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&nbsp; <font face="Times New Roman, Times, serif" size="2">Copyright &copy; 2001 International Business Machines Corp.</font>
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<td align=LEFT valign=TOP colspan="2" bgcolor="#0080C0"><b><font face="Arial,Helvetica"><font color="#FFFFFF">&nbsp;Eclipse Corner Article</font></font></b></td>
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<h1><img src="images/idea.jpg" height=86 width=120 align=CENTER></h1>
<h1>Mark My Words</h1>
<h3>Using markers to tell users about problems and tasks</h3>
<br>Eclipse workbench has a central mechanism for managing resource annotations. They are
called <b>markers</b>. In this article, you will learn how to use markers to mark-up
resources as well as how to define your own marker types and enhance the Tasks view to
handle them in a special way.
<p><b>By Dejan Glozic, IBM and Jeff McAffer, OTI</b>
<font size="-1">April 1, 2001</font> </p>
<hr WIDTH="100%">
<p>Eclipse-based applications may be quite complex, consisting of
many plug-ins. Each plug-in may have a need to tag resources to communicate
problems and other information to the user. In order to assist plug-in writers
and ensure consistent user experience, the Eclipse platform has a central mechanism,
called <b>markers</b> which manages this information.
<p>A marker is like a yellow sticky note stuck to a
resource.&nbsp; On the marker you can record information about a problem (e.g.,
location, severity, ...), a task to be done or simply remember the location of
the marker as a bookmark.&nbsp; Users can quickly jump to the marked
There are several pre-defined marker <b>types</b> supplied by the platform:
<td><img SRC="images/error_tsk.gif" height=16 width=16></td>
<td><p><b>Problems</b> - for representing invalid states (errors,
warnings, information)</p></td>
<td><img SRC="images/task_tsk.gif" BORDER=0 height=16 width=16></td>
<td><p><b>Tasks</b> - for capturing user created reminders (todo's)</p></td>
<td><img SRC="images/bkmrk_tsk.gif" height=16 width=16></td>
<td><p><b>Bookmarks</b> - for marking a location that can be quickly jumped
to later</p></td>
<h3>Marker attributes, declaration and inheritance</h3>
<p>The set of marker types and attributes managed by the platform is extensible.
As a matter of fact, the <tt>IMarker</tt> interface has very few methods which are
type- or attribute-specific. Given a marker, you can ask for its associated resource,
the marker's id (unique relative to that resource) and
its type. You can also access additional information encoded as generic <b>attributes</b>.&nbsp;</p>
Attributes are maintained as name/value pairs where the names are strings and a
value can be any one of the supported value types (Boolean, Integer, String). The limitation
on value types allows the platform to persistent the markers quickly and simply (its hard to persist generic Objects).</p>
<p>You might ask - &quot;if everything is an attribute, how do I do simple things like
manipulating marker message or priority?&quot; The answer lies in naming
conventions. The IMarker interface defines a set of constants containing
standard attribute names and values which
are used when getting and setting attributes.&nbsp; For
<pre><font color="#0000FF">public void</font> manipulateMarker(IMarker marker) {
<font color="#FF0000">// test to see if the marker really exists. Perhaps its stale?</font>
<font color="#0000FF">if</font> (!marker.exists())
<font color="#0000FF">return</font>;
<font color="#0000FF">try</font> {
marker.setAttribute(IMarker.MESSAGE, <font color="#008000">&quot;A sample marker message&quot;</font>);
marker.setAttribute(IMarker.PRIORITY, IMarker.PRIORITY_HIGH);
} <font color="#0000FF">catch</font> (CoreException e) {
<font color="#FF0000">// You need to handle the cases where attribute value is rejected</font>
<p>Since there is no way the platform could anticipate all possible uses of
markers, the set of attributes is not fixed - users can declare new marker types
and new attributes.&nbsp; Plug-in developers create their own types by configuring extensions in their
plug-in manifest. While problems, tasks and bookmarks are well-known marker types
which appear embedded in the platform, they are in fact declared by the platform
using exactly the same mechanism available to plug-in developers!</p>
<p>New marker types are derived from existing ones using multiple
inheritance. New marker types inherit all of the attributes
from their supertypes and add any new attributes defined as part of the
declaration. They also transitively inherit the supertypes of their supertypes.&nbsp;
Consider the following markup extracted from the <tt></tt>
<pre>&lt;<font color="#0000FF">extension</font> <font color="#0000FF">id</font>=&quot;coolmarker&quot; <font color="#0000FF">point</font>=&quot;org.eclipse.core.resources.markers&quot;/&gt;
&lt;<font color="#0000FF">extension</font> <font color="#0000FF">id</font>=&quot;coolproblem&quot; <font color="#0000FF">point</font>=&quot;org.eclipse.core.resources.markers&quot;&gt;
&lt;<font color="#0000FF">super</font> <font color="#0000FF">type</font>=&quot;org.eclipse.core.resources.problemmarker&quot;/&gt;
&lt;<font color="#0000FF">super</font> <font color="#0000FF">type</font>=&quot;;/&gt;
&lt;<font color="#0000FF">attribute</font> <font color="#0000FF">name</font>=&quot;coolFactor&quot;/&gt;
&lt;<font color="#0000FF">persistent</font> <font color="#0000FF">value</font>=&quot;true&quot;/&gt;
&lt;/<font color="#0000FF">extension</font>&gt;</pre>
<p>Note that the marker type <tt>org.eclipse.core.resources.problemmarker</tt>
is actually one of the pre-defined types (aka <tt>IMarker.PROBLEM</tt>).&nbsp;
The only part of a marker supertype that is not inherited is its persistence
flag.&nbsp; While the standard marker types (task, problem and bookmark) are
declared as persistent, by default, new marker types are <b>not</b> persistent.&nbsp;
The platform will not save their state between sessions.&nbsp; If developers
declare their marker types as persistent (as shown above), the state of markers
of that type will be saved and restored by the platform.&nbsp;</p>
<p>After placing the above declaration into your plug-in manifest file,
you can create instances of <tt>coolproblem</tt> marker type and freely set or
get <tt>coolFactor</tt> attribute (see example below). The new attributes allow you to associate data with markers that you plan to use elsewhere
(in your views, editors etc.).&nbsp; Markers of a particular type do not have to
have values for all of the declared attributes.&nbsp; The attribute declarations
are more for solving naming convention problems (so everyone uses
&quot;message&quot; to talk about a marker's description) than they are for
constraining content.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
<pre><font color="#0000FF">public </font>IMarker<font color="#0000FF"> </font>createCoolMarker(IResource resource) {
<font color="#0000FF">try</font> {
IMarker marker = resource.createMarker(<font color="#008000">&quot;;</font>);
marker.setAttribute(&quot;coolFactor&quot;, <font color="#008000">&quot;ULTRA&quot;</font>);
<font color="#0000FF">return</font> marker;
} <font color="#0000FF">catch</font> (CoreException e) {
<font color="#FF0000">// You need to handle the cases where attribute value is rejected</font>
<p>The real power of defining your own marker types comes from the query
facilities built-into the platform.&nbsp; The query in the code below finds all <tt>coolmarkers</tt>
associated with the given target resource and all its descendents.&nbsp; Note
that this will also find all <tt>coolproblems</tt>.</p>
<pre><font color="#0000FF">public</font> IMarker[] findCoolMarkers(IResource target) {
String type = <font color="#008000">&quot;;</font>;
IMarker[] markers = target.findMarkers(type, <font color="#0000FF">true</font>, IResource.DEPTH_INFINITE);
<font size=+0>Marker representation in the platform</font></h3>
<p>You don't have to look hard to spot markers in the platform.
Just open the Tasks view, create a sample Java&trade; project, open a Java file
for editing and type something obviously wrong. You will soon see error
markers in the Tasks view, one per syntax error. And since you have Java
editor opened, you can also select a line of code and place a bookmark
there. If you open Bookmarks view, you will see the newly created bookmark.
Similarly, you can set breakpoint markers for the purpose of debugging your
code.&nbsp; All of these markers appear together in the vertical left
sidebar (Figure 1).&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
<p>The standard platform can display and manage any of the pre-defined marker
types.&nbsp; A standard set of images are used to denote a marker's type,
priority, severity etc. as appropriate.&nbsp; The
presentation is maintained for extended types as well - supertypes will be used
in that case. For example, if your marker extends the task marker type, it will look like a
task in the workbench but will still be able to carry additional attributes.&nbsp;
If you create a new breed of marker that does not
inherit from the pre-defined types (e.g., tasks, problems or bookmarks), or want
to change the way markers are presented, you can define new views which give the
desired look and feel.
<div align="center">
<td><img SRC="images/markers.jpg" width="662" height="507"></td>
<p align="center"><b><font size=-1>Figure 1: Places where markers show up in
the platform.&nbsp;</font></b></p>
<h3>Basic marker operations</h3>
Markers are owned and managed by the platform. It is your job to
create them, remove them or change their attributes. The platform takes care of
resource associations, change notification and persistence (you need to define your marker type as persistent for this to happen). It is also important to note that
they are similar to resources in that they are only handles and it is possible to
have a 'stale' handle (i.e., a handle to a marker that does not exist). <tt>IMarker.exists()</tt> should be called to test for this situation.
Marker changes will be reported in resource deltas. Resource change
listeners are able to detect this by checking the change flags to see if the
delta represents changes in the resource, in its markers, or both.
<p>It is interesting to note that markers cannot be directly
created (using the constructor). They are created using a factory method (<tt>IResource.createMarker()</tt>)
on the resource they will be associated with. If you need to create a marker that has
a global scope (not associated with any specific resource), you need do it on the
workspace root</b> (see <tt>IWorkspace.getRoot()</tt>).
<pre><font color="#0000FF">public</font> <font color="#0000FF">void</font> createMarkerForResource(IResource resource) <font color="#0000FF">throws</font> CoreException {
IMarker marker = resource.createMarker(<font color="#008000">&quot;;</font>);
<font color="#FF0000">//Once we have a marker object, we can set its attributes</font>
marker.setAttribute(<font color="#008000">&quot;coolFactor&quot;</font>, <font color="#008000">&quot;ULTRA&quot;</font>);
marker.setAttribute(IMarker.SEVERITY, IMarker.SEVERITY_ERROR);
marker.setAttribute(IMarker.MESSAGE, <font color="#008000">&quot;Variable 'i' has not been defined.&quot;</font>);
At a later point in time, you may want to remove the marker you
have created. If you still have a handle to it, you will do something like
<pre><font color="#0000FF">try</font> {
&nbsp;&nbsp; marker.delete();
} <font color="#0000FF">catch</font> (CoreException e) {
<font color="#FF0000">// Something went wrong</font>
Any time during the session, you can query the resources for
markers. If resource is a folder or a workspace root, you can also ask for
markers associated with resource children.&nbsp; For example, querying the workspace root
with infinite depth considers all of the markers in the workspace.
<pre>IMarker[] problems = <font color="#0000FF">null</font>;
<font color="#0000FF">int</font> depth = IResource.DEPTH_INFINITE;
<font color="#0000FF">try</font> {
problems = resource.findMarkers(IMarker.PROBLEM, <font color="#0000FF">true</font>, depth);
} <font color="#0000FF">catch</font> (CoreException e) {
<font color="#FF0000">// something went wrong</font>
The result of the code snippet above depends on how you tweak the arguments in
the <tt>findMarkers</tt>
call. For example, if you pass <tt>null</tt> for the marker type, you will get all the
markers associated with the resource. The depth argument controls the depth of
the search. The depth can be limited to zero (just the given resource), one (the
resource and all its direct children) or infinite (the resource and all direct
and indirect children). Finally, you can specify if you want to include only markers of the
specified type or markers of all subtypes as well.
<p>Batches of markers can be deleted using the same
specification technique and <tt>deleteMarkers()</tt> (identical signature). This method is useful when removing markers
in numbers or when individual marker references or IDs are not available.</p>
<h3>Marker use</h3>
The most general statement of marker usage is to say that markers allow plug-ins
and/or users to highlight points of interest. They are very much like bookmarks
in typical web browsers except that they may be automatically generated by
The most obvious way to use markers in a plug-in is to communicate
build problems. Java Development Tooling plug-in, for example, uses markers to inform users
about Java compilation errors and warnings. These markers show up in the
Tasks view and users can use them to jump directly to the Java editor at
the error location.</p>
<p>Task markers are ideal as user reminders when generated by
plug-ins that create entire projects using elaborate wizards and templates.
While the wizard instantiates the template it adds task markers to highlight areas where users needs to
fill in content or make choices.&nbsp; Users can then jump in and quickly fill in the blanks.
<p>Whatever the usage, it is important to remember that the
platform manages markers, but it is the plug-ins that control their
creation, removal and attribute values.&nbsp; The platform will throw away
markers attached to resources which are deleted but you are responsible for removing
stale markers when they no longer apply to a resource which lives on.&nbsp; Stale markers can be very confusing to users and will make
them search
for problems when there aren't any.
<h3>Space for creativity</h3>
<p>Markers are intended to be small, lightweight objects.&nbsp; There
is the potential of hundreds, even thousands of markers in a single Eclipse project. Keep this in mind when defining new marker types with lots
of new
attributes. When used in moderation, additional attributes can be used
by other platform artifacts for a powerful effect. For example, Eclipse UI plug-in uses a Boolean attribute to mark the task completed.</p>
<p>It is possible to combine new attributes and the ability to
extend Tasks view pop-up menu and local tool bar and provide additional behavior for your markers.
For example, spec compliance warning marker can carry violated spec index
as an attribute. An added pop-up menu action can use this information to
show a dialog with the entire text of the violated spec with suggestions
for fixing the problem. Note how we increased the footprint of the marker only
slightly (one Integer object) by keeping the actual spec text in an indexed
table elsewhere.</p>
<p>This article has shown that the Eclipse platform has a central mechanism for managing annotations on resources. Techniques
for performing basic operations on markers, extending the
basic marker types and creatively tapping into marker attributes for interesting
effect were also shown.</p>
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