Language-Parametric Methods for Developing Interactive Programming Systems

Gabriël Konat

Date: Mon, November 18, 2019
Time: 15:00
Room: Senaatszaal, Auditorium
Note: This is a PhD defense. The candidate's talk starts at 14.30.

All computers run software, such as operating systems, web browsers, and video games, which are used by billions of people around the world. Therefore, it is important to develop high-quality software, which is only possible through interactive programming systems that involve programmers in the exchange of correct and responsive feedback. Fortunately, for many general-purpose programming languages, integrated development environments provide interactive programming systems through code editors and editor services.

On the other hand, Domain-Specific Languages (DSLs) are programming languages that are specialized towards a specific problem domain, enabling better software through direct expression of problems and solutions in terms of the domain. However, because DSLs are specialized to a specific domain, and there are many problem domains, we need to develop many new DSLs, including their interactive programming systems!

Ad-hoc development of an interactive programming system for a DSL is infeasible, as developing one requires a huge development effort. Therefore, our vision is to create and improve language-parametric methods for developing interactive programming systems. A language-parametric method takes as input a description of a DSL, and automatically implements (parts of) an interactive programming system, reducing development effort, thereby making DSL development feasible. In this dissertation, we develop three languageparametric methods throughout the five core chapters.

We develop a language-parametric method for incremental name and type analysis, in which language developers specify the name and type rules of their DSL in meta-languages (languages specialized towards the domain of language development). From such a specification, we automatically derive an incremental name and type analysis, including editor services such as code completion and inline error messages.

We develop a language-parametric method for interactively bootstrapping the meta-language compilers of language workbenches. We version metalanguage compilers, explicitly denote dependencies between them, and perform fixpoint bootstrapping, where we iteratively self-apply meta-language compilers to derive new versions until no change occurs, or until a defect is found. These bootstrapping operations can be started and rolled back (when defect) in the interactive programming system of the language workbench.

Finally, we develop PIE, a language-parametric method for developing interactive software development pipelines, a superset of interactive programming environments. With PIE, pipeline developers can concisely write pipeline programs in terms of tasks and dependencies between tasks and files, which the PIE runtime then incrementally executes. PIE scales down to many lowimpact changes and up to large dependency graphs through a change-driven incremental build algorithm.


Gabriël Konat. Language-Parametric Methods for Developing Interactive Programming Systems. PhD thesis, TU Delft. November 2019.

Advisor: Eelco Visser

See also the Symposium on Build Systems on the same day.

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