JADE Environment Development Ideas

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JADE IDE Extensions

This'll probably be a familiar idea to most people as I think it's been raised/mentioned in a few contexts now. When this was raised previously it was closed because it was too broad, presumably as it was too difficult to see how our needs might be met for the various examples given, so I'd like to take a different approach and outline a solution design for how I believe IDE extensions could be implemented.

Rather than adding IDE specific functionality to RootSchema (which should be decoupled), the JadeSchema should export a package which contains the classes/interfaces needed to implement extensions.

As extensions should operate in their own sandbox, any classes created or methods invoked should be invoke in context of their associated schema by initializing the required application context dynamically when needed (depends on implementing these improvements).

On startup of the IDE, it'd retrieve all implementors of the main extension interface which would act as a facade (it could just have type methods rather than needing to be instantiated), let's call this IJadeExtensionFacade.

The facade interface would define methods to initialize/finalize the extension on startup/shutdown of the IDE. The initialize method would be supplied with a controller/facade implemented by the IDE, one of which would be instantiated to represent each extension, let's call this JadeExtension. The properties defined by this would be populated during IJadeExtensionFacade::initialize to describe the extension (name, icon, author, version, enabled by default, etc). The methods implemented/exposed by JadeExtension would provide the ability to register components associated with the extension.

Fundamentally, there's two kinds of components, both of which could have a name, description & icon.

These would be instantiated by the extension and supplied when registered. They'd implement an interface, let's say JadeExtensionCommand with methods to retrieve it's details (name, description & icon), to execute the command when invoked, and to check if it should currently be visible/enabled.

Commands could be invoked via a toolbar button or menu item, which would be implied by how it's registered. For toolbar commands, they'd be registered in association with a named toolbar to group it with other commands (which could span other extensions). For menu commands, they'd be registered in association with a menu item path, where the root element would refer to an IDE form class and menu item in relation to which the menu item needs to be added.

These could also be referred to as utilities, which can be docked at the sides of the IDE (in portrait and/or landscape modes). Like Visual Studio, we should be able to switch between multiple utilities using tabs, or drag them so they're shown side-by-side.

These would inherit from a Control class and implement an interface, let's say JadeExtensionWindow. Unlike commands, the registration should be handled by supplying the class rather than being instantiated upfront. The IDE would instantiate these when required to add them to the main IDE form (and parent dock bar control to position them appropriately).

The interface for these would provide methods to retrieve it's details, the name/icon in particular would be used to show a header appropriately above the control. Methods would also be needed to load, queryUnload, unload & resize the window (as it may need to reposition its internal controls).


Context Switching
To refresh/adapt to the changing context in the IDE, the extension would need to be notified when schema entities are selected & subsequently deselected (probably just need to cover the basic ones like classes and features that can be selected in the class browser). Ideally, there'd also be a way to query whether or not the entity can be deselected before switching to something else (may possibly have changes to save), but this could also be handled via the queryUnload method referred to above for JadeExtensionWindow.

Rather than implementing methods for this purpose on the facade directly, it'd be better to define a method to retrieve a provider of a given interface (which may or may not be implemented by the extension). This could then be used to retrieve other interfaces/providers which may be introduced in future without needing to change the facade interface.

  • Kevin Saul
  • May 10 2019
  • Future consideration: 2022
  • Attach files
  • Kevin Saul commented
    30 Aug, 2019 12:47am

    Couple of other ideas for extensions that I forgot about:


    Task List

    Provide ability to display list of tasks based on TODO comments in the code, which may be subject to what classes you're currently looking at.  This is an example where it'd be ideal if the IDE also supported an extension asking it to navigate to a particular method/line of code (when double-clicking on a task).



    Provide a more advanced messaging interface, where we can see a list of other active developers in the environment.  This would help with coordinating re-orgs in a busy environment. 


  • Kevin Saul commented
    24 Jul, 2019 01:15am

    Most extensions will likely have some need to update the database directly or indirectly. This may just be for user profiles & settings (which could apply to the developer news feed to track what you've seen/read), but others extensions may need to store more complicated data in their own schemas in support of the functionality they provide.

    Here's some ideas for extensions that the community could develop/share,

    Source control
    Being able to integrate commands & a utility window would allow us to access functionality from the IDE which we can already implement using the DSL hooks & schema loads, but currently have to access/use via a separate application.

    Issue Tracking
    Provide ability to search/update work items & issues in TFS, GitHub/GitLab & others.

    Static Code Analysis
    Provide ability to analyse schema entities & code, when selected and/or compiled, to check they conform to best practices, company standards and potentially application specific conventions.

    Shortcut Manager
    Provide ability to configure menu/toolbar commands to run applications or workspaces/scripts.

    Provide ability to document selected schema entities in a structured manner that can be used to generate more useful technical documentation.

    Provide ability to capture extra metadata about schema entities for a specific purpose. For example, during GDPR we needed to categorize thousands of data items, by the end of which we'd essentially created our own schema/class browser to capture this information.

    Test Explorer
    Provide the ability to see/run unit tests associated with selected schema entities & code, potentially running these automatically when changes are made.

    Provide somewhere to make notes that'll be saved automatically, that can be seen/referred to in the IDE, without needing to switch between applications.

  • Admin
    Hugh McColl commented
    18 Jul, 2019 04:25am

    This proposal is under consideration.

    Kevin noted that his other proposed JAD-I-405 Developer News Feed idea could be implemented as an extension. This particular extension is one that could be considered as passive in that it is no obvious need to modify database state. 

    In order to progress the analysis:  it would be useful if Kevin and other voters could provide a list of extensions they envisage could be implemented using a sand boxed extension point similar to that described in this idea. 

    It would be great if you could post your lists of proposed extension in comments on this idea. Please indicate whether the proposed extension needs to modify database state, directly or indirectly (e.g. via running a tool).