Monday, January 19, 2009

Xtext Corner #2 - Linking and scoping

I've been very busy these days with all this christmas stuff, the M4 milestone of TMF Xtext and obviously with the next milestone, which will be released mid Feb. That's why I had the rather long delay since my first post about linking in Xtext. In december I discussed some difficulties with multi value references in combination with the default behavior of the Linker. As I promised in my previous post the workaround is not necessary in Xtext M4: You don't have to avoid multi value (non containment) references in metamodels anymore for the ease of validation.

Sven wrote already a very nice blog post about the concept of scopes that we introduced in the last milestone. The crucial point is to draw a distinction between visible objects and name matching when linking the model. Therefore we split the default linking service implementation into two main stages.

The first parts is about identifying all visible objects and creating the so called scope. A scope is an abstraction from linkable EObjects and the algorithm to calculate their valid string representation. Any scope provides all reachable objects paired with information about the valid textual representation – the name – that will match this object starting from a given point in your model, the so called context. Important are two facts:
  1. Scopes can be nested into each other and thus can hide their inherited elements.
  2. A scope does not export two objects with the same name in the same scope-level.




If you think about java, a local variable foo might be declared in a method body, which will make the same named field unreachable by its simple name but require the „this“ qualifier to gain access to it. A well known tool that has to deal with scopes is the eclipse compiler. It will not compile, read „link“, any two fields with the same name in a given class. None of these two fields would be on the scope.



Because we can have fields and methods with the same name, that would both be visible in contrast to equally named variables, the scope provider has to take the type of the objects into account, that should be retrieved. Sven described the semantics of scopes more detailled and provided a neat example.

The second part of the linking-service' job is to compare the input string with the object names of the scoped elements that were retrieved from the scope provider. That's very easy in most cases because a simple string match is sufficient.

But it is not necessarily an object, that was retrieved from the scope service, that should be linked. In the Xtext grammar itself, we link imported metamodels to EPackages by a given URI. It is rather impossible to come up with a scope implementation, that iterates each and every metamodel, that can be reached via any given URI. But the linking-service is still able to establish this cross reference. This indicates, that we found some nice abstractions for the common cases, but did not introduce too tight restrictions for the seldom ones.

Let's come back to the example from my previous post. It is now possible to write the grammar for the given example language in the most intuitive way using the M4 milestone of TMF Xtext. By default, the linker will only cross-reference objects, that have a unique name. Even for multi value references, we will get very good error indicators for free. The last thing to do is to provide a check, that every object is linked only once for a reference, that means the list contains distinct values. Should really be a no brainer with Xtend ...

5 comments:

Admin-my-mind said...

Hi, sorry ...have you a simple grammar and project for understand scoping in this example? i mean if you have the code of this example...many thx!

Sebastian Zarnekow said...

Hi,

the example illustrates an intermediate approach for Xtext 0.7. The semantics have been changed slightly until Xtext 1.0. Unfortunately I do no longer have the example that I used in the post.

Admin-my-mind said...

ok...i'm using the current version of xtext... and i'm searching for an example representing the function declaration and the scope of the parameters...can you help me? thx

Sebastian Zarnekow said...

Hi,

please join the TMF Xtext newsgroup at Eclipse.org and feel free to ask your concrete questions there. This way others will participate, too.

Admin-my-mind said...

ok ...i posted in "scope " thread... thx a million sir! ;-)