Scout Team at Javaland: meeting with the Asciidoctor Guys

I really enjoy conferences, because it is a great opportunity for me to meet new people. Before going to a conference, I usually have a look at who will be there (looking at the program or at twitter). And often, some of the participants are experts in domains that matter for a current project I am working on and I can prepare a set of questions that I would like to discuss.

Javaland 2015 - Logo Javaland 2015 - Jérémie Bresson and Oliver Boehm

At last week’s JavaLand Conference I was able to take advantage of this habit regarding our efforts to refactor the documentation setup of the Eclipse Scout framework with Asciidoctor. If you don’t know Asciidoctor, I recommend you to watch any of Dan Allen‘s talks available online (for example Discover The Zen Of Writing (Ascii)Docs at Devoxx 2013).

Attending Dan’s Talk Effective AsciiDoc: Best Practices for Writing Docs (slides) and being able to discuss with him the day after helped me to find solutions to most of my Asciidoctor issues. From this and past experience I can only say that discussing with experts is always a great experience and helpful. And in case you haven’t done this in the past, give it a try at your next conference.

In the reminder of this blog post I will talk about the motivation behind the refactoring of the Eclipse Scout documentation setup and write about the Asciidoctor Live Preview plugin that I got to know at JavaLand.

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Eclipse.exe and windows processes

One of our clients mentioned that his users sometimes wish to kill the process associated with its Scout client application in the Windows Task Manager. Scout applications use the Eclipse Launcher exe like any Eclipse RCP application or the Eclipse IDE itself. I will use “eclipse.exe” as application name in this blog post.

The problem was that in order to completely terminate the client application, they need to be aware of the fact that their application was actually running in two processes, the eclipse.exe and the javaw.exe process. By just using “End Process” (button or context menu) on the eclipse.exe process in the Task Manager, only the smaller process is killed and the much larger javaw.exe process continues to run. Only by selecting “End Process Tree” in the task manager the complete application is terminated. Only few users were aware of this setup that is not really user-friendly.

End process in Windows Task Manager

After some investigation we could propose a solution to address the client’s issue. The Scout client application now appears as a single process in the Task Manager and it no longer matters if users click on context menu “End Process” or “End Process Tree”.

In the reminder of this article we summarize our findings that should directly apply to any Eclipse RCP application or the Eclipse IDE itself.
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Eclipse Scout Roadmap 2016

For the 2016 release of the Scout framework we will introduce two significant changes. These changes address major pain points we have suffered from in the past. As the scope of the two changes is substantially larger than in previous releases, we would like to start talking about them well ahead of time. So remember in the text below that this is a blog about the future of Eclipse Scout scheduled for 2016, not about the upcoming Mars release.

The first change is driven by our vision of the future of UI technologies for business applications. The second change addresses the need of our customers and BSI that Scout applications should be easy to integrate in a Java EE or Spring based environment. In the text below we will discuss these two changes individually. Read the rest of this entry »

Scout Adopters we didn’t know about.

At BSI (the company behind the Scout Framework) we have recently discussed our knowledge about the community of Eclipse Scout users and found that it is too limited. This was one of the lessons we learned from our first Scout User Group Meeting. For this meeting we have invited our Scout customers and colleagues. By customer we mean individuals from companies that have paid for services in relation to Scout (consulting, trainings, change requests, project bootstrap, …). And by colleague we mean people we already met (at conferences or democamps) that where doing something with Scout. This get together was important, informative and supported the networking between customers/contacts. However, we found that the real challenge is to contact and learn from Scout adopters that we do not know (yet). Read the rest of this entry »

A new Scout Widget Application

Since quite some time we had our old Scout widget application to demonstrate most of the Scout widgets that are available out of the box in the Eclipse Scout package available on the Eclipse download site.

This old widget application has historically grown over time and includes many special that have been added to demonstrate and fix bugs or features. While starting to document the individual Scout widgets we found that a renewal would help to better showcase the typical usage patters for the different widgets and also highlight the most frequently used configuration options. As a result, the old widget application has been rewritten accordingly.

The client only application is organized into separate outlines for thematic groups of widgets. Each of the application’s outline then presents a list of widgets in a navigation tree. This is shown below for the Simple Widgets outline that contains examples for simple UI widgets such as label fields or string fields.

For each UI widget a corresponding example form presents a number of typical use cases and configuration options. The example forms are designed to be independent from each other. It should therefore be possible to read and understand the source code of each example form with minimal effort. Via the Open in Dialog … context menu the content of the view is displayed in a modal scout form. As shown below, the complete source code for the selected form can be accessed via the View Source on GitHub context menu.


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HTML & Diff & normalization with JSoup

We are working on an Eclipse help document for the Eclipse Scout project. Our vision is to re-use content from the existing Scout book where possible. For this, we want to be able to share text modules between the two documents. In order to do so, I am currently working on the setup of each document and I am extracting some existing text into independent modules.

The difficulty of this task is that you should not break anything in the existing documents. Manual review of hundreds of pages was out of question, so I came up with the idea of doing a diff on the HTML between 2 versions (before and after the refactoring).
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Generating Eclipse Help from existing HTML Documentation

Creating a Eclipse Help bundle for the Eclipse IDE is simple. You only need three things:

  • Some HTML content (one or several pages)
  • A specific XML file describing the “Table of content” (a toc file)
  • An entry to contribute to the org.eclipse.help.toc extension point.

If you do not know how to start, you can use the “Plug-in with sample help content” template when you create you new plug-in Project.

New Plugin Project Wizard - Template: Plug-in with sample help content

The painful aspect of the work is manually keeping the XML toc file in sync with your existing HTML documents (i.e. the output of your documentation tool). Luckily, there are tools that help to reduce substantially this pain.

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Multi Column SmartField

During the Scout User Group Meeting each participant has presented how he was using Eclipse Scout. It was nice to see that many of them were already using a new feature introduced with Luna: Multi-Column SmartField.

Scout Multi-Column SmartField

SmartField to select a position in the Swiss train network.

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Why should I contribute?

One of the opening slides of our “Eclipse Scout Contributor” training looks like this:


There is nothing new in this slide. It just re-states an aspect of the open-source mechanic.

In our opinion the benefits of contributing to open source is often not fully understood. That is why we would like to share some of our thoughts.
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Eclipse Scout User Group Meeting

Prior to the great Eclipsecon Europe we had our first Scout User Group Meeting. It was very interesting to see in which ways different business applications are either newly created with Eclipse Scout or migrated to Scout from various legacy applications.

A recurring subject was the combination of Scout and Spring (Special thanks to Kasten Thoms form Itemis for his related Blog Post).





As indicated by the impressions above, we had a good time and based on the participants feedback, we will most likely organize such an again next year too. For this we are investigating if it is possible to do this as part of next year’s Unconference before the Eclipsecon Europe 2015. Thanks Ralph for suggesting this :-)

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