Monday, October 18, 2010

Spy On Your Models - Part 2

In this sequence of posts, I explain how to use the Model Browser provided by MoDisco to inspect an EMF model.

In the first post, I have described the Types panel which allows to directly access to all the EMF instances of a given EClass. In this second post, I will now describe the Instances panel which allows to inspect an EMF object and navigate to all the other connected EMF objects.

This panel is a tree containing all the instances of the type selected in the Type panel. If you open a model element, you can see all its properties: the attributes and the references declared by the type (the metaclass) in the corresponding ECore model (the metamodel).

The attributes are displayed with a green bullet and the value of the selected instance. The references are displayed with an icon inspired by UML associations: containment references have a diamond (like UML compositions), references with no opposite are terminated by an arrow (like UML navigable roles). Derived properties are prefixed by "/".

On each reference, you can right-click and select the "Add child" menu to add new EMF objects.

If you want to hide empty and derived references, unselect the buttons "Show Empty Links" and "Show Derived Links". Then the tree will only display setable references which have at least one connected object.

When you open a reference, you can see all the objects connected through this reference. This is very helpful to know how the objects are connected to each other. Especially when the current type declares several references of the same type: in this case, you see precisely the connected objects under each reference.

This instance tree proposes several other interesting options.

Let's see some of these options:
  • Show Multiplicity: This option displays the upper and lower bounds (between square brackets) of each structural feature as they are defined in the corresponding ECore model.
  • Show Ordering: This option displays the index (between square brackets) of each element under a reference which has the "ordered" ECore property set to true. It is useful if you have already selected the "Sort instances" option which displays the elements in an alphabetical order. See below the instances of Property sorted by name under the ownedAttribute reference: they are suffixed by the index within the list of attributes of the current class.
  • Show Opposite Links: this option indicates the name of the opposite links (if there is one defined in the ECore model). This option helps to know which reference allows to go back to a given object. Below, you can see that the owner reference can be used to go from an instance of Comment back to the class CollectInformation.
  • Show Container: When there is no opposite link defined, this option helps you to go back to the container (the objects which holds the current object with a "containment" reference). The eContainer reference is part of the EMF framework.

  • Show Types of Links: This option indicates the Type declared for each reference. It is useful to know what kind of objects you can find under a reference. Below, you can see that the packagedElement reference accepts instances of PackageableElement. It explains why you find instances of Class and Association which both inherit from PackageableElement.

In the next post, I will explain how this browser can be dynamically extended and customized.

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