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Contributing Actions to the Eclipse Workbench

Contributing Actions to the Eclipse Workbench

Summary

The Eclipse Platform is an open and extensible platform. This article explains in detail how the Workbench can be extended to add new actions and provides guidance to the plug-in developers on how they can design for extensibility.
By Simon Arsenault, OTI
October 18, 2001
January 2, 2007

Introduction

The Eclipse Platform allows a plug-in to extend other plug-ins, allowing for a tight integration and therefore a better experience for the end user. This article illustrates how to contribute actions to views and editors of other plug-ins, and allowing for others to contribute to your own custom views and editors. Each example explores in detail the different features available when contributing actions. Once understood, these features can be combined to control the contribution of actions within views and editors.
The image above shows the many areas where a plug-in can contribute actions:
  • to the context menu of a view or editor
  • to the local toolbar and pull down menu of a view
  • to the main toolbar and menu bar of the Workbench window
Each different contribution area is examined in this article, with examples showing how to contribute actions to each.

In order for an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) to contribute actions to other views and editors, plug-ins need to make their views and editors extensible. This article shows how a plug-in can allow action contributions from other plug-ins.

This article assumes a basic understanding of writing a plug-in. For more information on how to write a plug-in for the Eclipse Platform, please read the article from Jim Amsden, "Your First Plug-in".

To follow along with the examples in this article, refer to the section running the examples.

Contributing actions to context menus

The ability to add actions to the context menu of a view or editor allows tight integration between plug-ins. For example, the Version and Configuration Management plug-in (VCM) adds a number of new actions to existing views such as the Navigator and Packages views, allowing the user to version manage resources from existing views. To contribute an action to a context menu, the Workbench plug-in (org.eclipse.ui) provides the extension point org.eclipse.ui.popupMenus. There are two types of action contributions. Actions can either be contributed to the context menu of a specific editor or view, or they can be registered against a specific object type. The following three examples will look at each in detail.

Example 1: Adding an action to the default text editor

Let's look at how to add a single action to the context menu of the default text editor provided by the Workbench plug-in.
<extension point="org.eclipse.ui.popupMenus"> 
<viewerContribution 
      id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.popup.editor"
   targetID="#TextEditorContext"> 
   <action
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.editor.action1" 
         label="Editor Action 1"
         icon="icons/red_dot.gif"
      menubarPath="additions" 
      class="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.EditorAction1Delegate"> 
      </action> 
   </viewerContribution> 
</extension>
The XML above declares a contribution to the context menu of a specific editor. These extensions are called viewer extensions (). The term viewer is used to represent both views and editors.

The targetID attribute () specifies the context menu identifier for the target view or editor. The documentation of the plug-in providing the view or editor will list the identifier to use. If none is specified in the documentation, then the context menu is not registered by the plug-in for external action contribution. A view or editor may have more than one context menu.

Unfortunately, the default text editor does not follow the guidelines for plug-in developers. The context menu identifier is not part of the default text editor documentation as it should be. Also, the identifier is not fully qualified as recommended by the plug-in developer guidelines.

The action to be contributed to the context menu is described next in XML (). The first step is to assign an identifier to the action using the id attribute. The label and icon that will appear in the context menu are given next using the label and icon attributes. The optional icon attribute is specified as a path relative to the plug-in directory.

The menubarPath attribute () specifies the path, starting at the root of the context menu, where this action will be added. In this example, “additions” is the value of the constant org.eclipse.ui.IWorkbenchActionConstants.MB_ADDITIONS. Plug-ins are expected to provide this group once in their context menus indicating the default location where action contributions can be placed. Plug-ins may provide other groups in their context menus where action contributions can be added. In this case, it is recommended that plug-ins document each group. If the menubarPath attribute is not specified, the Workbench will first attempt to add the action in the group “additions”. If the group “additions” does not exist, then the action is added to the end of the context menu.

The class attribute () specifies the Java™ class that will perform the action when the menu item is selected by the user. This class must implement the org.eclipse.ui.IEditorActionDelegate interface if contributing to an editor's context menu or the org.eclipse.ui.IViewActionDelegate interface if contributing to a view's context menu. One very important point to understand about the delegate class is that this class is loaded by the Workbench only when the user selects the menu item for the first time because plug-ins are loaded lazily. This means that the initial enablement logic must be described in XML. Once the delegate class has been loaded by the Workbench, the delegate can control the enabled/disabled state of the action.

The interface IEditorActionDelegate allows the action delegate to retarget itself to the active editor. This is important because only one delegate is created for the action and is shared by all instances of the same editor type. The action delegate must implement the method setActiveEditor(IAction action, IEditorPart targetEditor). When the action is invoked via its run() method, it must act upon the active editor given to the delegate via the last setActiveEditor() method call.

The interface IViewActionDelegate allows the action delegate, during initialization, to target itself with the view instance it should work with. The action delegate must implement the method init(IViewPart view). When the action is invoked via its run() method, it must act upon the view passed to init() method.

The image above shows the result of running this example. Notice the "Editor Action 1" is added to the editor's context menu. This is where the “additions” group is located in the default text editor context menu.

Example 2: Adding a sub-menu to the Navigator view

Let's look at how to add one action and a sub-menu with two actions to the Navigator view.
<extension point="org.eclipse.ui.popupMenus"> 
   <viewerContribution 
      id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.popup.navigator"
   targetID="org.eclipse.ui.views.ResourceNavigator"> 
   <action
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.navigator.action1" 
         label="View Action 1"
         icon="icons/red_dot.gif"
         menubarPath="additions" 
         class="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.ViewAction1Delegate"
      enablesFor="!">
      </action>

   <menu
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.navigator.subMenu"
         label="View Sub Menu"
         path="additions">
      <separator name="group1"/>
      </menu>
      <action
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.navigator.action2" 
         label="View Action 2"
         icon="icons/red_dot.gif"
      menubarPath="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.navigator.subMenu/group1" 
         class="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.ViewAction2Delegate"
      enablesFor="1">
      </action> 
      <action
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.navigator.action3" 
         label="View Action 3"
         icon="icons/red_dot.gif"
      menubarPath="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.navigator.subMenu/group1" 
         class="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.ViewAction3Delegate"
      enablesFor="2+">
      </action> 
   </viewerContribution> 
</extension>
The XML above declares that a contribution to the context menu of the Navigator view is requested (). The first action contribution () is then defined just like the previous example. The attributes described in the previous example are skipped to focus on the new attributes and features of this example.

Notice the attribute enablesFor in the action definition (). This attribute controls the enabled/disabled state of the action based on the current selection. The current selection is obtained from the selection provider given when the context menu was registered by the plug-in developer. The enablesFor attribute value is the selection count condition which must be met to enable the action. If the condition is not met the action is disabled. If the attribute is left out, the action is enabled for any number of items selected. The following attribute formats are supported:

 
Formats Description
! 0 items selected
? 0 or 1 items selected
+ 1 or more items selected
multiple, 2+ 2 or more items selected
n a precise number of items selected (e.g. 4)
* any number of items selected

Action enablement is declared in XML because plug-ins are loaded lazily. Until an action is actually invoked by the user, the plug-in is not loaded and the Workbench uses the enablement logic declared in XML. Once a plug-in is loaded, the delegate class is notified of selection changes and can update the enabled/disabled state of the action. Refer to the org.eclipse.ui.IActionDelegate.selectionChanged(IAction action, ISelection selection) method documentation for more details.

The menu element (), in this example, specifies the sub menu. The label attribute value is the text displayed in the menu. The path attribute specifies the path, starting at the root of the context menu. This attribute works like the menubarPath attribute of the action element which was discussed in the first example.

Within the menu element (), notice that a separator was defined (). A separator serves as a group name into which actions can be added. In this example, the last two actions defined use this separator name in their menubarPath attribute (). This is how the two actions are placed in the sub menu. A menu separator item is added by the Workbench menu manager above and below the group as needed.

The image above shows the result of running this example. Notice the sub menu added to the Navigator's context menu.

The order in which the actions are added to the menu and sub menu is in the same order of how they are listed in the plugin.xml file.

Example 3: Adding an action to an object

Let's look at how to add a single action to a .java file in a Java project.
<extension point="org.eclipse.ui.popupMenus"> 
<objectContribution 
      id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.popup.object"
   objectClass="org.eclipse.core.resources.IFile"
   nameFilter="*.java">
   <filter
         name="projectNature"
         value="org.eclipse.jdt.core.javanature">
      </filter>
      <action
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.object.action1" 
         label="Object Action 1"
         icon="icons/red_dot.gif"
         menubarPath="additions" 
      class="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.ObjectAction1Delegate"> 
      </action> 
   </objectContribution> 
</extension>
The XML above declares a contribution to every context menu () but only when the selected objects all match the type specified in the objectClass attribute (). The attribute can be either a fully qualified class or interface name. When the selection is heterogeneous, the contribution will be applied if it is registered against a common type of the selection. If a direct match is not possible, matching against super classes and super interfaces will be attempted. The action contribution is dependent on the selection only containing objects of the specified type, and is not limited to one view or editor's context menu.

For example, if the file "f1.java" and the project "Java Project" are selected in the Navigator when the context menu is shown for that view, then the action contribution defined by the XML above would be excluded because the object "Java Project" is of type IProject not IFile, and IFile is not a super interface of IProject. However, if the objectClass attribute value in the XML above was org.eclipse.core.resources.IResource, then the action contribution would be included because IResource is a super interface of both IFile ("f1.java") and IProject ("Java Project"), neglecting for the moment the nameFilter attribute.

The nameFilter attribute () is used to further constrain the selection to which this action will apply. In this example, only IFiles that end with the .java extension are considered. The value of this attribute is compared to the org.eclipse.ui.model.IWorkbenchAdapter.getLabel() method result for each object in the selection. If the object does not have an IWorkbenchAdapter, then the object's toString() method is used. If this attribute is not specified, then no filtering is done on the object's name.

The filter element () provides another way of controlling the enablement criteria of an action. These are name/value pairs of attributes for the objects in the selection. The attributes which apply to the selection are type-specific, so the Workbench delegates filtering at this level to the actual selection (see IActionFilter javadoc). In this example, the object attribute name, "projectNature", is defined on IResourceActionFilter and is applicable to all IResources. Therefore, the action contribution will only happen if the IProject of each object in the selection has a Java nature. Refer to the documentation on IActionFilter and its sub-interfaces for a list and description of other named attributes. For more information about project natures, refer to the documentation on org.eclipse.core.resources.IProjectNature interface.

For object contributions, the class attribute () of the action element is the name of a Java class that implements the org.eclipse.ui.IObjectActionDelegate interface. The interface IObjectActionDelegate allows the action delegate to retarget itself to the active part. This is important because only one delegate is created for the action and is shared by all instances of IWorkbenchPart. The action delegate must implement the method setActivePart(IAction action, IWorkbenchPart targetPart). When the action is invoked via its run() method, it must act upon the active part given to the delegate via the last setActivePart() method call.

The image above shows the result of running this example. Notice the object action contribution is added to the Navigator's context menu because a .java file within a Java project is selected.

Developer Guideline: Supporting action contributions in your own context menus

Within the Workbench, action contributions to a context menu is only possible when the menu is made known to the Workbench. This is a voluntary process, but plug-ins are encouraged to expose their menus so that ISVs may extend them. This increases the overall extensability and integration of the platform.

Each context menu should be registered with the Workbench. This is accomplished by calling either org.eclipse.ui.IWorkbenchPartSite.registerContextMenu(MenuManager menuManager, ISelectionProvider selectionProvider) or org.eclipse.ui.IWorkbenchPartSite.registerContextMenu(String menuId, MenuManager menuManager, ISelectionProvider selectionProvider). If a view or editor has more than one context menu to expose, then each one needs to be registered. Once the context menu is registered, the Workbench will automatically insert any action contributions which exist into the menu.

As part of the context menu registration, a unique identifier for each context menu is required to avoid conflicts in the Workbench global registry of context menus. For consistency across all parts, the following strategy should be adopted by all plug-ins registering a context menu:

  • If the view or editor has only one context menu, it should be given the same identifier as the view or editor's identifier. For convenience, publishers can call registerContextMenu(MenuManager, ISelectionProvider) on IWorkbenchPartSite.
  • If the view or editor has more than one context menu, each should be given a unique identifier whose prefix is the identifier of the view or editor. For example, an editor, with identifier com.xyz.bestEditor, has two context menus. The first context menu identifier would be org.xyz.bestEditor.menu1 and the second context menu identifier would be com.xyz.bestEditor.menu2. Register each context menu by calling registerContextMenu(String, MenuManager, ISelectionProvider) on IWorkbenchPartSite.
All context menu identifiers should be published within the javadoc of the view or editor. This makes it easier for ISVs to determine the menu identifier for a particular part and define action contributions. These identifiers are used as the targetID attribute value in action contributions.

Publishers of context menus should include the standard insertion point identifier IWorkbenchActionConstants.MB_ADDITIONS. This default reference point is used for insertion of actions contributed by ISVs. The insertion point is defined by adding a GroupMarker to the menu at an appropriate location for insertion. Other insertion points can be defined and published within the javadoc of the view or editor. This is strongly recommended to allow ISVs better control of where the action will be inserted within the context menu.

A plug-in developer of an object that can be part of a selection in a context menu can implement the org.eclipse.ui.IActionFilter interface. This is a filtering strategy which can perform type-specific filtering based on name/value pairs. This permits an ISV to use these name/value pairs within the filter element in XML to further restrict which objects the action contribution applies to. The Workbench will retrieve the filter for the selection by testing to see if it implements IActionFilter. If that fails, the Workbench will ask for a filter through the IAdaptable mechanism.

Contributing actions to a view's menu or toolbar

A view has a local pull down menu and a toolbar which is initially populated by the view itself. Other plug-ins can contribute actions to this menu and toolbar by using the org.eclipse.ui.viewActions extension point.

Example 4: Adding actions to the Navigator view's menu and toolbar

Let's look at how to contribute a different action to both the pull down menu and toolbar of the Navigator view.
<extension point="org.eclipse.ui.viewActions"> 
<viewContribution 
      id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.view" 
   targetID="org.eclipse.ui.views.ResourceNavigator">
   <action
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.view.action1" 
         label="View Action 1" 
         icon="icons/red_dot.gif"
         tooltip="Tooltip for View Action 1"
      menubarPath="additions"
         class="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.ViewAction1Delegate"
         enablesFor="*">
      </action> 
   <action
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.view.action2" 
         label="View Action 2" 
         icon="icons/red_dot.gif"
         tooltip="Tooltip for View Action 2"
      toolbarPath="group1"
         class="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.ViewAction2Delegate"
         enablesFor="*">
      <selection
            class="org.eclipse.core.resources.IFile"
            name="*.java">
         </selection>
      </action> 
   </viewContribution> 
</extension>
The above XML informs the Workbench that a plug-in wants to contribute to the Navigator's pull down menu and toolbar (). In this example, the targetID attribute () refers to the Navigator view identifier.

The first action element () should look familiar by now, with the same attributes covered in previous examples. The value of the menubarPath attribute () is the same as IWorkbenchActionConstants.MB_ADDITIONS constant, which is the default group that contributors add actions to. Though not shown in this example, it is possible to add a sub-menu to the view's pull down menu simply by defining a menu element. Refer to the previous example on adding sub-menu to a context menu for more details.

The second action element () is only slightly different than the first one. Instead of adding the action to the pull down menu (using the menubarPath attribute), the action is added to the view's toolbar (). The value of the toolbarPath attribute specifies the group into which the action should be added. If the group specified does not exist, then it is created at the end of the toolbar and a separator is added if required. Views may publish groups to which a plug-in can add actions inside the toolbar. In the case of the Navigator view's toolbar, it does not publish any groups. Unlike a menu which has the default IWorkbenchActionConstants.MB_ADDITIONS group, a toolbar is not required to provide one.

The selection element () can further constrain the selection to which this action applies. The class attribute specifies the selection object type that must be met for the action to be enabled. In this example, the action is only enabled if all the objects within the selection implement the IFile interface. The name attribute specifies a wildcard match against each object in the selection. The value of this attribute is compared to the org.eclipse.ui.model.IWorkbenchAdapter.getLabel() method result for each object in the selection. In this example, the action is only enabled if all the objects in the selection end with the .java extension. The selection element is ignored by the Workbench if the enablesFor attribute is not specified.

The image above shows the result of running this example. Notice the action added to the Navigator's pull down menu. The action added in the toolbar is enabled because the current selection contains .java files.

Developer Guideline: Supporting action contributions in your own views

Developers of a view should include the standard insertion point identifier IWorkbenchActionConstants.MB_ADDITIONS in the view's pull down menu. This reference point will be used for insertion of actions contributed by ISVs. The insertion point is defined by adding a GroupMarker to the menu at an appropriate location for insertion. Other insertion points can be defined and published within the javadoc of the view. This is strongly recommended to allow ISVs better control of where the action will be inserted within the pull down menu.

Contributing actions to an editor's menu or toolbar

An editor will contribute its actions to the main menu bar and toolbar of the Workbench window. Another plug-in can contribute actions for a particular editor by using the org.eclipse.ui.editorActions extension point. Each action extension is created and shared by all instances of the same editor type.

Example 5: Adding actions to the default text editor's toolbar

Let's look at how to contribute two actions to the toolbar of the default text editor.
<extension point="org.eclipse.ui.editorActions"> 
<editorContribution 
      id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.editor" 
   targetID="org.eclipse.ui.DefaultTextEditor">
   <action
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.editor.action1" 
         label="Editor Action 1" 
         icon="icons/red_dot.gif"
         tooltip="Tooltip for Editor Action 1"
      toolbarPath="Normal/additions"
         class="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.EditorAction1Delegate"> 
      </action> 
   <action
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.editor.action2" 
         label="Editor Action 2" 
         icon="icons/red_dot.gif"
         tooltip="Tooltip for Editor Action 2"
         helpContextId="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.editor.action2" 
      toolbarPath="Normal/save.ext"
         class="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.EditorAction2Delegate">
      </action> 
   </editorContribution> 
</extension>
As with previous examples, the first few lines instruct the Workbench that actions are being contributed to the default text editor ( and ). In this example, two actions are added to the toolbar of the editor.

The toolbarPath attribute value ( and ) is different than previous examples in that the first segment of the path represents the toolbar identifier, while the second segment represents the group within the toolbar. The toolbar identifier allows the plug-in to determine which toolbar the action is added to. Currently in the Workbench, only one toolbar is supported and its identifier is "Normal". If the group does not exist, then it is not created within the specified toolbar, and the action is not added to the specified toolbar. Valid toolbar groups are listed in the documentation of the IWorkbenchActionConstants interface and the plugin providing the target editor.

The first action () is added to the default group called IWorkbenchActionConstants.MB_ADDITIONS using the toolbarPath attribute (). The second action () is being added to the group called IWorkbenchActionConstants.SAVE_EXT using the toolbarPath attribute (). Refer to the interface IWorkbenchActionConstants for a list of other groups provided by the Workbench window main toolbar.

The image above shows the result of running this example. Notice the action next to the save tool items and the action added at the end of the toolbar.

Example 6: Adding actions to the default text editor's menu bar

Let's look at how to contribute to the default text editor's menu bar the following:
  • an action to the File menu,
  • a sub-menu with two actions to the Edit menu,
  • a new top level menu with one action.
<extension point="org.eclipse.ui.editorActions"> 
   <editorContribution 
      id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.editor2" 
   targetID="org.eclipse.ui.DefaultTextEditor">
      <action
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.editor.action1" 
         label="Editor Action 1" 
         icon="icons/red_dot.gif"
         tooltip="Tooltip for Editor Action 1"
      menubarPath="file/save.ext"
         class="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.EditorAction1Delegate"> 
      </action>
                
   <menu
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.editor.subMenu"
         label="Editor Sub Menu"
         path="edit/additions">
         <separator name="group1"/>
      </menu>
      <action
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.editor.action2" 
         label="Editor Action 2" 
         icon="icons/red_dot.gif"
         tooltip="Tooltip for Editor Action 2"
      menubarPath="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.editor.subMenu/group1"
         class="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.EditorAction2Delegate">
      </action> 
      <action
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.editor.action3" 
         label="Editor Action 3" 
         icon="icons/red_dot.gif"
         tooltip="Tooltip for Editor Action 3"
      menubarPath="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.editor.subMenu/group1"
         class="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.EditorAction3Delegate">
      </action> 
                
   <menu
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.editor.topLevelMenu"
         label="EditorTopLevelMenu"
         path="additions">
         <separator name="group1"/>
      </menu>
      <action
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.editor.action4" 
         label="Editor Action 4" 
         icon="icons/red_dot.gif"
         tooltip="Tooltip for Editor Action 4"
      menubarPath="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.editor.topLevelMenu/group1"
         class="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.EditorAction4Delegate">
      </action> 
   </editorContribution> 
</extension>
As in previous examples, the targetID attribute value () lets the Workbench know that the actions are being added to the default text editor. The first action declaration specifies a menubarPath attribute (). The value comes from IWorkbenchActionConstants.M_FILE and IWorkbenchActionConstants.SAVE_EXT constants. This tells the Workbench to add the action to the save group of the File menu.

Next a sub-menu is defined in the Edit menu (). The path attribute of the menu element is made up from the IWorkbenchActionConstants.M_EDIT and IWorkbenchActionConstants.MB_ADDITIONS constants. The following two action declarations have a menubarPath attribute ( and ) which specifies the path to the group created for the sub menu ().

In the Workbench's main menu bar, there is a problem with contributing actions to a contributed sub-menu. These sub-menu items are lost by the Workbench, so the sub-menu is empty and therefore is visible but disabled. This sub-menu problem is only for editor menu contributions and action set contributions. This is why the sub-menu contribution to the Edit menu is disabled.

The last part of the XML is used to define a new top level menu to the left of the Window menu (). The path attribute of the menu element comes from the IWorkbenchActionConstants.MB_ADDITIONS constant. This is the default group plug-ins use to add top level menus to the menu bar. These new menus are always added to the left of the Window menu.

The last action element has a menubarPath attribute () which specifies the path to the group created for the top level menu (). That is the location where the action is added by the Workbench.

The image above shows the result of running this example. Notice the action below the save menu items in the File menu and the new top level menu.

When contributing to the Perspective or Project menu, the path name is not the same as the menu name. The constant IWorkbenchActionConstants.M_VIEW is used to represent the path to the Perspective menu and the constant IWorkbenchActionConstants.M_WORKBENCH is used to represent the path to the Project menu. This is for historical reasons; these menus were renamed after the constants were defined as API.

Developer Guideline: Supporting action contributions in your own editors

Publishers of an editor should include the standard insertion point identifier IWorkbenchActionConstants.MB_ADDITIONS in all top level menus added by the editor. This reference point is used for insertion of actions contributed by ISVs. The insertion point is defined by adding a GroupMarker to the menu at an appropriate location for insertion. Other insertion points can be defined and published within the javadoc of the editor. This is strongly recommended to allow ISVs better control of where the action is inserted within the menu bar.

Contributing actions via action sets

An action set is a mechanism that allows a plug-in to contribute menus, menu items, and toolbar items to the main menu bar and toolbar of the Workbench window. It is important to understand what action sets are meant to be used for. An action set should contribute common actions which are not specific to any particular view or editor. Typically, an action set would include creation actions, global actions, etc. It is not a mechanism for a view to "promote" its actions to the main menu bar and toolbar.

The user can choose which action sets are visible. The goal is to let users customize the Workbench environment to suit their needs and override the assumptions made by the plug-in about which actions are appropriate. Plug-in developers of views and editors are encouraged to define important actions locally within their own menu and toolbar so that they are available even when the action set is not visible.

A plug-in uses the org.eclipse.ui.actionSets extension point to define an action set. These actions appear in the Workbench window by user preference. See the customize perspective dialog by selecting the menu item Perspective->Customize... and then expanding the Other category.

Example 7: Adding an action set

Let's look at how to add an action set which contains two toolbar items.
<extension point="org.eclipse.ui.actionSets">
   <actionSet
      id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.set"
   label="Action Set 1"
   visible="false">
      <action
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.set.action1" 
         label="Set Action 1" 
         icon="icons/red_dot.gif"
         tooltip="Tooltip for Set Action 1"
      toolbarPath="Normal/additions"
         class="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.SetAction1Delegate"> 
      </action> 
      <action
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.set.action2" 
         label="Set Action 2" 
         icon="icons/red_dot.gif"
         tooltip="Tooltip for Set Action 2"
      toolbarPath="Normal/additions"
      style="pulldown"
      class="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.SetAction2Delegate">
      </action> 
   </actionSet> 
</extension>
The attribute label () specifies the name of the group of actions. This text appears in the customize perspective dialog box (Perspective->Customize...) by expanding the "Other" tree item.

The attribute visible () is optional and specifies whether this action set should be initially made visible when any perspective is open. This option will only be honoured when the user opens a new perspective which has not been customized. The user can override this setting by customizing the perspective. By default, the value of this attribute is false. Caution should be taken when enabling this attribute so as not to abuse it. If every plug-in enables this attribute, then all perspectives will be cluttered with these action sets. A better approach is for the plug-in to specify which perspective(s) should show its action sets by using the extension point org.eclipse.ui.perspectiveExtensions. Please refer to "Extending an Existing Perspective" in Dave Springgay's article "Using Perspectives in the Eclipse UI" for more details.

The definition of each action looks the same as in previous examples. However, the toolbarPath attribute ( and ) value is different in that the first segment of the path represents the toolbar identifier, while the second segment represents the group within the toolbar. The toolbar identifier allows the plug-in to determine which toolbar the action is added to. Currently in the Workbench, only one toolbar is supported and its identifier is "Normal". If the group does not exist, then it is created within the specified toolbar.

The second action definition introduces the optional style attribute (). When set to "pulldown", the tool item has an optional pull down menu. The tool item has the same look as the tool item "Open The New Wizard" provided by the Workbench window. This attribute is ignored for menu item contributions.

The class attribute () specifies the Java class that is loaded to perform the action invoked by the user. This class must implement org.eclipse.ui.IWorkbenchWindowActionDelegate interface if the style attribute is "push", "radio", or "toggle"; or org.eclipse.ui.IWorkbenchWindowPulldownDelegate interface if the style attribute is "pulldown". This delegate class can control the enabled/disabled state of the action when the selection changes, but only once the plug-in is loaded. Until then, the enabled/disabled state of the action is controlled by other XML attributes like enablesFor and selection.

The image above shows the result of running this example. Notice the two actions added at the end of the toolbar, with one having a drop down menu option. To show this action set in the current perspective, select the menu item Perspective->Customize..., expand the Other category, and check the option "Action Set 1".

Example 8: Supporting actions on custom editors and views

Let's look at how to add a single action to the context menu of your own editor or view
<extension point="org.eclipse.ui.popupMenus"> 
   <viewerContribution 
      id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.popup.xmleditor"
   targetID="org.eclipse.articles.xmleditor.editors.XMLEditor.context"> 
      <action
         id="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.editor.xmltextaction1" 
         label="XML Text Editor Action"
         icon="icons/red_dot.gif"
         menubarPath="additions" 
         class="org.eclipse.ui.articles.action.contribution.EditorAction1Delegate"> 
      </action> 
   </viewerContribution> 
</extension>
This is very similar to Example 1 covered above; and only differences from Example 1 are highlighted here. This example uses the XML editor created using the standard eclipse wizard:
  • File > New > Project > Plug-in Project
  • Project Name: org.eclipse.articles.xmlEditor, click "Next"
  • On the "Templates page", select "Plug-in with an editor" (this creates a sample XML editor)
  • Accept all defaults and click to the finish.

The targetID attribute () specifies the context menu identifier for the target view or editor (XMLEditor.EDITOR_CONTEXT). The documentation of the plug-in providing the view or editor will list the identifier to use. If none is specified in the documentation, then the context menu is not registered by the plug-in for external action contribution. A view or editor may have more than one context menu.

The code below shows the additions that you have to make to the XMLEditor created using the standard template.

public class XMLEditor extends TextEditor {

        /** The ID of this editor as defined in plugin.xml */
        public static final String EDITOR_ID = "org.eclipse.articles.xmleditor.editors.XMLEditor";

        /** The ID of the editor context menu */
        public static final String EDITOR_CONTEXT = EDITOR_ID + ".context";

        /** The ID of the editor ruler context menu */
        public static final String RULER_CONTEXT = EDITOR_CONTEXT + ".ruler";

        protected void initializeEditor() {
                super.initializeEditor();
                setEditorContextMenuId(EDITOR_CONTEXT);
                setRulerContextMenuId(RULER_CONTEXT);
        }
        ...
}

The image above shows the result of running this example. Notice the "XML Text Editor Action" is added to the XML editor's context menu. This is where the “additions” group is located in the default text editor context menu.

Conclusion

This article has covered the extension points that a plug-in may use to contribute actions to the Workbench. The best way to learn more about action contributions is to take the examples and experiment with them. Plug-in developers should pay special attention to the recommendations made here so that ISVs can contribute actions and achieve a high level of integration. More information is available in the Platform Plug-in Developer Guide from the Help perspective, and in the org.eclipse.ui extension points documentation from the Platform Plug-in Developer Guide, expand Reference->Extension Points Reference->Workbench.

Running the examples

The file "action_contribution_examples.zip" contains the complete source code for all the examples in this article. Extract the content of the ZIP file into the Eclipse "plugins" directory to install the action contribution example plug-in. Then edit the plugin.xml file to uncomment the example to be run.

Notices

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