Coexistence of Graphical and Textual DSLs

A major part of my research/work at the university and in some of my personal projects is about integrating business experts into the development process. You can read more about it in my dissertation. We reincarnated a very ambitious project, which now focuses on modeling complete web applications. We defined different interconnected graphical DSLs (Domain-Specific Languages) with Cinco and allow to one-click generate and deploy it on an application server. I am very excited about this great project and some of my posts are (and will be) inspired by it.

As of recently, we use XText as an alternative serialization format to XMI for our graphical DSLs. XText languages have some nice properties over XMI, like syntax highlighting, scoping, validation, just not being XML, compatibility with VCS, etc.. But most important it is much easier to “repair” XText models after a format/meta model change, than with a graphical editor (which just ignores friendly inquiries to open an incompatible file), or with XMI (trust me it is a 😵).

This brings me near to a dream I already have for quite some time: Bringing together textual and graphical DSLs to describe the same model. This is so great because all these integration efforts of business experts (i.e. non-programmers) into the development process is up-to-now a one-way approach. But with a textual representation both the technical and the business experts are likely to use (different views on) the same modeling artifact. Since December 2015 XText (2.9.x) supports IntelliJ IDEA, some web editors as well as standalone usage besides Eclipse. This is great news again (although I have some problems to get it up and running the way I would like to. But more on that later)!

So stay tuned, to news regarding this great new project called DIME (Dynamic web application Integrated Modeling Environment).

Exciting 😉.

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