IBM Safari to help developers navigate languages

Project to be offered to Eclipse

Seeking to assist software developers coping with many languages, IBM plans to offer its Safari technology to the Eclipse open source community, an IBM official said at the EclipseCon 2007 conference on Thursday.

IBM describes Safari as an Eclipse-based metatooling framework intended to speed the building of sophisticated development environments, or IDEs, for new or existing programming languages. The project is moving toward becoming an open source Eclipse technology project.

The basic idea is to incubate the technology and start to build a community around it, said Robert Fuhrer, an IBM research staff member involved in Safari.

Developers these days must deal with multiple languages and technologies, and Safari is intended to make that easier. IBM has languages being designed that already represent mixes and interactions between technologies such as Java and SQL, Fuhrer said.

"These are problems that real developers face today and we need to play catch-up and get the right kind of tooling support for those kinds of scenarios," Fuhrer said.

"The reality of software development at this point is lots and lots of developers are faced with mixes of languages in lots of different varieties, particularly in a Web platform," Fuhrer said.

Safari supports features such as parser management, syntax highlighting, and re-factoring. Static program analysis and debugging also are goals. The project offers language service-creation wizards, class libraries, and "code skeletons" to get a language service-implementer started.

IBM's Web site on Safari said the effort has been driven in part by the need to build full-featured IDEs for language research activities at the company. One activity to benefit from Safari is the development of a JavaScript IDE, taking place at IBM's Tokyo Research Lab.

Other IBM research projects impacted include X10, which is a Java-derived language; XJ, featuring XML access and Java, and the JikesPG grammar language specification.

Accommodating multiple languages within Eclipse was the subject of panel session at the conference on Thursday. Safari was noted during the session, as well as the reality that Eclipse has grown beyond its origin as a platform for Java development.

Doug Schaefer, a senior software developer at QNX Software Systems and the moderator of the session, said: "It's gotten pretty clear that Eclipse isn't just Java anymore."

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