Home > DSLs, The How, Xtend(2), Xtext > Path expressions in entity models, revisited

Path expressions in entity models, revisited

Some 15 months ago, I wrote a blog detailing how to implement path-like expressions in Xtext DSLs using a custom scope provider. At lot has changed in the Xtext ‘verse since then, and I was triggered to update that blog by a comment on it. Also, the blog seems to be one of my more popular ones and I can refer to it every now and then on the Eclipse Xtext forum.

Most of what I wrote then which wasn’t particular to the ‘Xtext Domain-Model Example’ is still true: the scope provider API hasn’t changed (apart from IGlobalScopeProvider) and the way that scoping is triggered from the generated parser is fundamentally the same. However, the domain model example itself has changed a lot: it now serves to show (off) a lot of features that were introduced with Xtext 2 and Xtend(2). In particular, it relies heavily on Xbase by extending the grammar from Xtype (a sub language of Xbase) and extending the custom scope provider (in Xtend) and validator implementations (in Java) from their Xbase versions, meaning the DSL gets a lot of functionality essentially for free.

This also means that the grammar has changed enough from the original to make it rather delicate to adapt for my original intentions. In particular, the notions of Attribute and Reference have been clobbered together into the notion of Property which directly references a JVM type. To adapt the example I’d have to rely on classes like JvmFeatureDescriptionProvider in order not to re-invent the wheel, but I fear that bringing all that extra machinery is getting in the way of the idea I was trying to get across.

So, instead of that, I’ve opted for the easy way by starting from the original grammar and custom scope provider implementation, porting those over to Xtext 2.1(.0 or .1) and adapting those. In the process, I’ve tried to make the most of the latest, newest features of Xtext 2.x and especially Xtend: all custom code is done in Xtend, rather than Java.

For your convenience, I packed everything in ZIPs and uploaded them to my GitHub repository: complete Eclipse projects and only the essential files – I’m assuming you’ll find out how to interpret the latter in an Xtext context. For even more convenience, I exposed three of the essential files through GitHub’s gist feature: see below, in the running text.

It should be clearly discernible what I’ve added to the grammar to implement the path expressions. I’ve also added a PathElement convenience super type, just to make life a little easier (read: more statically-typed) on the Java/Xtend side of things.

I rewrote the scope provider implementation completely in Xtend. To be able to replace DomainModelScopeProvider.java completely with DomainModelScopeProvider.xtend, you’ll have to add “generateStub = false” to the configuration of the scoping generator fragment in the MWE2 workflow file – otherwise, you’ll get two generated DomainModelScopeProvider classes after running the worklow. Note that the implementations of the scope_Reference_opposite and scope_PathTail_feature are much more succinct and readable than they originally were, because of Xtend’s collection extensions and built-in polymorphic dispatch feature.

Also note that I made use of a separate Xtend file DomainModelExtensions implementing derived properties of model elements in a domain model. Xtend’s extension mechanism allows me to use these extensions transparently with no boilerplate at all apart from the extension declaration.

I also re-implemented the validator in Xtend. Because the Java validator generator fragment doesn’t have a generateStub parameter like the scoping fragment, we have to use a bit of boilerplate in the form of the DomainModelJavaValidator Java class extending the DomainModelXtendValidator Xtend class.

Lastly, I’ve implemented a couple of simple unit tests in Xtend using Xtext 2’s new JUnit4-ready unit testing capabilities. Note that it’s quite simple to do parameterized tests on a fairly functional level: see the ScopingTest Xtend class (in the .tests project) for details.

Categories: DSLs, The How, Xtend(2), Xtext
  1. Max
    • November 24, 2011 at 7:41 am

      Right, but I wanted to present a minimal solution which doesn’t rely on Xbase and does everything from scratch. I think many Xtext DSLs won’t be Xbase-based, either because they existed before Xbase came about or because Xbase isn’t the right match for that situation (e.g., it might be a little overpowered).

  2. gary thompson
    December 8, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Hi meinte
    I tried working with the old tutorial grafting the new stuff in as I went and noticed in xtext 2.1 the stub for DomainModelScopeProvider.java doesn’t get created whether or not you have scoping.ImportNamespacesScopingFragment generateStub in set to true or false. Do you know is this expected? a new feature? or a bug 😉


    • December 14, 2011 at 1:15 pm

      Hmmm, haven’t noticed that yet myself. I have to look into it and possibly update the blog accordingly. Feel free to ping me in a week or so if that doesn’t happen!

  1. November 24, 2011 at 6:40 am
  2. September 11, 2014 at 11:54 am

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