Tuesday

Graphical Editing Framework

Before we go in depth with GMF there is very much need to understand the MVC architecture of GEF and the working of EMG with GEF. This will be very useful when we start with "understanding generated GMF code". For more details of EMF with GEF you can read through the IBM redbook - Eclipse Development using GEF and EMF.

I will simply copy-paste the required contents as my main intention is to explain more on GMF than GEF.

The Graphical Editing Framework allows us to easily develop graphical representations for existing models. It is possible to develop feature rich graphical editors using GEF.
All graphical visualization is done via the Draw2D framework, which is a standard 2D drawing framework based on SWT from eclipse.org. The editing possibilities of the Graphical Editing Framework allow you to build graphical editors for nearly every model. With these editors, it is possible to do simple modifications to your model, like changing element properties or complex operations like changing the structure of your model in different ways at the same
time.
All these modifications to your model can be handled in a graphical editor using
very common functions like drag and drop, copy and paste, and actions invoked
from menus or toolbars.

As GEF is based on an MVC architecture, every GEF-based application uses a model to represent the state of the diagrams being created and edited. GEF allows you to use any objects as model objects within your application, however, using an EMF model provides some advantages over using arbitrary objects:

  • You can use EMF’s code generation facilities to produce consistent, efficient and easily customizable implementations of your model objects. If your model evolves during development, you can regenerate the code to reflect changes to the model, while preserving your customizations.
  • The MVC architecture used by GEF relies on controllers that listen for model changes and update the view in response. If you use an EMF model, notification of model change is already in place, as all EMF model objects notify change via EMF’s notification framework.
  • The implementations generated for your model objects ensure that the model remains consistent, for example, when a reference is updated, the opposite reference is also updated.
  • EMF provides support for persisting model instances, and the serialization format is easily customizable.
  • Your applications can use the reflective API provided by EMF to work with any EMF model generically.

Although we can generate EMF.Edit-based editors from EMF models using the org.eclipse.emf.codegen.ecore plug-in, these editors use JFace viewers, such as the TreeViewer to display model instances, and typically provide a view that has a one-to-one correspondence with the model. Sometimes we may wish to create editors where the view is more loosely coupled with the model. This is often the case when we want to use a graphical notation that may hide some of the detail of the underlying model objects, or may impose additional or a different structure to the model, for visualization purposes.
We can think about using GEF and EMF together from two different perspectives; using an EMF model within a GEF application, and augmenting EMF.Edit-based editors using GEF. In this book, we focus on the first perspective only, due to time constraints. The second approach deserves a book of its own, as integrating an EMF.Edit-based editor with GEF provides its own challenges.

For more details please go through the GEF and Draw2D developer's guide in Eclipse help.

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