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Monday, March 28, 2005

Frameworks and Plug-ins and Loose Coupling

From ACM Queue about frameworks and plug-ins...

This article identifies some of the concepts around the foundation of pure plug-in architectures and how they affect various stakeholders when taking a plug-in approach. The intention is to discuss the general issues involved, but the article also presents some lessons learned from Eclipse (www.eclipse.org) to better illustrate some of the concepts.
The main problem with a framework like Eclipse is that so many unnecessary dependencies are forced on plug-in developers. You have to buy the full Eclipse approach to get even half the benefits.

What lessons have we learned in the last 15 years of building frameworks like this? Are we having trouble understanding what is important, what has been learned already in the software industry?

Why build a framework like Eclipse in the 21st century when you could build a framework like FIELD which was built in the 1980s? Certainly the full benefits of Eclipse could be built *using* an approach like FIELD's. Plug-ins that did not or could not support the full benefits of Eclipse would then have fall-back positions. New approaches could evolve that stretch beyond the imaginary boundaries of the current Eclipse framework.

What is it about FIELD? Well FIELD is based on integrated components loosely coupled via asynchronous message passing.

That may ring a bell for 21st century programmers.


Considered Opinion said...

Perhaps Frameworks, as usually thought of, are too big. There are simpler (what I call) Domain Specific Frameworks. Smaller, more manageable...

Anonymous said...


am I far off the track by seeing the FIELD message passing framework as merely a distributed version of the Smalltalk dependancy mechanism?

Patrick Logan said...

Maybe but it is more than size, it is also style. Eclipse all but forces the Eclipse style using Java and specific, detailed components. The oldest articles descibe levels of integration and so on. I'm not sure they've retained that approach, but perhaps few components have opted for the less elaborate approaches.

Patrick Logan said...

FIELD and Smalltalk dependency mechanisms...

Not so far off. Not so far off from any publish/subscribe architecture.

FIELD also follows the UNIX style by being language neutral and minimal surface area. Eclipse of course is almost 100% pure Java even though the applications of Eclipse support others kinds of development.

Anonymous said...

Everything requires marketing. Steve Reiss was so quiet that he seemd weird to a lot of people.

Also the GUI of FIELD was really ugly.

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.