information Science and Technology
University of Nebraska at Omaha


ERwin is a popular data modeling tool used by a number of major companies in Omaha and throughout the world.  The product is currently owned, developed, and marketed by Computer Associates, a leading software developer.  The product supports a variety of aspects of database design, including data modeling, forward engineering (the creation of a database schema and physical database on the basis of a data model), and reverse engineering (the creation of a data model on the basis of an existing database) for a wide variety of relational DBMS, including Microsoft Access, Oracle, DB2, Sybase, and others.

This brief tutorial steps you through the process of creating a data model using ERwin r8.0.   It will not explain all aspects of ERwin, but will show you the minimum necessary to create and use data models for this class.  It consists of three major segments, which correspond to the project-related assignments in your class:

  1. Creation of a basic data model (Conceptual data model)
  2. Creation of a database schema
  3. Creation of the database
This tutorial is a static one, suitable for printing. A tutorial using screen captures and narration is also available (currently, for ERwin 7.0).

Section 1. Creation of a basic data model

You will be creating a data model similar to that created for the Heartland Properties case study used in class.  The Entities involved in this model include:  Employee, Office, Property, and Inspection.  

First, invoke ERwin from Start->Programs->CA->Erwin-> ERwin Data Modeler r8->  ERwin

You will first encounter a dialog box entitled "Erwin Data Modeler Tips".  Simply click on Close.

From the File Menu choose to create a new model: File->New

Figure 1: Create a new model

The next dialog box, shown in Figure 2, will ask you to choose the template to be used to create the new model.  At this point, you may associate the model with a target DBMS product, such as Oracle, DB2, etc.  You will have the opportunity to change this choice later, but for now choose Oracle.  Also, choose Logical/Physical as the new model type.  This choice will allow us to switch back and forth easily between a logical model (ER Diagram) and a physical model (database schema).

Figure 2: Selecting a model type

ERwin will now display the main window from which most of your ER diagram development will be done, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: The ERwin Workplace

The ERwin workplace consists of two main parts.  On the left is the Model Navigator, which displays a hierarchy of items of importance, such as entities, domains, and subject areas.   On the right is the Display Window, which will show the ER diagram itself.  As you create objects, they will appear in the display window (if they are visual in nature, like entities), and appear in the hierarchy within the Model Navigator.  

Setting Preferences

A tool like ERwin can accomodate a number of data modeling notations and conventions.   In my class please make the following changes to the preferences before you begin to create your model: Right-Click on the blue background of the Display Window and select Properties

  1. From the Entity Tab make sure that Primary Key Designator is checked
  2. From the Entity Tab make sure that Foreign Key Designator (FK) is unchecked
  3. From the Entity Tab make sure that Show Migrated Attributes is unchecked
  4. From the Display Tab make sure that Display Child-To-Parent Verb Phrase is checked.
  5. From the Display Tab make sure that Display Parent-To-Child Verb Phrase is checked.
  6. From the Layout Tab make sure that Show Background is unchecked.

In addition, you may choose between two different E-R diagramming notations.  In ERwin, click on Model->Model Properties to see the window shown in Figure 3b:

Figure 3b:   Choice of notation

This tutorial is based on the Information Engineering ("Crows Foot") notation. .

Creating an Entity

To create a new entity, click on the entity icon () on the toolbar, or right-click on the word Entity in the Model Navigator.  If you click on the entity icon, you then should click on the Display Window where you would like the entity to appear, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: A new entity

Notice that the default name for the entity is E/x, where x is some number (2 in this case).  Click on the Tab key several times and notice what happens.  Pressing the tab key cause the focus to cycle between the three main parts of the Entity:   the name of the entity, the primary key attribute(s), and the non-primary key attribute(s).   In general, to modify one of these three parts of the entity, you will press the Tab key to cycle to the appropriate part of the entity, then type to add or modify that part of the entity.  

Right now, press the Tab key until the entity name is highlighted.  Then type EMPLOYEE, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Changing the name of the entity

At this point, you may wish to save and name your diagram to avoid loss should the system or application crash.

Adding primary key columns

Once you have changed the name to EMPLOYEE, press the Tab key again to move the focus to the next part of the Entity, adding a primary key attribute.  Then type the name of the primary key attribute, Emp_Num, as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Adding a primary key attribute

Notice that because of the preferences you set earlier, the primary key attribute has a key icon next to it.

Press the Tab key one more time to bring the focus below the horizontal line in the Entity, where you will add in a number of non-primary key attributes.   Type Emp_Fname, as shown in Figure 7.   When you have typed Emp_Name, press the Enter key (not Tab).   Notice what happens.  The cursor is now positioned for you to add another attribute in this same portion of the Entity, the non-primary key attribute portion.  

Figure 7: Adding non-primary key attributes

Continue adding the following non-primary key attributes:


Your diagram should now look like Figure 8.

Figure 8: The Employee entity

Repeat the entity creation process for the entities and attributes listed in Table 1.

Table 1: Entities and Attributes
Entity Attributes Entity Attributes
OFFICE Office_Num (pk)
INSPECTION Insp_Date (pk)
MANAGER Man_Salary
ASSOCIATE Assoc_Hourly_Rate

Notice that some of the entities have no primary key attributes (Manager, Associate), and one entity has an attribute which is part of the primary key, but by itself does not constitute a primary key (Inspection).  As we add relationships to the diagram, the nature of the keys for these entities will become clear.  For the time being, be sure that there are no primary key attributes for Manager and Associate, and only one primary key attribute for Inspection, as shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9: Heartland Properties Entities

Creating Relationships

ERwin supports the creation of relationships with three basic kinds of connectivity:   one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many.  Within the one-to-many category, ERwin allows us to distinguish between identifying and non-identifying one-to-many relationships.    

One-to-many Relationships

We'll begin with two relationships, between Inspection and Employee and between Inspection and Property.  Inspection is related to both Property and Employee in one to many relationships.   Each Inspection is undertaken at one Property; each Property may undergo many inspections.  Each Inspection is carried out by one Employee; each Employee carries out many Inspections.  Are these relationships identifying relationships or non-identifying relationships?   The issue hinges on the nature of the primary key of Inspection, the entity on the "many" side of the relationship.  The primary key of Inspection in this example is a composite primary key consisting of two attributes: {Insp_Date, Prop_ID}  The business rule in effect here is that each property has at most one inspection per day.  One might argue whether or not that is a sound assumption, but lets suppose for the sake of illustration that it is.  Notice that the primary key of Inspection includes the primary key of Property, the entity with which it has a relationship.  For this reason, we say that the relationship between Inspection and Property is an identifying one-to-many relationship.

An identifying relationship is created by clicking first on the identifying relationship icon ().  Notice that it has the crow's foot notation (indicating "many") and a solid line (indicating identifying).   To create an identifying relationship, click first on this icon, then click on the parent entity (on the one side of the relationship) and then click on the child entity (on the many side of the relationship).   In this case, you will click first on the identifying relationship icon, then on Property, then on Inspection.  The results are shown in Figure 10.

Figure 10: An identifying relationship

Notice that ERwin has not provided a label for the relationship, which is not very helpful.  Double-click on the relationship itself to bring up a dialog box in which we can further refine the relationship definition.   Fill out this dialog box as shown in Figure 11.  

Figure 11: Relationships definition

 In the Relationship: text box the relationship is presented in the form parent entity to child entity.  The Verb Phrase portion of this box allows us to define the label to place on the relationship.   Since the parent entity is Property and the Child entity is Inspection, the Parent-to-Child verb phrase will read "Property Undergoes Inspection."  The Child-to-Parent verb phrase will read "Inspection Undertaken at Property."  

In the Relationship Cardinality portion of this window, we can determine how many child entity occurences may be associated with each parent entity occurence.  More specifically, "One Property Undergoes Zero, One or More Inspections."  Notice that at this point we are also able to define participation.   If each property had to have undergone at least one inspection in order to be stored in the database, then we could have forced mandatory participation by choosing the One or More option.  

Click OK to complete the relationship definition, as shown in Figure 12.

Figure 12: Finished relationship

Notice that when an entity participates as the child in an identifying relationship it is modeled with rounded corners.  This notation is used for what in other data modeling tools is called a "Weak Entity".  

The relationship between Inspection and Employee is somewhat different.  It is a one-to-many relationship, but it is non-identifying, because the primary key of Employee is not part of the primary key of Inspection.  For such a relationship, we must click on the non-identifying relationship icon (), which uses a dashed line instead of a solid line.

As before, we click on the icon, then the parent entity, then the child entity.   Click on the non-identifying relationship icon, then the Employee entity, then the Inspection entity.   Double-click on the relationship to bring up the relationship definition window and fill it in as shown in Figure 13.

Figure 13: Non-identifying relationship definition.

As before, we provide more meaningful verb phrases for the relationship.  As before, since each employee may be associated with zero, one or more inspections, we choose the corresponding cardinality.  Unlike before, when we chose the identifying relationship type, we have now chosen the non-identifying relationship type.  We have the option of indicating whether nulls are permitted or not.   This decision regards the participation of the parent entity in a relationship with the child entity.  In other words, does each child entity occurence (Inspection) have to be associated with a parent entity occurence (Employee)?   In this case, the answer yes.  Each inspection must be carried out by an employee, or it is not considered a proper inspection.  The participation of Employee in the relationship is mandatory.  

Click OK to complete the relationship definition, as shown in Figure 14.

Figure 14: Non-identifying relationship

Employee and Office also participation in a relationship with each other.  Each Employee is assigned to one and only one Office, and each Office has one or more Employees. In this one-to-many relationship, Office is the parent and Employee is the child.  Since the primary key of the child (Employee) does not include the primary key of the parent (Office), this is a non-identifying relationship.  Click on the non-identifying relationship icon, Office, and Employee to create this relationship.  Double-click on the relationship and fill in the relationship definition window as shown in Figure 15.  

Figure 15: A non-identifying relationship with mandatory participation

In Figure 15, see an example of a relationship in which participation is mandatory for both entities.  The Cardinality indicates that each Office is associated with One or More (but not Zero) Employees.  The Relationship Type indicates that this is a non-identifying relationship, and that Nulls are not permitted.  In other words, each child (Employee) must be associated with a single parent (Office).

Complete the relationships by creating a relationship between Office and Property in which each Office manages zero, one, or more properties, and each property is managed by one and only one Office.  Your diagram should now appear as shown in Figure 16.

Figure 16: Relationships

Subtypes and Supertypes

There are two kinds of employees we wish to distinguish between:  Managers and Associates.  Each of these two kinds of employees has all of the properties of Employee, but have in addition a small number of specific attributes.  Only managers have a salary and a car allowance.  Only associates has an hourly rate.  We can specify that Manager and Associate are subtypes of Employee.  To do this, we will use the subtype icon ().   To indicate that Manager is a subtype of Employee, click first on the subtype icon, then on the supertype (Employee), then on the subtype (Manager).  The result appears in Figure 17.

Figure 17: Subtype relationship

To include Associate as a subtype, click again on the subtype icon.  Now, instead of clicking on the supertype again, click on the subtype icon in the diagram between Employee and Manager.  Then, click on Associate.  The result appears in Figure 18.

Figure 18: The Final ER Diagram

Finally, save your work.   You may now either exit ERwin, or proceed to the next section, entitled Creating a Relational Schema.