kexi project
Rapid Database Application Development
Development
"Microsoft Access for Linux"

Home Download FAQ Support Features Handbook Screenshots Screencasts Compile Kexi Development Authors Contact License Sponsorship Translate This Site

wiki navigation:

Front Page
[info] [diff] [login]
[recent changes]
[most popular]
You can donate
to Kexi Project:
Via PayPal

Spread the word about Kexi!
Get Kexi Now!

Built on the KDE technology
KDE

Member of the Calligra Suite

No Software Patents!

Macros

 working title: KoMacro / KexiMacro
 target: Generic Macro-framework for Kexi (proposal for KOffice)
 planning started: may 2005, js
 planning extended: since jule 2005, sebsauer
 development started: october 2005

Table of Contents
   Definition
   Introduction
   Usage
     Automating tasks
     Batch-processing
     Actions in Kexi Forms
     Macro and scripting
   Design
     Action
     Macro
     Function
     Context
     Variable
     Security
     Example solutions
     Ideas
   Developing
     Diagram of components

Definition

Do not confuse Macros with scripts. Macros are simple tasks/actions/commands set up into sequences for later execution. So, they are kind of abstract containers for more specific functionality and useful for automating different tasks.

Macro is a program being dependent on "host" application; Macro has no assigned its own process identifier and private memory area. Script can have all of that. Please read the definition of macros as well.

See also

^ toc

Introduction

Macros are abstract actions providing a flexible way to perform dynamic execution-chains. Think of a Macro as simple container to put extended KAction's together.

Those extended KAction's should implement functionality like

  • call a Qt QObject's slot.
  • connect Qt signals and slots together.
  • optional use KDE DCOP-functionality for IPC/RPC. We can't depend on DCOP cause it would require to have the DCOP-Server running on each supported platform and may introduce some security related problems.
  • optional use the Kross Scripting framework to call a scripting function.
  • pass arguments/parameters like a QString around. So, as example if we have the execution-chain myaction1=>myaction2 the value myaction1 returns could be passed as argument to myaction2.

While a Macro does implement functionality like

  • collect a tree of extended KAction's or even other Macros and execute them if the Macro itself got executed.
  • provide an execution context to define local variables once a Macro got executed. That way we are able to share those variables in all extended KAction's the Macro defines.
  • marshal/unmarshal the Macro to/from XML to be able to save and restore the serialized XML into Macro instances.
^ toc

Usage

^ toc

Automating tasks

Automating tasks is one of the main goals that could be archived with Macros. As example it should be quit easy to execute a Macro each time a project got opened and let those Macro open a form named e.g. "startup" if there exists such a form (so, we are able to define startup-dialogs very easy :-). Another example would be that each time a modified project got saved a script-extensions, provided by the scripting bridge Kross, is executed. That way the user is able to start complex tasks with just one single Macro dynamicly connected with some Qt signal.

^ toc

Batch-processing

You may like to automate some work. Let's assume as example we have the actions

  1. open a project
  2. add a new table
  3. save and close the project

and we may like to execute them with a single click. While it's not possible yet it will be with Macros. Just put all those actions into a Macro and execute the Macro.

Those kind of batch processing needs to implement functionality like

  • abort execution and throw an exception if one action in the chain failed.
  • pass additional arguments/parameters to an action like for the example above; 1) the name of the project that should be opened and 2) the name of the table to add.
  • asynchron execution via signal and slots.
  • provide an execution context like e.g. access to the KexiMainWindow(external) or to local variables.
^ toc

Actions in Kexi Forms

Kexi does include an own data-aware WYSIWYG Form Designer to let users build nice forms with just some clicks. At the moment it's possible to connect a button with "Assign Action" with most Kexi actions to execute the defined shared action if the button has been clicked. For example it's possible to call a Kross Scripting function or to just call a slot the KexiMainWindow(external) provides or to connect the button's "click" signal with a Macro (if the user clicks the button the Macro is executed).

More info...

^ toc

Macro and scripting

Kexi provides the Kross scripting bridge to enable using of embedded interpreters like python. That way users are able to write complex python scripts to e.g. access the whole KexiDB functionality. At the moment scripting is used to provide scripting extensions like the "ExportHTML.py" to export a table or a query to a HTML-file or the "ProjectDocumentator.py" that generates some kind of project documentation including details about the tableschemas the project uses. Both scripts are local installed part of the Kexi-application. Scripting code embedded in a project is the other usage-scenario. There the scripts are bind to a single project and not stored local rather then in the project-database. In that case the Scripting-editor is used to allow the user to edit those scripts. We arn't able to access e.g. forms from within scripting or activate actions Kexi provides or just call slots the Querydesigner provides. To archive that we would need Kross-wrappers for all those functionality Kexi provides. Also it would blow up the clean API we have right now between Kexi and Kross (the code in kexi/core/scripting.{h|cpp} does handle the whole connection between both code-bases and beside those code there is no dependency between Kexi and the Kross-framework).

Macros don't need to take care of dependencies cause they are designed to depend on the application that uses the Macro-framework. They are much more abstract and limited to fit only a hand full of tasks like automating or batch-processing. They provide a GUI for comfortable editing rather then an own whole interpreter-language you have to learn to deal with.

The Macro-framework provides a bridge between Kexi-functionality and the Kross scripting bridge. Kross would only need to wrap the Macro-framework and earns access to the Kexi-application that way without depending on the application itself and without knowing something about those host-application. So, the Macro-framework would be a bridge between Kexi and Kross and each application that uses the Macro-framework would be transparently accessible by the Kross too (Kross <=> Macro <=> Application). At the end it's all about beeing flexible and having clean and maintable interfaces between those components.

^ toc

Design

^ toc

Action

  • extends KAction.
  • asynchron cause of Qt signals and slots.
  • enables manipulation of local variables provided with the execution-context
  • each Action has an optional returnvalue.
  • each Action has an execution-state like successfully, failed or exception.
  • each Action has optional arguments/parameters.
^ toc

Macro

  • Macro is an Action too.
  • has children like other Macros, Actions or Functions.
  • On execution the childrens are executed in an execution-chain.
^ toc

Function

  • A function is a Qt slot that extends an Action too.
  • Each slot defines a receiver that is a QObject instance.
  • Each slot defines the receivers QCString-slot that should be invoked.
^ toc

Context

  • If a Macro or an Action got executed a local execution-context is created.
  • Each context provides local variables for there scope.
  • Each context has runtime-informations like who started the execution and provides access to e.g. the KMainWindow instance.
  • Handles exceptions and errors.
^ toc

Variable

  • Could be a QVariant or a QObject.
  • Hold predefined or dynamic values.
  • e.g. define the result of a Qt slot as value or pass a variable as Qt slot argument/parameter.
  • Needs to be dynamic.
^ toc

Security

It is very difficult to provide a strong security around a scripting interpreter like python. For Macros it's damn easy to limit access cause we are able to define the functionality a Macro is able to access. We don't need to take care of different levels of trust cause Macros are always untrusted. They may come from untrusted sources like a remote database if stored within a KexiProject(external). They are just not able to access the filesystem and wipe off your home-directory!

While Macros are only little helper to get stuff automated, we may like to add someday a way to access dcop or to call scripting code like an extension. As you may imagine those topics are security-related and we need to take care of any kind of connection we put between Macros and such code.

One way would be to just ask the user if a Macro e.g. tries to call a scriptfunction and warn him. The better cause more flexible solution would be to implement the Security-Manager and use it for Macros that try to access possible insecure areas.

^ toc

Example solutions

  • A GUI for defining function calls.
See how it was done with Kommander: http://kde-apps.org/content/pre3/12865-3.png
  • A mockup of macro editing window; note the possibility of adding conditions (i.e. simple control flow). We can imagine it could be possible to add "for each" loop in a similar way.
  • How Quanta did it.
http://quanta.kdewebdev.org/screenshots//shot10.png
http://quanta.kdewebdev.org/screenshots//shot11.png
They use on the one hand a categorized flat lists what limits the hierachy to exactly 2 levels and enables fast seeking for a function. On the other hand the structur-page provides a treeview to display additional levels of detail.
  • MSA Macro window
Note multiple properties for the "OpenForm" action at the bottom. We can use KoProperty for this.
^ toc

Ideas

  • We need to develop 'generic' action data structure (well suited for scripting/kactions/macros) and look what's dependent on what
  • looks like there will be a central repository for these, as a KexiProject(external) singleton's member
  • recursive: each macro instance is added to that repository, and can be called just as a script's function
  • There arn't really differences between sender/signals, receiver/slots and KAction's. E.g. it is possible to execute a signal (emit it) too and therefore from technical perspective a signal could be a slot too. Also a slot could emit signals like executed() or even better executedSuccessfully() and executedFailed().
  • If we would handle signals and slots the same way, it would be possible to build complex chains of actions and conditions like SIGNAL(form1.button1.onclick) => AND( SLOT(script1.function1) && SIGNAL(form1.button2.clicked) ).
^ toc

Developing

^ toc

Diagram of components

An overview of where KoMacro could be located.



Kexi - "MS Access for Linux" ... and Windows
© 2002-2007 Kexi Team
This content is available under GFDL
Last edited: December 21, 2006 by js, visited 0 times.