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Derivation and Refinement of Textual Syntax for Models

2009 conference paper

In Proc. of 5th European Conference on Model-Driven Architecture Foundations and Applications (ECMDA-FA’09), volume 5562 of LNCS, Springer
with: Florian Heidenreich, Sven Karol, Mirko Seifert, and Christian Wende

Textual Syntax (TS) as a form of model representation has made its way to the Model-Driven Software Development community and is considered a viable alternative to graphical representations. To support the design and implementation of text editing facilities many concrete syntax and model mapping tools have emerged. Despite the maturity of these tools, users still spend considerable effort to specify syntaxes and generate editors even for simple metamodels. To reduce this effort, we propose to refine a specification that is automatically derived from a given metamodel. We argue that defaults in a customisable setting enable developers to quickly realise text-based editors for models. In particular in settings where metamodels evolve, such a procedure is beneficial. To evaluate this idea we present EMFText, an EMF/Eclipse integrated tool for agile TS development. We show how default syntax can easily be tailored and refined to obtain a custom text editor for EMF models and demonstrate our approach by two examples.