Envision is an IDE prototype featuring a visual structured editor for object-oriented languages. We use Envision to experiment with new interfaces for creating programs. In contrast to traditional IDEs, Envision allows rich meta-data and non-textual content such as diagrams or tables to be directly embedded as part of the program. To enable quick code entry, Envision focuses on keyboard-based interactions, which provide a familiar experince to developers used to text editors. Our goal is to create a tool that improves the productivity of expert programmers who work on large projects in diverse domains.
With Envision we aim to create a next-generation software development environment that will boost the productivity of software engineers. Envision features a fast and scalable visual programming interface that can present a program's structure as a flexible combination of text and graphical objects. The visual representation is coupled with novel interaction techniques to facilitate quick navigation and comprehension of programs. This is crucial for modern software engineering, where developers have to deal with large-scale code bases and are subject to information overload from many tools for analysis, verification, testing, debugging, etc.
- Flexible visualization framework for freely mixing text and graphics.
- Scalable visualizations - millions of objects can be rendered simultaneously.
- Keyboard-centric interactions - specially designed interaction mechanisms enable the easy navigation and direct editing of visualizations, just by using the keyword, matching the speed of a text editor.
- Support for rich meta-data and non-textual artifacts of software engineering such tables and diagrams. Keeping this extra data in a single repository together with the program code allows the creation of useful links between the two, and enables better tools.
- A flexible query mechanism, which enables developers to combine information from different sources, visualize the results of queries in different ways, and automatically perform actions such as changing the code.
- Support for object-oriented programming - one can import a subset of the Java language into Envision and then edit, compile and debug the code. Work is ongoing to support a fuller subset of Java and other OO languages such as C++. We are exploring a unified tree model for object-oriented programs of different languages. This model is user-extensible and allows for new language constructs to be plugged in.
- Open-source with a BSD license - Envision on GitHub
- Written in C++, based on the Qt framework.
The motivation behind the project, the initial architecture of Envision, and some interesting use cases were first expressed in Dimitar Asenov's Master's thesis (PDF, 2.2 MB).
- D. Asenov: Envision: Reinventing the Integrated Development Environment
Ph.D. Thesis, 2017. [PDF] [BIB]
- D. Asenov and B. Guenat and P. Müller and M. Otth: Precise Version Control of Trees with Line-based Version Control Systems
Fundamental Approaches to Software Engineering (FASE), 2017. [PDF] [BIB]
- D. Asenov and P. Müller and L. Vogel: The IDE as a Scriptable Information System
Automated Software Engineering (ASE), 2016. [PDF] [BIB]
- D. Asenov and P. Müller and L. Vogel: The IDE as a Scriptable Information System (extended version)
arXiv:1607.04452 [cs.SE], 2016. [PDF] [BIB] [arXiv]
- D. Asenov and O. Hilliges and P. Müller: The Effect of Richer Visualizations on Code Comprehension
Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), 2016. [PDF] [BIB] [Experiment data (ZIP, 55.9 MB)]
- D. Asenov and P. Müller: Envision: A Fast and Flexible Visual Code Editor with Fluid Interactions (Overview)
Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing (VL/HCC), 2014. [PDF] [BIB] [CogTool simulation data (CGT, 5.8 MB)]
- D. Asenov and P. Müller: Envision: A Fast and Flexible Visual Code Editor with Fluid Interactions
Technical Report, ETH Zurich, 2014. [PDF] [BIB] [CogTool simulation data (CGT, 5.8 MB)]
- D. Asenov and P. Müller: Customizing the Visualization and Interaction for Embedded Domain-Specific Languages in a Structured Editor
Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing (VL/HCC), 2013. [PDF] [BIB]
Past student projects
- Manuel Galbier, Master Thesis, SS 2016
Improving Code Reviews using the Envision IDE
- Lukas Vogel, Master Thesis, AS 2015
Augmenting software development with information scripting
- Patrick Lüthi, Master Thesis, SS 2015
Self-hosting the Envision Visual Programming Environment
- Cyril Steimer, Research in Computer Science, SS 2015
Task-specific views in Envision
- Balz Guenat, Bachelor Thesis, SS 2015
Tree-based Version Control in Envision
- Lukas Vogel, Research in Computer Science, AS 2015
Debugging in Envision
- Martin Pascal Otth, Master Thesis, SS 2014
Fine-grained Software Version Control Based on a Program's Abstract Syntax Tree
- Sascha Dinkel, Bachelor Thesis, SS 2014
Enhancing the visual documentation artifacts in Envision
- Patrick Lüthi, Bachelor Thesis, AS 2013
Semantic Zoom Support for Envision
- Jonas Trappenberg, Bachelor Thesis, SS 2013
Supporting documentation artifacts in Envision
- Lukas Vogel, Bachelor Thesis, SS 2013
C++ Support in Envision
- Andrea Helfenstein, Bachelor Thesis, AS 2012
Declarative API for Defining Visualization in Envision
- Dimitar Asenov, Master Thesis, AS 2010
Design and Implementation of Envision - a Visual Programming System
- Dimitar Asenov, Research in Computer Science, SS 2010
A feasability study for a general-purpose visual programming system