Domain-Specific Languages for Composable Editor Plugins

May 23, 2009

Spoofax/IMP is a toolset for the creation of interactive development environments for custom languages based on domain-specific languages for editor services. The toolset is especially aimed at the developers of domain-specific languages, allowing them to provide IDE support for their specialist language under development. An important feature of Spoofax/IMP is the support for language composition, i.e. for languages consisting of multiple, syntactically different, sub-languages. Furthermore, the toolset allows the customization of heuristically generated editor services without loosing the ability to regenerate these services when a language evolves.

At LDTA 2009 we presented a paper about Spoofax/IMP. The final version of that paper is now finished, and a pre-print is available.

L. C. L. Kats, K. T. Kalleberg, and E. Visser. Domain-Specific Languages for Composable Editor Plugins. In T. Ekman and J. Vinju, editors, Proceedings of the Ninth Workshop on Language Descriptions, Tools, and Applications (LDTA 2009), Electronic Notes in Theoretical Computer Science. Elsevier Science Publishers, April 2009. [pdf]

Abstract: 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 (static) semantic rules of WebDSL.