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A NetBeans UML Plugin Takes Shape in Serbia

07.17.2013
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A recent YouTube video stirred up some excitement amongst NetBeans users. In it, viewers saw first glimpses of a new community-led project--the revival of the NetBeans UML Plugin. The plugin is in development by a team from the University of Belgrade's newly launched Open-Source Center, and the team is led by Zoran Sevarac, an Assistant Professor at the institution and who is also a long-time member of the NetBeans Dream Team. In this interview, Zoran shares more about the plugin's development and roadmap.

What is the Open-Source Center at the University of Belgrade?

The Open-Source Center  is a part of the Department for Software Engineering at the University. The center is dedicated to the development of open source software projects and using these projects to also teach software development. (More about the Open-Source Center on NetBeans Zone.)

In what stage is the UML plugin currently?

The plugin is still under development--we're finalizing the first phase--it will soon be ready for an early-preview release. At the moment, people can use it to draw class diagrams, and I expect the plugin to have some basic code generation functionality soon.



What other features are planned?

We plan to do sequence diagrams for sure [since there is no good open source tool for that at the moment]. Most likely we'll do  module diagrams as component diagrams. After the preview release, when we get feedback from the community, we'll consider additional types of diagrams/features.

We also want to provide simple Java API for UML models (check out the sources in UMLModel module), and maybe some experimental AI-based algorithms for software design analysis in the future (similar to what's been done in Featureous).

Is the plugin (in its current stage) available for download and testing by the public?

Yes, the source code is available from SVN on Java.net . People can checkout and run it from the NetBeans IDE. However, I recommend that they wait another week or two, since we still have to polish some bugs.

There have been other attempts to create a NetBeans-UML plugin. How is your team's approach different?

Well, we want to create an easy-to-use, developer-friendly tool--a tool that will allow developers to quickly implement basic design and then continue coding. We want to provide enough features to be useful, and to leave out everything that developers don't find useful. Judging from the comments on Twitter and YouTube so far there are many users who likes this approach, and I want to thank Tim Boudreau for giving us insightful tips about UML tooling on his blog.

What challenges has your team faced on this project?

The first challenge was to learn how to use Visual Library for this project. We're still not experts, but I think we're now able to figure out what we need. Another was to keep the design clean and simple. I think we're doing well, though we've had do some refactoring from time to time.

An upcoming challenge is to create good documentation for the project so new developers are able to continue development. We have two students writing their graduate thesis about this project, so that will be a kind of introductory material for future developers.

Probably the most important of all is to create a good user interface and interaction design. It's not the main focus at the moment.

Why is it not a focus?

We want to avoid getting stuck with UI in the beginning, without having more experience with Visual Library. Our development strategy is to create a basic feature set, stabilize the design first, and then work on more fancy features related to UI. (Visual Library provides a pretty good user interface with basic features out-of-the-box.) We also want to get feedback from community and then decide how/what things should be done.

How many people are working on the UML plugin?

At the moment, three of us: Jelena Djordjevic, Uros Stojkic and me. There were also early contributors such as Jelena Stojanovic, Igor Cordas, Marjan Hrzic and Vedrana Gajic. All are my students. We also have some new potential developers who signed up for the project after the last NetBeans training in Belgrade we had with Geertjan [Wielenga].

Can the public get involved in the development?

Of course. Actually I'm hoping that something like that will happen after the first release. I've received some emails and questions about this already. The challenge will be to introduce them to the project; maybe we'll create some wiki on NetBeans.org for that.

Do you have a target date for when the plugin will be ready?

Well, I'm hoping to have the first version available in the next few weeks. We'll do our best to have something ready to use in September--a demo at Java One 2013. :-) I'm having a session at JavaOne this year together with Sven Reimers and Jaroslav Tulach (Building Rich Visual Tools in Java) in which we'll share some experience and best practice from this project.

Good luck with the NetBeans UML Plugin project, Zoran. We look forward to hearing more about the next phases from you and your team.


Originally published at https://blogs.oracle.com/tinuola/.

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Tinu Awopetu.