Presentation Modeling Framework

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Introduction

PMF (Presentation Modeling Framework) is a proposed new open source project under Eclipse Modeling to provide a metamodel for UI modeling.

This component is in the Pre-Proposal Phase (as defined in the Eclipse Development Process) and this document is written to declare its intent and scope. This proposal is written to solicit additional participation and input from the Eclipse community. You are invited to comment on and/or join in the development of the component. Please send all feedback to the eclipse.modeling newsgroup.

Background

The Graphical User Interface (GUI) is the visible part of the software. It really consists of the gate through which business features are made available and it reflects the application quality. Designing the visual composition and temporal behavior of GUI is an important part of software application programming. Its goal is to enhance the efficiency and ease of use for the underlying logical design. Typically, the user interacts with information by manipulating visual widgets that allow for interactions appropriate to the kind of data they hold. The widgets of a well-designed interface are selected to support the actions necessary to achieve the goals of the user.

Model-Driven Engineering is a modern, standard and industry software engineering. It refers to a range of development approaches that are based on the use of software modeling as a primary form of expression. Sometimes models are constructed to a certain level of detail, and then code is written by hand in a separate step. Sometimes complete models are built including executable actions. Model-driven architecture supports model-driven engineering of software systems. MDA provides a set of guidelines for structuring specifications expressed as models. The MDA approach defines system functionality using a platform-independent model (PIM) using an appropriate domain-specific language (DSL).

Obviously, MDE in GUI needs an appropriate framework to simplify the presentation generation. It is in fact a critical component in scalable enterprise data presentation applications such as ERP and BPMS in Manufacturing, Supply Chain, Financials, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Human Resources, Warehouse Management and Decision Support System.

From users' perspective, the UI presentation modeling should be composed of following steps:

  • Business modeling
  • Importation of the business model and initialization of PMF structure
  • High level UI presentation modeling in PMF editor
  • Model transformation from PMF model to displaying technology execution code

PMF focuses in fact on high level presentation modeling concepts on GUI by ignoring the displaying technology artifacts such as appearence, layouts and data binding support. It allows each technology to make its specific connection with this framework.

Scope

The purpose of this framework is to provide the basic functional concepts of user interaction in a PIM level UI modeling language. The language can be extended in two ways:

  • Higher level patterns can be defined using PMF itself and used as language extensions
  • Transformations/Generators from the PIM level model to specific UI technology platforms

Each displaying technology such as XUL, e4, JSF, SWT, Swing, GWT, Ajax, Silverlight or others, can extend this framework to implement a specific generator for producing executable codes in Java or in declarative language.

Precisely, PMF provides following components:

  • An EMF-based foundation that covers the basic functional concepts of user interaction.
  • Examples of higher level patterns  like Master/Detail, Finder and Selector defined in and using the basic PMF concepts
  • Template engines' integration for code generation
  • Two integrations as demonstration samples are proposed (integrations with other UI solution will be explored as the project evolves):
    • JFace UI platform
    • e4's declarative UI and modeled workbench

This framework is not a specific UI framework for a displaying technology, neither a specific UI Markup language. It is a high level modeling framework to design the data presentation scenario/pattern and user interactions.

Relationship with Other Eclipse Projects/Components

PMF will use the most Eclipse tools to archive the UI Presentation modeling and code generation. The most important tool is the modeling transformation engine. Several engines are used in diffferent Eclipse projects:

  • JET, a derivative of JavaServer Pages (JSP) initially developed as part of the Eclipse Modeling Framework (EMF), and currently an incubator project JET2 in the Eclipse Modeling Project.
  • Xpand is a statically-typed template language with a lot of advanced features

Obvious integrations between PMF and other Eclipse components (EcoreTools, UMLTools, M2T, MTL, EMF, EMFT, VE, etc.) will be explored as the component evolves.

e4 has planed to develop a Declarative UI framework and modelled workbench based EMF. They are the perfect concrete UI solutions for testing and demonstrating the concepts of PMF.

Organization

Mentors

Initial Committers

The initial committers for this project would be:
  • Yves Yang (Soyatec), proposed project co-lead
  • Jim van Dam (HiPeS), proposed project co-lead
  • Thomas Guiu (Soyatec), committer
  • Olivier Moïses (Generic Concept), committer

Code Contributions

Soyatec and HiPeS will offer an initial code contribution. An implementation of the PMF metamodel consisting of Java packages within the org.eclipse.pmf.* namespace will be generated and customized using EMF.

Interested Parties

Thus far, interest in this component has been expressed by:

Developer Community

The team of initial committers will explore statements of interest from additional developers experienced with UI development and modeling or willing to gain such experience.

User Community

It is expected that the user community for this component will consist primarily of developers, given that it is essentially a foundation for building UI modeling tools.

Tentative Plan

The development plan of this project would be aligned with e4 plan. The first community technical preview release is scheduled at summar 2009 and the final release is targeted in June 2010.