state diagram (state machine diagram or statechart diagram)

A state diagram, also called a state machine diagram or statechart diagram, is an illustration of the states an object can attain as well as the transitions between those states in the Unified Modeling Language (UML). In this context, a state defines a stage in the evolution or behavior of an object, which is a specific entity in a program or the unit of code representing that entity. State diagrams are useful in all forms of object-oriented programming (OOP). The concept is more than a decade old but has been refined as OOP modeling paradigms have evolved.

A state diagram resembles a flowchart in which the initial state is represented by a large black dot and subsequent states are portrayed as boxes with rounded corners. There may be one or two horizontal lines through a box, dividing it into stacked sections. In that case, the upper section contains the name of the state, the middle section (if any) contains the state variables and the lower section contains the actions performed in that state. If there are no horizontal lines through a box, only the name of the state is written inside it. External straight lines, each with an arrow at one end, connect various pairs of boxes. These lines define the transitions between states. The final state is portrayed as a large black dot with a circle around it. Historical states are denoted as circles with the letter H inside.

This was last updated in April 2007

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