Virtual Reality Language Workbench

Here’s a little sketch I made of a concept for a language workbench designed for use with an Oculus Rift and Razor Hydra. The idea is that you would have a “cockpit” view of your workbench. In the center of the view you would have a graphical representation of a pattern, which you could manipulate with the hydra. On the far left is a 2D toolbar for actions on the far right is an assortment of available patterns. To the left of the pattern is a view of some test input to the right is the production of the data through the pattern.

You would need a way to model complex data visually though, and the output view is dynamic based on the data. You would be able to zoom into the output display to see it as a running app. This is what’s rumbling around in my head these days…


Metadata Based Syntax Highlighting

The culmination of many features has finally arrived: syntax highlighting grammars based on metadata!


This is a screenshot of my prototype language workbench for meta#. In the grammar section you write rules that get combined together into an implicit grammar which is used to parse each of the code blocks below. On the right is the AST of whatever block you have currently selected. This is a basic “hello world” grammar.

Notice the syntax highlighting! Keywords are yellow, identifiers are gray, character and string literals are green and everything else is white.

The thing that’s cool about this is that the editor for each of those blocks actually does not know anything about the grammar of the code it is highlighting. The highlighting information is coming from the metadata of the grammar itself. In fact you can add that same metadata to the grammar you are authoring in order to get highlighting in the code blocks as well.


Here you can see that I have added the [Keyword] attribute onto the ident rule, this attribute is aggregated as metadata and can be harvested by the code editor. It uses that metadata to get information about the original code and add appropriate colors. The code editor is a custom control I am working on that inherits from RichTextEditor in wpf.

This language workbench is still just a prototype but it’s still kind of cool. I have some ideas on how to evolve it that I need to solidify still but it provides a nice playground for me to experiment with features like this.

Language Workbench Competition

I’m actually pretty close to having all of the MetaSharp grammars translated into .g files and Attila is working on the msbuild compiler components. Once we have them both done and merged we will have achieved dogfood status. There are plenty of Grammar and Lang features I want to work on still but the next major feature will be the Language Workbench, or in other words the interactive editor (I want to have some type of grammar REPL for the tclangug presentation I will be giving next month at least).

I just recently learned about the Code Generation Conference and now I am learning that there was also a Language Workbench website and that they sponsored a competition that went along with the conference. The most interesting part of this is the description of what a language workbench should do and how to rate them:

Which almost reads like a workbench spec! So this is very exciting, I have been thinking about what a MetaSharp workbench should be like and I think that I have a pretty good idea of what the external expectations are now, so this is good.

What’s funny about MetaSharp is that it is designed to solve all of the “Advanced” scenarios but currently doesn’t solve any of the “Basic” scenarios, lol. I’m not sure if that’s a good sign or a bad sign yet…