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CADDIS Volume 5: Causal Databases

Interactive Conceptual Diagrams (ICDs)

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About conceptual diagrams

ICD help files

Example conceptual diagrams

Once you have registered for and logged in to the ICD application (see ICD User Roles & Modes for details on how to register and log in), the Edit tab will appear on the top left of the toolbar (public users will not see the Edit tab). To get started in Edit mode, click on the Edit tab. This will bring up the Home: Diagram Settings screen (Figure 2), which will allow you to open existing diagrams, create a new diagram, designate collaborators for any diagram you create, and change any diagram settings (e.g., description, keywords, viewer settings) for any diagram you create. You also can bring up this screen by clicking on the Home button, at the top left of the Edit mode toolbar.

  • To create a new diagram, click the Create New Diagram button and fill in the required fields (descriptions of these fields can be viewed by mousing over the help icons next to these fields on the Home: Diagram Settings screen).
  • To open an existing diagram, browse or search the existing diagrams, select a diagram (i.e., so that it appears in the Diagram List window), then click the Open Diagram icon to the right of the diagram list.
  • To designate collaborators (i.e., registered users who can make changes to your diagram), select users from the Registered Users window (bottom right) and either double click on or drag-and-drop users to add them to the Collaborators window; then click the Recategorize Diagram icon (to the left of the Collaborators window) to save these changes before proceeding.
  • To change diagram view settings, check the appropriate boxes and click the Recategorize Diagram icon (registered users will only be able to select the Registered and Check out diagram options).
  • If you check Registered, all registered users will be able to view and comment on your diagram. They will not be able to modify the diagram and save it under the existing diagram name, but they will be able to save it as a new diagram, of which they are the creator.
    If you check Check out diagram, you will be able to save changes to the existing diagram, using the same diagram name—that is, the Save button on the Edit mode toolbar will be enabled. This feature is to ensure that multiple collaborators can not make simultaneous changes to a diagram. If you are the diagram creator or a designated collaborator, and you wish to save changes to the diagram you’re opening, you must check the Check out diagram box and then click the Recategorize Diagram icon. If you don't check out the diagram, the Save button will be disabled on the Edit mode toolbar and you will not be able to save "over" the diagram you're opening. If you want collaborators to be able to make changes to the same diagram, you also must remember to check the diagram back in (i.e., uncheck the Check out diagram box and click the Recategorize Diagram icon ) once you are done making your edits.
  • To change any diagram descriptors (e.g., diagram name or description), select the diagram in the Diagram List window, make any changes in the Diagram Descriptors fields, and click the Recategorize Diagram icon to save your changes.
  • To view all previous versions of a given diagram, select the diagram in the Diagram List window and click the Diagram History icon.
  • To delete a diagram, select the diagram in the Diagram List window and click the Delete Diagram icon.

Keep in mind that most of the options discussed above are available only if you are the diagram creator or a designated collaborator. For example, the Diagram History, Recategorize Diagram, and Delete Diagram icons will not appear and the Collaborators window and Diagram Descriptors fields will be shaded out when you select a diagram you did not create or on which you are not a designated collaborator. To access these features you must first save the selected diagram as a new diagram (using Save As).

Figure 2. Home: Diagram Settings screen, in Edit mode of the ICD application.


Once you have created a new or opened an existing diagram, you are ready to start creating or editing your diagram.

  • To add a shape to the diagram, click on any shape icon on the toolbar, then click anywhere on the diagram canvas to place that shape. Fill in shape information in the Shape Attributes screen: its label (the text which appears in the shape), any direction for that label (increasing, decreasing, or a change in), and any parent shape designation (the shape that your new shape is a sub-cateogry or child of, if any).
  • The ability to establish parent-child relationships was created for large, complicated diagrams (e.g., the composite EPA diagram) that users may occasionally want to view in less detailed form. This functionality will be evolving in future versions of the ICD, so we generally recommend that you do not create any parent-child relationships in your own diagrams.
  • To add an arrow or line, click on the arrow or line icon on the toolbar. Click once on the canvas at the point you wish to start the arrow or line, to begin drawing; click a second time at the point you wish to end the arrow or line, to stop drawing.
  • To delete a shape or a line, mouse over the shape or line so that the highlighting dots appear, and then press the Delete key.
  • To link supporting references to your diagram, click Add Linkage on the Edit mode toolbar, select the shapes you want to create a linkage between (you can select more than two shapes, but only if you want to link the first shape you selected to all subsequent shapes, or create links between all shape-pair combinations of the selected shapes). Once you have selected your shapes, click Save Linkage on the Edit mode toolbar
  • Fill in the required information on the Save New Linkage screen. You can search citations already entered in the ICD literature database using the Find Citation field, as well as add new citations individually (click Enter new citation) or by uploading references from your reference manager software (click Upload new citation(s)). To select a citation, either double-click it in the Existing Citation window or drag-and-drop it into the Selected Citations window. Click Save to save the linkage.
  • To save changes you’ve made to the diagram, either click Save (if you are the diagram creator or a designated collaborator) or Save As (to save the diagram as a new diagram, with you as the creator).

A brief description of features on the Edit mode toolbar (Figure 3) follows; please see the ICD User Guide (53 pp, 4.3MB, About PDF) for more information on creating and editing diagrams in the ICD application.

Figure 3. Edit mode toolbar in the ICD application.

  • Inset icon inset icon: Pan around the open diagram by zooming in and dragging the blue window around the Inset (you also can use the Esc key to show/hide the Inset)
  • Home: Open the Home: Diagram Settings screen, from which you can create a new diagram, search for and open an existing diagram, and designate collaborators or modify other diagram settings for diagrams you create
  • Save: Save any changes made to the open diagram
  • Save As: Save the open diagram as a new diagram
  • Close: Close the open diagram
  • Shape, Arrow and Line icons: Add a shape, arrow or line to the open diagram
  • Hide/Show: Hide/Show all arrows and lines
  • Tiers: Designate tiers (horizontal layers) of the diagram as collapsible or non-collapsible
  • Select/End: Select multiple shapes (e.g., to move or delete them)/End the Select function
  • Copy/End: Copy a shape and all its attributes, for pasting into the open diagram/End the Copy function
  • Align/End: Select and vertically align multiple shapes/End the Align function
  • Add Linkage/Save Linkage: Link a supporting reference to pair-wise linkages between shapes
  • Comment icon comment icon: Submit a comment on the open diagram
  • Help icon help icon: Access the ICD User Guide

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