Domain-Specific Languages for Composable Editor Plugins
Lennart Kats, Eelco Visser and myself just got a paper accepted to LDTA'09. The paper is about declarative languages for describing programming editors. The main part of it is Lennart's work, but it's running on top of the Spoofax transformation infrastructure. The idea is simple: You don't want to fight with Java, complicated APIs and complicated XML when you implement an Eclipse-based editor for your DSL. Instead, you describe your language's grammar with SDF, provide some auxiliary information using our declarative editor languages, and Spoofax/IMP does the rest by generating the editor engine for you.
The abstract explains it in the usual academic style:
Modern IDEs increase developer productivity by incorporating many different kinds of editor services. These can be purely syntactic, such as syntax highlighting, code folding, and an outline for navigation; or they can be based on the language semantics, such as in-line type error reporting and resolving identifier declarations. Building all these services from scratch requires both the extensive knowledge of the sometimes complicated and highly interdependent APIs and extension mechanisms of an IDE framework, and an in-depth understanding of the structure and semantics of the targeted language.
This paper describes Spoofax/IMP, a meta-tooling suite that provides high-level domain-specific languages for describing editor services, relieving editor developers from much of the framework-specific programming. Editor services are defined as composable modules of rules coupled to a modular SDF grammar. The composability provided by the SGLR parser and the declaratively defined services allows embedded languages and language extensions to be easily formulated as additional rules extending an existing language definition. The service definitions are used to generate Eclipse editor plugins.
We discuss two examples: an editor plugin for WebDSL, a domain-specific language for web applications, and the embedding of WebDSL in Stratego, used for expressing the semantic rules of WebDSL.
Once I get bibtex-tools running on 64bit again, I'll link to the bib and pdf.