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<h1>Textual Modeling Framework (TMF) proposal</h1>
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Eclipse Textual Modeling Framework (TMF) project is a proposed open
source project under the <A HREF="">Eclipse
Modeling Project.</A></P>
<P> This
proposal is in the Project Proposal Phase (as defined in the <A HREF="">Eclipse
Development Process</A> document) and is written to
declare its intent and scope. This proposal is written to solicit
additional participation and input from the Eclipse community. You
are invited to comment on and/or join the project. Please send all
feedback to the <a href=""></a></U></FONT>
<h2> Background</h2>
is an essential piece of many Eclipse-based modeling projects. It
does a very good job of providing abstract syntax for models. However,
there was little support at the level of concrete syntax, i.e.
concrete notations to describe models, at least until GMF entered the
are several ways of displaying and editing models. The two primary
alternatives are graphical (or visual) concrete syntaxes and textual
notations. EMP already has a solution to efficiently develop editors
for graphical notations, namely GMF. However, in many situations,
textual representations are much better suited. Therefore, the
proposed TMF project will provide a means to efficiently create
editors for custom textual notations.</P>
graphical notations are often useful to describe structural concepts
(e.g. class diagrams), textual notations are often a better fit for
describing behavior or algorithms (e.g. expressions). Another
advantage that textual representations have over graphical notations
is that expert users often find them faster and easier to modify, and
that there is a rich set of existing tooling for dealing with text
files (diff, merge, copy &amp; paste, search &amp; replace ...).</P>
<h2>Related Issues</h2>
<P>XMI defines a
standardized way to textually serialize arbitrary models. XMI however
was not specified with human readability in mind, and it is very
verbose and not a good basis for manual editing. </FONT>
<P>Because XMI
is not ment to be used by humans the OMG issued the Human Usable Text
Notation spec that describes the serialization of MOF models using a
more consice syntax. This is just another serialization format and
can not be used to design textual DSLs, because there is not much you
can do about the concrete syntax (it is implied).</FONT></P>
IBM alphaWorks site hosts the Emfatic project
(<A HREF=""></A>),
a textual editor for EMF models with a very natural syntax, which
resembles well-known programming language syntaxes and hence is
really easy to understand. However, the Emfatic editor has a fixed
metamodel, ECore, and doesn't solve the needs of users with any other
<h2>Existing Approaches</h2>
(<A HREF=""></A>)
is a GMT component and a language to define textual notations for
metamodels. TCS-based tools also include the Textual Generic Editor
(TGE) - a configurable Eclipse textual editor parameterized with
information obtained from TCS.
is part of openArchitectureware and as such part of Eclipse GMT
(<A HREF=""></A>).
It is a framework and generator that provides a specialized Eclipse
editor and an EMF metamodel from a simple EBNF-style grammar. It's
focus is on very short turn-arounds and it provides powerful
abstractions for development of textual DSLs.</P>
syntax development deemed essential part of the Eclipse Modeling
Project (see <A HREF="">charter</A>).
Textual editors tailored to specific needs seem to be important part
of any DSL toolkit and providing tools to create such editors may
help adoption of Eclipse modeling technologies.</P>
on a metamodel and a syntax specification, the TMF tooling provides
the following functionalities:</P>
parser that reads the textual representation of the model and
instantiates the corresponding EMF model.</li>
feature-rich Eclipse Editor (based on the Eclipse text editor
infrastructure) that is aware of the concrete syntax specified. The
editor supports syntax highlighting, code completion, navigation
(hyperlinks), hovers, folding, outline and other features known from
Eclipse text editors.</li>
editor as well as the parser must be able to plug in various
constraint engines (such as OCL or oAW's Check language) in order
to provide model validation.</LI>
<P> <i>Figure 1
</i> gives an overview of TMF
architecture. TMF is intended to be layered. The TMF Common framework provides a generic and powerful EBNF notation. This is just a thin layer over existing parser generator languages (such as Antlr 3). This provides the possibility to derive as much tooling (e.g. content assist) as possible from a specified grammar and decouples from the underlying parser generator technology.
The AST construction is implied for the most common cases but can be modified using actions in order reconstruct the AST. The metamodel is not derived from the grammar and can be of arbitrary types.
TMF Common makes use of existing Eclipse technologies where possible. For instance, the tooling will be based on Eclipse Platform and the new IMP framework. The default AST technology will be EMF.
In order to provide a more convient API for our target audience (DSL developer), TMF has two common types of DSL abstractions on top of the TMF common framework:
<LI>The Xtext language is focused on structural DSLs and short turn-arounds. The metamodel is derived from the grammar.</LI>
<LI>The TCS language can binds a concrete syntax to an existing metamodel. It provides model2text transformation based on the grammar as well as an interpretative editor.</LI>
<h2>Additional Features</h2>
feature that falls into the scope of this project is defining and
generating support for so called 'in-place' editors, i.e. not
full-fledged editors for complete models, but rather flexible
single-line or multi-line input fields for model fragments that are
commonly used in diagrams (think e.g. the UML class attribute, with
all the visibility, type, multiplicity information stacked into a
compact string) or views (think file rename in the Project Explorer).
TMF could therefore provide in-place editing to GMF.</P>
<img src="./tmf-architecture.png"><br><br>
<B>Figure 1 Architectural overview</B>
<h2> Organization</h2>
<P>We propose
this project should be undertaken within the <A HREF="">Eclipse
Modeling Project</A>. The goal of the project is to work
along with GMF to complement concrete syntax tooling around EMF. The
intention of the project is to utilize M2M and M2T technologies from
the Modeling project. Other dependencies are the Eclipse Platform
(especially, Text Editor and JFace frameworks) and EMF.</P>
<h3>Initial Committers</h3>
Efftinge - itemis AG (proposed co-lead)</li>
Kolb - independent consultant</LI>
Jouault - INRIA (proposed co-lead)</LI>
<h3>Interested Parties</h3>
Inc. (<li>
TCS Team</LI>
J&uuml;rgens, Technical University Munich</LI>
<p>Few projects
with the capabilities similar to what this proposal describes are
being developed, and we intend to review any proposed contribution
during the Validation Phase. Contributions that are aligned with the
project goals may be refactored and used as initial code
contributions. In particular, the following contributions are deemed
worthy of attention:</P>
two contributions have a different approach. The next paragraph will
elaborate on the two and explain why both of this contributions are
valid and should go into the project as own components.
<P>TCS is starting with a meta-model. This meta-model has to be annotated by
the user with syntax information. From this information TCS generates
an ANTLR-based grammar. The provided Eclipse-Editor works
interpretative. Furthermore TCS offers model to text generation based
on the specified syntax. People who have existing meta models might
want to use this approach.</P>
<P>As opposed to TCS, with Xtext's grammar language one describes the abstract and
concrete syntax at once. Therefore you cannot directly map a concrete
syntax to a given meta model but have to do that in a separate step
using model-to-model transformation (M2M). Xtext generates an Ecore
model (the meta model or abstract syntax), an ANTLR 3 parser and a
DSL-specific Eclipse-Editor. The generated code runs on a generic
framework based on Eclipse technology. One can declaratively define
constaints on the DSL which will be checked in the parser and in the
editor. Xtext provides a low learning curve as well as fast
turn-arounds. Users which are aware of grammars will use this
<h3>Integration with IMP</h3>
<P>A group at the T.J. Watson Research Center of IBM is working on SAFARI, a
platform to provide rich Eclipse-based tooling for arbitrary textual
(<A HREF="
SAFARI provides much infrastructure that would be very useful in
developing TMF. SAFARI has been proposed as initial contribution for
a new Eclipse project called Eclipse IDE Meta-tooling Platform ("The
Eclipse IMP") (<A HREF=""></A>).
TMF will be based on IMP in further versions and support modeling
related concepts and abstractions over IMP.</P>
<h3>User/developer community</h3>
<P>TCS as well
as Xtext have proven their usefulness in industrial environments.
Therefore both approaches already have a lively user community.</P>
is also anticipated that the initial user community will be formed by
existing GMF users, those already interested in DSL tooling and
various concrete syntaxes.
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