Eclipse Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, David H Deans, JP Morgenthal

Related Topics: Eclipse

Eclipse: Article

Commercial Plug-ins for Eclipse: A Field Report on Avoiding Development Pitfalls

Workspace – The Final Frontier?

As we enter 2006, there’s nothing stopping the spread of Eclipse, the open source development environment. The steadily growing number of free and commercial plug-ins available attests to its success. It’s now time to report on our experiences in developing the visual rules plug-in for Eclipse. Caroline Buck (pictured) shows you how to steer clear of the pitfalls in development.

The core idea of Innovations rule technology consists of two components: the graphical modeling of business logic and the generation of executable program code from the models. At the end of 2002 we decided to redesign our rule system. It was quickly apparent that the existing Java applications for modeling and for code generation should become an Eclipse plug-in or a whole range of Eclipse plug-ins.

Experiences with the more monolithic architecture components up to that time led us to the following realization: The new product must be based on a foundation that is above all easy to extend. In addition, our customer projects showed that the tool had already found favor on the part of users with little programming know-how. However, the product was seen less as a software development tool, although we ourselves used it as one. At the same time Eclipse had long become established as the Java development environment at Innovations. The implementation of our rule technology as a module for this attractive IDE practically thrust itself upon us.

A new name for the business logic tool was quickly found: visual rules. At the beginning of product development considerations were made on how to best split up the plug-ins from which visual rules was to be composed. Because the Eclipse platform itself makes excessive use of its plug-in concept, it offered a very good orientation guide on segmentation.
Java code generator
UI components, e.g. properties
Abstract code generator
Basic functionalities, EMF models
Online help
Ready-made rule set examples
Interfaces such as Rulet Editor and Rule Tree Editor
Product design (branding) such as splash screen, licensing information
Third-party software: XML parser
Table 1: visual rules 1.0 plug-ins

The first release of visual rules for Eclipse 2.1 from January 2004 consisted of ten plug-ins (see Table 1), bundled into one feature. 21 months or approx. six person years later the current product version contains 48 plug-ins split across four features. The base is formed by the graphical modeling client. Extra features are the Java code generator, the COBOL code generator and DB Connectivity for direct database access from rule sets.

Ideally, each feature can be installed separately from the others. However, dependencies with one another cannot always be avoided. Thus, the DB Connectivity extension for the visual rules platform, for example, requires the Java code generator. These dependencies (version and name of required plug-ins and features plus Eclipse platform) are declared in the feature manifest, which is then interpreted by Eclipse to support installation.

Common Code Base?
The Eclipse runtime underwent a paradigm change in the transition from version 2.1 to 3.0. The OSGi framework specification R3.0 was implemented. Parts of the Public API have changed in version 3.0. Version 3.0 contains a compatibility layer to give plug-ins written for the 2.1 API the ability to run. However, for better performance and extra functionality it is strongly recommended that makers of plug-ins wean themselves as soon as possible from dependency on the compatibility layer.

This is why we didn’t even attempt to create a common code base for the visual rules plug-in for Eclipse 2.1 and the current 3.x versions. There were just too many dependencies, especially to the org.eclipse.ui plug-in. This is why a redesign of the central rule data definition editor was carried out during visual rules plug-in migration. We replaced this editor with a special visual rules Navigator. This new view is based on the Resource Navigator and displays – similar to the JDT Package Explorer – all project settings and items as a tree. All rule project settings can also be edited here.

A major release was issued at the end of development and the version number jumped from 1.x to 3.0. Currently the version numbers of our plug-ins and Eclipse in sync.

Figure 1: Segmentation of the Debugger plug-in
Our current code base supports both Eclipse 3.0 and 3.1. Each plug-in now has “internal” packages containing all classes that may only be called within the plug-in (Internal API) (Figure 1). Starting with Eclipse 3.1 internal packages are automatically hidden. This mechanism requires strict conformance to recommended naming conventions.

See next page for What Makes a Good Plug-in?| Tips & Tricks | Future Outlook

More Stories By Caroline Buck

After gaining seven years of application development experience in the industry and service sector, at Innovations Softwaretechnologie GmbH, Caroline Buck is now responsible for technology marketing of the visual rules Eclipse plug-in.
She completed her studies of Information Management at the University of Cooperative Education Ravensburg in 1997. She has spoken at various academic events and at CeBIT on topics concerning information distribution and business rules.

Comments (2)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
While the focus and objectives of IoT initiatives are many and diverse, they all share a few common attributes, and one of those is the network. Commonly, that network includes the Internet, over which there isn't any real control for performance and availability. Or is there? The current state of the art for Big Data analytics, as applied to network telemetry, offers new opportunities for improving and assuring operational integrity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Frey, Vice President of S...
Rodrigo Coutinho is part of OutSystems' founders' team and currently the Head of Product Design. He provides a cross-functional role where he supports Product Management in defining the positioning and direction of the Agile Platform, while at the same time promoting model-based development and new techniques to deliver applications in the cloud.
@CloudEXPO and @ExpoDX, two of the most influential technology events in the world, have hosted hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors since our launch 10 years ago. @CloudEXPO and @ExpoDX New York and Silicon Valley provide a full year of face-to-face marketing opportunities for your company. Each sponsorship and exhibit package comes with pre and post-show marketing programs. By sponsoring and exhibiting in New York and Silicon Valley, you reach a full complement of decision makers and buyers in ...
There are many examples of disruption in consumer space – Uber disrupting the cab industry, Airbnb disrupting the hospitality industry and so on; but have you wondered who is disrupting support and operations? AISERA helps make businesses and customers successful by offering consumer-like user experience for support and operations. We have built the world’s first AI-driven IT / HR / Cloud / Customer Support and Operations solution.
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
LogRocket helps product teams develop better experiences for users by recording videos of user sessions with logs and network data. It identifies UX problems and reveals the root cause of every bug. LogRocket presents impactful errors on a website, and how to reproduce it. With LogRocket, users can replay problems.
Data Theorem is a leading provider of modern application security. Its core mission is to analyze and secure any modern application anytime, anywhere. The Data Theorem Analyzer Engine continuously scans APIs and mobile applications in search of security flaws and data privacy gaps. Data Theorem products help organizations build safer applications that maximize data security and brand protection. The company has detected more than 300 million application eavesdropping incidents and currently secu...
Rafay enables developers to automate the distribution, operations, cross-region scaling and lifecycle management of containerized microservices across public and private clouds, and service provider networks. Rafay's platform is built around foundational elements that together deliver an optimal abstraction layer across disparate infrastructure, making it easy for developers to scale and operate applications across any number of locations or regions. Consumed as a service, Rafay's platform elimi...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound e...
In today's enterprise, digital transformation represents organizational change even more so than technology change, as customer preferences and behavior drive end-to-end transformation across lines of business as well as IT. To capitalize on the ubiquitous disruption driving this transformation, companies must be able to innovate at an increasingly rapid pace.