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From Noah Tilton <>
Subject Re: ODF Command Line Tools -- Request for community feedback
Date Tue, 14 Aug 2012 18:01:53 GMT

Quick update:  I renamed the project to something shorter and catchier:

Also, here is the documentation, which describes in detail how to use
the (cross-platform) executable jar:

Please check out the docs and let me know if anything doesn't work as expected.


On Mon, Aug 13, 2012 at 8:39 PM, Noah Tilton <> wrote:
> Hi Rob,
> New code is up at github.  This update brings a more ruby-esque
> (idiomatic) syntax to the DSL, as well as better coverage of Text
> documents, Presentations, Lists, and Tables.  I have also added
> documentation to about 80% of the code.
> Remaining todos:  1) work out additional docs and any needed function
> stubs 2) cross-platform installer.  I think you will agree that the
> code is easily extendable as it stands.
> Paradoxically, bundling jruby/java jar codes together has proven to be
> the hard part, so I will focus on making it cross-platform in the next
> week.
> Please take a look and let me know your thoughts.
> Thanks!
> -Noah
> On Tue, Jul 10, 2012 at 8:58 AM, Noah Tilton <> wrote:
>> Hi Rob,
>> On Fri, Jul 6, 2012 at 8:17 AM, Rob Weir <> wrote:
>>> On Sun, Jul 1, 2012 at 5:30 PM, Noah Tilton <> wrote:
>>>> Hi Rob,
>>>> I just pushed to Github, please see below for an explanation of the
>>>> changes and some questions regarding next steps.
>>> Great.  I downloaded and gave it a try.  Looks good.
>>>> On Sun, Jun 3, 2012 at 12:47 PM, Rob Weir <> wrote:
>>>>> OK.  Thanks for trying.  Maven is great for managing Java project
>>>>> dependencies.  Well, at least for pure Java projects targeting
>>>>> standard Java outputs like JAR's, WAR's, EAR's, etc.  But the
>>>>> Java/JRuby combination may be more complicated.
>>>>> I'm using Ubuntu 11.04 with bash.  It isn't liking parts of that
>>>>> script.   But I was able to modify it as follows and it worked fine:
>>>>> #!/bin/sh
>>>>> if [ ! -d ./jars ]; then
>>>>>   echo "Downloading jars"
>>>>>   mkdir -p ./jars
>>>>>   cd jars
>>>>>   wget\
>>>>>   for targz in *.tar.gz; do
>>>>>     echo "Extracting $targz"
>>>>>     tar zxf $targz
>>>>>   done
>>>>>   cd ..
>>>>> fi
>>>>> echo "Running test"
>>>>> JAVA_HOME="$(dirname $(dirname $(readlink -f $(which java))))"
>>>>> echo "set JAVA_HOME to $JAVA_HOME"
>>>>> CLASSPATH=./jars/xerces-2_11_0/xercesImpl.jar:./jars/xerces-2_11_0/xml-apis.jar:./jars/odftoolkit-0.5-incubating/simple-odf-0.7-incubating.jar:./jars/odftoolkit-0.5-incubating/odfdom-java-0.8.8-incubating.jar
>>>>> export CLASSPATH
>>>>> jruby lib/oclt.rb
>>>> I incorporated your portability changes to, and renamed it to
>>>>, to reflect the fact that it doesn't actually run the code --
>>>> it merely downloads jars and sets environment variables.  To run the
>>>> code from the odf-command-line-tools directory, type:
>>>>   source ./setup && jruby main.rb
>>>> "source" is necessary because the script needs to export shell
>>>> variables in the parent shell (i.e., not a subshell).
>>>> If you want to use rdoc to build the documentation you may need to run:
>>>>   % jruby -S gem install rdoc
>>>> before running
>>>>   % rdoc --main *
>>>> from the top level directory (odf-command-line-tools).
>>>>> Two things: build env and runtime env.  For runtime env we should be
>>>>> cross platform, right?  For bulld env, cross platform is ideal, but I
>>>>> would not get bogged down on that.  Linux is fine.
>>>> Yes, Linux for build only; runtime will be cross-platform.  Added to TODO
>>>>> I'm looking forward to seeing more on the DSL.
>>>> The initial version of the DSL has support for generating new Text
>>>> documents;  loading modifying existing Text documents, iterating over
>>>> Paragraphs, changing mode and font attributes of new Paragraphs ...
>>>> This first version should give you a flavor of what the DSL might
>>>> eventually look like, and I hope it is general enough that we can
>>>> easily add other document types (e.g., Presentation).
>>>> It's made up of 2 parts:  the DSL proper (lib/oclt.rb) and a client
>>>> script (main.rb).
>>>> Assuming you're okay with what I've done so far, I'd like the
>>>> discussion to focus on how the mapping of DSL methods => SimpleAPI
>>>> methods should look.  A 1-1 mapping works "out of the box" with the
>>>> way the DSL is currently written.  I.e., any SimpleAPI TextDocument
>>>> method can now be called from the DSL, and will work.
>>> I noticed that. I had not taken a close look at Ruby before, but I'm
>>> impressed by how that kind of dispatch can be set up with only a
>>> little code.
>> I like it too!
>>>> So if we don't want to change the interface/API, all that's left to do
>>>> is write documentation and more examples.  But that won't provide much
>>>> of an improvement over the original Java API, only those benefits
>>>> which Ruby provides at the most basic level before any "sugar" is
>>>> applied.  In other words, while a 1-1 mapping works, it leads to
>>>> unnecessary initialization, overall verbosity, and (IMHO) is exactly
>>>> what a good DSL should seek to avoid!
>>> Right.  So is your goal to make this me more "idiomatic" Ruby?  Or to
>>> create a DSL that is either Ruby nor Simple API, but something more
>>> oriented to text processing?
>> Yes, idiomatic Ruby is the way to go.  I'd go one step further and say
>> "idiomatic Ruby DSL-esque".  There are many good examples, Rake and
>> Buildr come to mind.  This still leaves us a lot of freedom to tweak.
>>> When we were designing the Simply API we tried to make it as easy and
>>> intuitive as possible, within the constraints of Java, and using an
>>> imperative programming style.
>>> One idea I had last night -- what if we inverted the problem?  Instead
>>> of a command line script running against the document, what if we put
>>> the script *inside* the document?   Does that help with any kinds of
>>> repetitive tasks, document automation, etc.?  Now the mere location of
>>> the script doesn't matter.  But a side benefit is that a script inside
>>> the document, inline in the text of a document, has a context that the
>>> user defines naturally via their word processor:
>>> "This confirms your order for %widget_count% widget(s)."
>>> This is then processed by a command line took that evaluates
>>> widget-count as a Ruby routine.  Or we want to avoid the user writing
>>> code, what if we ultra-simplified it?  For example, a document
>>> template that had some named styles that expressed both
>>> appearance/presentation as well as behaviour.  Trivial example:  a
>>> list style called "Sorted List".  No word process has this, to my
>>> knowledge.  But we could have that defined as a style.  When the user
>>> applies it, nothing magic occurs.  But later, on the command line, the
>>> document is processed by an app that applies the behaviours implied by
>>> the styles, and writes out a new document.   One could do very simple,
>>> single-step operations that way.  But is there a way to build up more
>>> complicated scenarios like this?   In other words, what helps enable
>>> the power-user, scripter type to get some benefit of document
>>> automation?
>> I think this idea could work.  And it's consistent with the codebase
>> we already have.  We could define some tags and a parser that would
>> call out to the jruby routines in the lib/oclt.rb file (that's just a
>> sketch, but I think it works).  I can see a couple of problems with
>> this approach, however.  First is tight coupling -- do we really want
>> the business logic inline with an XML document describing the
>> structure?  Second is, how does something like this jive with the ODF
>> standard?  It seems like embedding a bunch of tags into the document
>> might mess that up.
>>>> As a next step, I propose creating a more concise set of keywords for
>>>> the TextDocument API, and working from there.  I'm hoping we can
>>>> iterate very fast now that there is a working version.  If we can come
>>>> up with (or better yet, find) some conventions for how to map a
>>>> standard API to a DSL, I can use that and hit the list when I have
>>>> specific questions.
>>>> For an example of what I'm talking about, do we really need to say
>>>> "set_horizontal_alignment(HorizontalAlignmentType)" or will "center"
>>>> suffice?  Should that really be done instead as a parameter in
>>>> add_paragraph()?  (e.g., doc.add_paragraph(:alignment => :center)).
>>>> Should we let it work both ways for flexibility
>>> Right.
>>>> At the same time, we don't want to take the sugar too far -- the
>>>> interface should be logical to end users without being too "cute".  A
>>>> couple of examples of things I changed/added are:
>>>>   page_break instead of add_page_break; paragraphs as a new iterable method.
>>> Right.  All else being equal, it is best to be idiomatic Ruby.
>>> Another question: Are there any other Ruby libraries that it would
>>> make sense to bring in to the mix?  For example, any that are text or
>>> language related, or even NLP?  Google Translate interface?  Stuff
>>> like that that would radically extend the capabilities with little
>>> incremental coding on your part.
>> The code is an internal DSL whose host language is jRuby.  Therefore,
>> any C Ruby code can be used -- just require a Gem, external library,
>> or part of the standard library.  And because it's jRuby, Java
>> libraries and core are fair game, and really anything that can be
>> compiled into Java bytecode should work.  Very flexible.
>>>> The heavy lifting in the code is currently being done in the file
>>>> lib/oclt.rb, specifically the method_missing call.  Inside I have some
>>>> logic that tests whether a certain method exists at runtime, and if it
>>>> does, delegates appropriately.  If the method doesn't exist the
>>>> program bombs out, but there's no reason not to make it do something
>>>> more intelligent, like search the SimpleAPI for a method which is
>>>> similar to or begins with the given method name, and then perhaps give
>>>> the user an informative error message.
>>>> More formally, I think the code as written is (loosely) an
>>>> implementation of the Adapter pattern
>>>> ( but using open classes
>>>> rather than an explicit adapter class.  In ruby this can be done a
>>>> number of ways, I was going for brevity.
>>>> I invite your feedback, and the rest of the community too.  Thanks and
>>>> enjoy the 4th!
>>>> --
>>>> Noah
>> I'm going to keep hacking on the DSL in the main branch, and work out
>> a more idiomatic syntax and more examples.  I'll aim for 100% Simple
>> API coverage (in terms of idiomatic functionality but with a more
>> idiomatic API; although the Simple API calls will still be available).
>>  In addition, I will create a separate branch for your "embedded tags"
>> idea and see how it looks.  I've got a dead laptop at home, but I'll
>> try to get you something by the end of the week.
>> Cheers,
>> --
>> Noah
> --
> Noah


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