Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Convert Java snippets to Xtend with Ctrl-Shift-V

Xtend is a dialect of Java which compiles into Java source code. The Xtend-integration in the Eclipse IDE allows developers to work simultaneously with Java and Xtend. As the syntax of both is similar, converting from Java to Xtend is not too hard, but it usually needs manual adjustments. Using the neat shortcut Ctrl-Shift-V (Ctrl+Shift+V/Cmd-Shift-V/Cmd+Shift+V) to paste Java code into Xtend files substantially reduces the manual editing. It helps to quickly get compilable Xtend code. Here are some examples of the automatic conversions.

Java type access:
EcoreUtil2.getContainerOfType(context, Model.class);
Pasted into an Xtend file:
EcoreUtil2.getContainerOfType(context, Model) 
The converter used the simpler Xtend syntax for accessing the type of Model and omitted the semicolon.

Java field with visibility:
private static final Logger logger = Logger.getLogger(CompositeEValidator.class);
Converted to Xtend:
static final Logger logger = Logger.getLogger(CompositeEValidator) 
The default visibility for fields is private so the converter omitted it. Again, the short Xtend type access syntax was used.

Java name that is an Xtend keyword:
private String val;
Converted to Xtend:
String ^val 
The Xtend keyword was automatically escaped.

Variable and cast in Java:
Model model = (Model)object;
Converted to Xtend:
var Model model = object as Model
The var/val keywords were added for mutable/final local variables and the Xtend type cast syntax was used (by the way, the type declaration of Model could be omitted due to Xtend's type inference).

Method in Java:
public void foo() { //...
Converted to Xtend:
def void foo() { //...
The default visibility for methods is public so it was omitted and the def keyword for method definitions was added.

Method overriding in Java:
public String toString() {
Converted to Xtend:
override String toString() {
As Xtend explicitly states overrides, the keyword was added (instead of def). Again, the visibility was omitted.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Default enum literals for Xtext generated EMF models

Xtext allows to easily build fully-fledged editors for domain specific languages (DSL) which are based on the Eclipse Modeling Framework (EMF). While existing Ecore models may be used, Xtext is also able to infer an Ecore model from the Xtext grammar. For complex Ecore models, it should certainly be considered to manage them independently, e.g. with Xcore. However, a few simple tweaks of grammar rules can influence the automatically generated Ecore model quite remarkably (e.g. the inheritance hierarchy) and may delay the point in time where it may be better to manage them independently. This example shows how to influence the generation of enumerators (enums) and default literals with grammar rules.

The code example below assumes that there's a model element with an optional "visibility" attribute of type enum and that the DSL must be able to capture the case where no visibility enum at all was given.

As the default literal of a generated enum is the first literal, an enum rule is added to the grammar which uses, say, "unspecified" for that. However, the user of the DSL editor should simply be able to enter nothing at all instead of "unspecified" which would look odd in the editor. This can be achieved by adding a second rule which returns the aforementioned enum, but only contains the literals allowed for the user. Please note that the order of the enum rules is important for generated models.

 // ...
 // user may specify enum or nothing at all
 // ...

// rule for the generated Ecore model
enum VisibilityEnum:
 unspecified | // first literal is the default
 public |

// rule for the DSL editor
enum Visibility returns VisibilityEnum:
 public | 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Multiple Validators in Xtext

Early validation of domain specific languages (DSLs) and suggestions on how to fix these errors ('quickfixes') are key for a good end user experience and for avoiding problems in the toolchain, for instance in generators that use DSL models: The more editor validations, the better. This description shows how to improve the maintainability and modularity of validation code for Xtext DSLs by simply splitting them. In the generated [MyDsl]JavaValidator, an annotation referring to other custom validators has to be added as shown below:
@ComposedChecks(validators = 
     { MyCustomValidator.class, MyOthercustomValidator.class })
public class MyDslJavaValidator extends AbstractMyDslJavaValidator {

   // check method as usual inside the generated Java Validator
   public void checkMyDslElement(MyEntity myEntity) { // ...
Please note that the custom validator has to override the register()-method. Apart from that, the checks look exactly as they would if they were in the generated validator.
// Example for a split custom validator written in Xtend
public class MyCustomValidator extends AbstractDeclarativeValidator {

    override register(EValidatorRegistrar registrar) {
       //not needed for classes used as ComposedCheck

    // additional check method in separate validator
    def void checkMyDslElement(MyEntity myEntity) {
       [...] // validation code

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Clean Eclipse Preferences Tree with Multiple DSLs

As it is easy to build new domain specific languages (DSLs) with Xtext for Eclipse, enterprise projects may have multiple languages, which are usually related. Each language comes with its own Eclipse preference page, which are by default mixed with other preference pages. A simple way to keep the Eclipse preferences tree clean is to add a root page which aggregates the preference pages for individual (but possibly related) Xtext languages. This can be done by adding the snippet below to a plugin.xml file, for instance to the one of the base DSL's UI project.

    name="My DSLs">
    <keywordReference id=""/>

<!-- add keywords for the search in the preferences page --> 
    label="other keywords"/>

Now, the id of the root page, in this case just has to be added to the plugin.xml files of the UI projects of the languages whose preferences should be aggregated. This can also be done in the graphical plugin.xml editor of the DSL's UI projects by navigating to the tab Extensions, selecting the first child node under org.eclipse.ui.preferencePages (which should be the DSL preference page) and pasting into the category text box.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Custom Syntax Error Messages with Quick Fix

Xtext editors for domain specific languages (DSLs) provide many error messages out of the box, such as syntactical errors, duplicate name errors or unresolvable references. For an improved user experience, some technical error messages from the editor (or, more specifically, from the Antlr parser that is used by the editor) may be customized. In many DSLs, identifiers (for DSL concepts like packages, entities and so on) are expected to conform to the regular expression of the terminal rule ID:

terminal ID : '^'?('a'..'z'|'A'..'Z'|'_') ('a'..'z'|'A'..'Z'|'_'|'0'..'9')*;

In addition, any keyword that is defined in other rules of the DSL grammar may not be used as an identifier. Keywords may be escaped with the caret (^) symbol, which is certainly arguable. This would be similar to using "class" as a name for a class in Java (if that would be possible). Here are some snippets of a DSL with a package concept:

package package // the second word is a reserved keyword and therefore not be valid as identifier
package ^package // okay, the keyword was escaped
package myPackage // okay unless 'myPackage' is a grammar keyword

The default error message when using a reserved keyword where an identifier is expected looks like this.

mismatched input 'package' expecting RULE_ID

This  message can be customized using Xtext's SyntaxErrorMessageProvider (written in Xtend):

class SyntaxErrorMessageProviderCustom extends SyntaxErrorMessageProvider {
    @Inject IGrammarAccess grammarAccess
     * Customized error message for reserved keywords
    override getSyntaxErrorMessage(IParserErrorContext context) {
        val unexpectedText = context?.recognitionException?.token?.text
        if (GrammarUtil::getAllKeywords(grammarAccess.getGrammar()).contains(unexpectedText)) {
            return new SyntaxErrorMessage('''
            "«unexpectedText»" is a reserved keyword which is not allowed as Identifier.
            Please choose another word or alternatively confuse your co-workers by escaping it with the caret (^) character like this: "^«unexpectedText»".''',

The customized error message provider has to be bound in like this:
     * custom error messages for syntax errors
    public Classextends ISyntaxErrorMessageProvider> bindISyntaxErrorMessageProvider() {
        return SyntaxErrorMessageProviderCustom.class;

A simple quickfix in MyDslQuickfixProvider could look like this:
     * Provide a fix when reserved keywords are used as identifiers
     def public void reservedKeywordUsed(Issue issue, IssueResolutionAcceptor acceptor) {
        val unexpectedText =
        acceptor.accept(issue, '''Change '«unexpectedText»' to '«unexpectedText.generateUniqueIdentifier».' ''', '''
                Change '«unexpectedText»' to '«unexpectedText.generateUniqueIdentifier»',
                which is not a reserved keyword.''', 
                [ IModificationContext context |
                    val xtextDocument = context.getXtextDocument
                    xtextDocument.replace(issue.offset, issue.length, unexpectedText.generateUniqueIdentifier)
     def String generateUniqueIdentifier(String it) {
        val candidate = 'my' + it?.toFirstUpper?:'Name'
        var count = 1
        val reserved = GrammarUtil::getAllKeywords(grammarAccess.getGrammar())
        if (reserved.contains(candidate)) {
            while (reserved.contains(candidate + count)) {
                count = count + 1
            return candidate + count
        return candidate       

This kind of customization has been available for a long time now. For more information, see Customizing error messages from Sebastian Zarnekow.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Xtext Grammar Visualization

When developing EBNF-style grammars, e.g. for Xtext, syntax graphs can be a great help. One of the new features in Xtext 2 is the Xtext Syntax Graph which can be selected in the Eclipse menu under Views - Xtext - Xtext Syntax Graph. In case the grammar has ambiguities, users get an error message similar to the following when trying to generate the code for the grammar by running the MWE2 workflow file.

Decision can match input such as [...] using multiple alternatives 1,2

If the error isn't obvious, the alternatives can be displayed graphically with ANTLRWorks (the graph analysis can be expensive and thus is not included in the standard Xtext Syntax Graph). Here is an example of an Eclipse Xtext project with a simple, ambiguous grammar and the Xtext Syntax Graph.

To analyze the grammar in ANTLRWorks, the executable jar file from the ANTLR website can be downloaded and run using the JRE (java -jar antlrworks-1.x.x.jar). ANTLRWorks expects the ANTLR grammar file from the Xtext project, which is called Internal[...].g and located in the Eclipse Xtext project in the src-gen folder in the [...].antlr.internal package (see first screenshot). After opening it, the grammar can be checked by selecting Grammar - Check Grammar (Ctrl-R) from the menu. It will show an error message. Selecting the incorrect rule ruleModel and ticking both checkboxes for the alternatives (on the lower right on the screenshot) shows the ambiguity graphically.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Quickly formatting DSLs with Xtext

One typical task of developing new domain specific languages with Xtext is to customize the formatting in order to have a nice text layout. If the majority of grammar keywords should be formatted in the same way and only a few in a specific way, a generic formatter could be used. As an example, for DSLs with many key-value pairs (e.g. domain models), one might want to indent everything between curly braces and start a new line before each keyword. Instead of manually listing the keywords for the findKeywords()-method of the IGrammarAccess, GrammarUtil.getAllKeywords() can be used to get all the keywords, so a generic formatting method could look like this:

public class GenericFormatter {

* In your implementation of
* {@link org.eclipse.xtext.formatting.impl.AbstractDeclarativeFormatter#configureFormatting(org.eclipse.xtext.formatting.impl.FormattingConfig)}
* you may call this generic formatting method first. It indents blocks between curly braces and sets a linewrap
* before each keyword. Add your own behavior afterwards, e.g.

* keywords = grammar.findKeywords(...);
* for (final Keyword keyword : keywords) {
* config.setNoLinewrap().before(keyword);
* }

public static void genericFormatting(final FormattingConfig config, final IGrammarAccess grammar) {
for (final Pair pair : grammar.findKeywordPairs("{", "}")) { //$NON-NLS-1$ //$NON-NLS-2$
// a space before the first '{'
config.setSpace(" ").before(pair.getFirst()); //$NON-NLS-1$
// indentation between
config.setIndentation(pair.getFirst(), pair.getSecond());
// and a linewrap before the last '{'

// linewrap before all keywords
final Set allKeywords = GrammarUtil.getAllKeywords(grammar.getGrammar());
final List keywords = grammar.findKeywords(allKeywords.toArray(new String[allKeywords.size()]));
for (final Keyword keyword : keywords) {


It could be called inside the configureFormatting()-method in [NameOfTheDSL]Formatter. Formatting code that overrides this behavior for specific keywords can be added after the call to the generic method like this:

keywords = grammar.findKeywords([keywords w/o wrap before]);
for (final Keyword keyword : keywords) {