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Best of Eclipse RMF in 2014

As newspapers and TV stations get ready to publish their annual reviews and retrospectives of 2014, they are bound to forget to report the remarkable progress that has been made on the Eclipse Requirements Modeling Framework this year.  But no fear, we shall now remedy this. Below you will find the RMF highlights from 2014. We also include an outlook for 2015.

Finally: Search takes off

Long overdue, we focused this year on an important, but neglected, feature: search.  This is now available in three forms:

First, we introduced a search-as-you-type dialog in the toolbar, that allows you to search through the open editor.  Rows that do not match are collapsed, but don’t disappear completely so that you can guess the position of the match within your spec.

Second, we implemented a raw search dialog that integrates into the standard Eclipse search framework.  We’ve described it here.  It also supports replacing, in addition to search.

Third, we implemented another search interface on top of the search infrastructure.  While the raw search interface provides access to the bare search data, the new interface focuses on being user-friendly.  For instance, the names of the attributes are selected from a drop-down.  Below is a screenshot of the new search interface, which is already available in the latest formalmind Studio. Its use should be intuitive, documentation will follow soon.

Active Committers

There were 426 commits in 2014, and RMF is now tested with 883 automated unit tests.  This work has been done by five committers.  This year, a new committer joined the ranks, Hussein Mhanna from All4Tec. He already contributed to search, CSV import, ID management and more.

Having another active committer clearly helped us to  increase our pace, as you can see from the diagram on the right (covers the last three months).  Note that this is work that goes directly into the open source.

Release Reviews for IP Cleanliness

The Eclipse Foundation understands the needs of businesses, and IP cleanliness is an important consideration when using open source software in a commercial environment.  Therefore, the Foundation requires release reviews for official releases, which we started to perform this year.  As this creates a significant overhead, we reduced our release cycle to three releases a year.  We will keep making intermediate release candidates, and formalmind Studio will always include the latest features.

Collaboration with the ProSTEP Implementor Forum

As members of the ProSTEP Implementor Forum, we ensure that not only is formalmind Studio compatible with ReqIF, but also honors the implementation guidelines issued by the forum.  The test data used in the forum are generated by Formal Mind, using RMF.

The implementation guide describes a format for storing a so-called “conversation ID” in the ReqIF file.  A conversation ID is useful for tracking where requirements are coming from.  This is particularly useful if a user has more than one concurrent exchange (e.g. a manufacturer exchanging requirements with multiple suppliers). RMF now supports this conversation ID natively.  Formal Mind’s Axiom Component also supports data exchange using the conversation ID.

The implementation guide also defines a number of standard attribute names.  Some tools, most notably Rational DOORS from IBM, unify the ReqIF.Text and ReqIF.ChapterName attributes into the same column.  RMF now offers this option as well.  This is shown in the screenshot below.  In the column configuration (ProR | Column Configuration…), there is now the option Unified Column, which creates this special column.  It can carry a column name you choose and be rearranged like all the “regular” columns.  In the specification editor, the column name is shown in a different color:

Many small (and big) improvements

A lot has been done under the hood, but the following list describes the most notable changes that are visible to the user:

  • Date handling got improved significantly by providing a date/time-picker in the user interface, and by making rendering of dates prettier.
  • Better control for selecting enumeration values.  The pop-up dialog now has checkboxes and a button allowing the operation to be canceled.  If there are too many entries, a scrollbar is shown.
  • Automatically open the contained specification, if there is exactly one.  This is useful when sharing ReqIF-documents with partners that are not so familiar with formalmind Studio.  Upon opening the file, they immediately see the requirements document.
  • Limiting the height of cells, to improve scrolling behavior.  Large cells are now truncated.  By double-clicking, the full content is still visible, and contains scrollbars. for navigation.
  • Images are scaled to to the width of the cell, so even huge images are visible as a whole.  Again, by double-clicking, the original will be restored and can be inspected in detail.
  • Print-to-HTML got improved and now supports embedded objects.  When you have a specification open and active, you can access it via File | Print….
  • Robust solution for ID uniqueness within a ReqIF model. Copy operations are now guaranteed to ensure distinct IDs.
  • We started to build an infrastructure for ReqIF validation for consistency.
  • An initial Import of comma-separated data (CSV import) is now available. You can access it via File | Import | ReqIF | CSV.
  • This year, we also migrated the format of the documentation, giving it a much more professional appearance.  Documentation is accessible within formalmind Studio (via Help | Help Contents), on the Web, and as a PDF.
  • Ensuring compatibility of RMF to Java 6 – Java 8 and Eclipse 3.8 – Eclipse 4.4. formalmind Studio is based on Eclipse 4.4.
  • Improving the update mechanism and organization of the update sites.
  • Lots of bug fixes.

Plans for 2015

We have ambitious goals for 2015, which include:

  • Fixing of selection bugs in the specification editor. This is the most important editor of formalmind Studio, and we plan on making it significantly more user-friendly and bug-free in 2015.
  • A better wizard for new ReqIF models that uses the standard attributes from the ProSTEP Implementor Forum.
  • Validation for ReqIF consistency, as well as for your own validation logic.
  • Multiple File Support – the ReqIF standard allows linking across files, and RMF should support this as well.
  • Better Export and Reporting.

This is open source – so help is always welcome.  There are many ways for contributing.  Contact us on the forum if you want to help, for instance:

  • You can report bugs.
  • You can improve the documentation.
  • You can contribute code.
  • If you are a business using RMF or formalmind Studio, you can sponsor a feature or commission customization, integration or training.
  • You can donate or buy support.

Don’t forget: Axiom for Sale Until the End of the Year

Four weeks ago, we launched our first commercial component for formalmind Studio: Axiom is our solution for intelligent requirements exchange.  If you regularly share requirements with partners that need selective updating, Axiom may be the solution. Axiom is for sale for a special introduction price until the end of 2014, so take advantage of this offer and use up your remaining 2014 budget.

Mark the Date: ReConf 2015 in Munich (March 16.-19., 2015)

Michael Jastram will give a talk at the scientific track at ReConf 2015. Formal Mind will also be exhibitor, so if you will attend ReConf, please contact us to meet us at our booth.

Happy Holidays

We are sure that you applied professional requirements management for your holiday planning, allowing you to have a punctual, relaxed holiday season.  See you next year!