State Machine diagrams are not an invention of UML, but can rather be traced to David Harel's statecharts developed in the 1980's. This display format was taken on in UML.

A State Machine diagram shows a series of conditions which an object can take up over its lifespan, and the causes of the state changes. One can model the state and the changes in state of an object in dependency on executed operations. Special value is placed on the changeover from one state to the next. In this way, one can model an object from initialization to release. The State Machine diagram describes through which operations or events the conditions of the objects are changed. Furthermore, one can also see which configuration the attributes of an object have or must have before changeover.

An object can be modeled as a state machine diagram / -"system" as long as it can be given a list of states for which the following applies:

An object in a state can remain there, but it is also possible to specify "Activity" in states.

If an object is in a state, then sub-states can also be modeled for this state; for example, in a sub-ordered diagram (Composite Element/Child Diagram). If the behavior in a state of a procedural nature, then the sub-diagram can of course also be a state diagram of another kind.

State Machine diagrams must have a starting state and can have an end state. State Machine diagrams, so-called transitions, are always triggered by an event (e.g. requirement, timeout, etc.).

Fig. 28: Example State Machine Diagram

The following table contains the state diagram symbols.




The state of an object is symbolized by a rectangle with rounded corners. The State is named within this symbol.

Start / Object creation

The start point of the state diagram is shown with a filled circle. It is identical with the object creation. Only one start point per State diagram is allowed and must be available. The location of the start point is optional.

End / Object destruction

The chain of state transitions ends with the object destruction. The end point is shown as a filled circle surrounded by a concentric circle. This symbol can be left out for endlessly running processes, but it may also be entered numerous times. Where applicable, the Token returns to the end of that activity in the super-ordinate diagram that called the sub-ordinate diagram.


Transition is drawn by an arrow. The arrow is labeled with the name of the trigger that changes the object state. A Restriction [Guard] can be entered in brackets. This causes the object State to be changed only when this restriction has been fulfilled. Furthermore, behind a “/“, an activity list can be entered to be executed at transfer. Guard and activity lists are optional – even the trigger may be omitted on the transition from the Initial or if an ANY-Trigger is modeled.