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Re: [cross-project-issues-dev] Information about the "Generifing JFace viewers" project


As I've made pretty clear in the past, I'm a huge non-fan of this effort.   I find it ironic that the platform is rife with raw types (List), and rather than investing an effort to eliminate those, effort will be invested on generifying things that just aren't screaming to be generified, and to do so in a context that is heavily dominated by Object[], which interacts exceedingly poorly with generics.   Thought I've made that argument already, I think it bears repeating...

Anywhere you see something like T[] where T is a type parameter, you already have to get suspicious.   Of course we see this in java.util.Collection:

    <T> T[] toArray(T[] a);

But note that T is derived from the argument, and argument my not be null, so even in an erased runtime environment we can determine a reasonable T from "a", so suspicion alleviated and that's why we can have generic collection implementations...

Note that however nice it would have been that toArray() method looked like this:

    E[] toArray()

rather than

   Object[] toArray

because you can't implement this generically, unless you provide some object with the necessary runtime information about E to the constructor of an implementation class...

So consider this:

public interface IStructuredContentProvider extends IContentProvider {
    public Object[] getElements(Object inputElement);

there's no relationship between the input element's type and the type of the array, so if someone proposes

public interface IStructuredContentProvider<X, Y> extends IContentProvider<X> {
    public Y[] getElements(X inputElement);

I'm going to be very suspicious.  What this tells me is there must be some sensible way of being sure that I'll be getting back a real Y[] instance and not an Object[] instance.  What could that sensible way be? 

Of course directly implementing that interface in a sensible way is a good solution, but what about generic solutions?

Consider org.eclipse.jface.viewers.ArrayContentProvider (and note that EMF generally has only content provider implementations analogous to this).   This existing implementation just don't work.  You can just forget about org.eclipse.jface.viewers.ArrayContentProvider.instance, you can just deprecate org.eclipse.jface.viewers.ArrayContentProvider.getInstance(), and you'd better add a public constructor and deprecate it while your at it, because this implementation

    public Object[] getElements(Object inputElement) {
        if (inputElement instanceof Object[]) {
            return (Object[]) inputElement;
        if (inputElement instanceof Collection) {
            return ((Collection) inputElement).toArray();
        return new Object[0];

simply doesn't work for collections.   You'll need new constructors and new getInstance methods each of which specify the array type, either as java.lang.Class or as an array prototype, as in the first form to toArray above.  You'd have to provide that even for the constructor that takes a collection, just the collection instance will not suffice.

Great, so much for adding generics to JFace being erasure compatible, counter to what was the case when Java's collection library was generified.   Nothing in the collections library was deprecated and no new methods were added.  In other words, for JFace's changes, you can't just turn off warnings about raw types, you must deal with the deprecations and API changes.  So if you're trying to maintain something that works with old versions of Eclipse (i.e., EMF is compatible with Eclipse 3.5), you're completely hosed.  You can't add generics, because you can't compile against an older target platform that does have it, so you simply have to live with a sea of raw type warnings (or turn them all off and lose the value of even having such warnings).  Also, you can't start using the new methods instead of the deprecated ones, so you have to live with that sea of warning as well, or just turn them off too.  Nor you can you exploit any of it to provide value to clients (given the premise there is value), because you can't reasonably address this ArrayContentProvider problem without inflicting the same pain on the clients (who actually have better things to do, go figure).

Even the premise that this effort has value is questionable.  Granted, someone writing their first content provider might find it useful, if (and only if) it's one that's concrete and if (and only if) it doesn't need to deal with several input types that have no common super type (and even in that case they'll still typically end up with instanceof tests to return subtype-appropriate results).  That's on the argument side of the getElements.  On the return type side, it's of no benefit to the author; they just pass this content provider into a generic viewer that doesn't care whether it's Object[] or X[]. So in fact it's just a burden with which one must conform.

So is the value of this whole exercise eliminating instance of checks for the arguments of the provider implementations?  Does this tangible (but small) benefit justify the impact on the long established community?  Do we expect that community to eliminate their deprecations and generify all their code?  (Sorry guys and girls, all your existing toArray() calls are invalid, or, don't worry about it, just sprinkle <Object, Object> everywhere.)  I wonder, will JDT and PDE do that?  If not, why expect the rest of the community to do it?  And if you don't expect that, what exactly are you expecting will come from this?

I suggest folks carefully weight the benefits against the disruptive nature of this type of change.


On 30/07/2014 11:42 AM, Daniel Megert wrote:
Just for the records, here are some constraints that I required in order to agree to continue that work:

- Some stuff just doesn't make sense to be generified because it often contains various kinds of objects, e.g. (tree)  viewers. See also
- If generified types cannot be plugged together unless everything is again just Object or Class, it's not worth to generify those types.
- The generified code must be in a shape so that clients can start to fix their code by invoking Refactor > Infer Generic Type Arguments... This needs to be validate on existing Platform UI code.


From:        Lars Vogel <lars.vogel@xxxxxxxxx>
To:        cross-project-issues-dev@xxxxxxxxxxx, Jeanderson Candido <jeandersonbc@xxxxxxxxx>, Hendrik Still <Gamma32@xxxxxxxxx>
Date:        30.07.2014 11:23
Subject:        [cross-project-issues-dev] Information about the "Generifing JFace        viewers" project
Sent by:        cross-project-issues-dev-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxx


as some of you probably remember, the platform.ui team started a GSoC project last year to generify the JFace viewer framework. We (platform.ui team together with John Arthone and Dani Megert) decided that it is worth to finish this project and started a new GSoC project.

Jeanderson Barros Candido (cc) is working on this project with Hendrik Still (cc) (GSoC student from last year) and me as mentor.

I personally think the work looks already very good and plan to integrated it soon into the master. We are trying to learn from the experience from last year, therefore:

-  We plan to integrate it as a whole, not piece wise so people can fix warning messages created by this change
- We reworking the JFace snippets and tests at the same time to have a first proof-point
- We plan to use it for platform views to validate that it works

Of course generifying an existing API, will result in certain limitations and some suggested a complete rewrite of the JFace viewer framework but this is currently not the scope of this project.

The implementation is currently done at Github: and we do our planning in

If someone wants to test the new implementation and provide feedback, please let us know.

Best regards, Lars_______________________________________________
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