Stuart Kent - Building developer tools at Microsoft - @sjhkent

March, 2007

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    Different ways of interacting with a DSL


    There's a nice post from Steven Kelly which contrasts different ways of interacting with a DSL in a tool.

    I say 'interacting with a DSL', to stress the difference between that and working with a static syntax on a piece of paper. Working through a tool provides you with many more options not only in how you view and browse expressions in your language, but how you create and update those expressions.

    However, I'd like to pick Steven up on a couple of points:

    • He says that graphical languages are much slower for data entry than text. Whilst this has been true in the past, I'm wondering if it will remain so. I think that some of the mindmapping tools out there are showing that you can achieve rapid data entry through a graphical surface by minimizing mouse movement and using keyboard shortcuts much more.
    • We've also found that there is often rich data in a DSL that is not amenable to graphical representation (or at best adds considerable clutter to the diagram, thereby reducing it's value) and also isn't that well served by an explorer (tree view) and/or properties window. In these case, you really want to design domain specific forms for dealing with that data. So it's nice to see Jezz kick off a project along those lines: check out


  • stuart kent's blog

    Refresh of DSL Tools shipped in VS2005 SDK V4


    Gareth has the low-down:

    This is a bug-fix release for DSL Tools, and the final SDK release for VS2005.

  • stuart kent's blog

    Back to blogging - I've been tagged


    So I've not been blogging for a while. Sorry about that.

    What's my excuse? Well, I've been writing a book with my colleagues Steve Cook, Gareth Jones and Alan Wills.

    And, yes, they've kept up their blog, so it's not a very good excuse really (though book and five children doesn't leave much time for anything else).

    I've also been tagged now by both Steve and Gareth. Gareth tagged me a while back, which obviously failed to wake me from my slumber, and Steve has just tagged me. Now, as Steve says about himself "I never do chain letters", but I quite like the idea of telling you a few things about me you might not know. I won't tag anyone else, mostly because I see that those people I would have felt comfortable tagging have already been tagged.

    1. I'm married with five children and live in a converted barn on the top of the North Downs near Canterbury in the UK.
    2. I sing (more like used to sing) counter tenor in church choirs. Well, I guess it was a little more than church choirs. I was a choral scholar at Exeter cathedral whilst at University there, and then a Gentleman of Her Majesty's Chapels Royal in St James's Palace, London, whilst I studied for my PhD at Imperial College. There are two chapels in St James's palace: the Chapel Royal and the Queen's Chapel. I was married in the Chapel Royal. Whilst there, I also attended one of the Queen's garden parties at Buckingham Palace, and got to sing at a number of Royal events. 
    3. My first computer was a Sinclair ZX80 that my Dad built. My next was a Sincalir ZX81 that I bought myself (I remember spending a week in the sanatorium at school reading the manual just after I got the computer - I wasn't allowed to take the computer in). I learnt Z80 assembly code programming on the ZX81 in an attempt to build a arcade game. My third computer was a Grundy New Brain - a very rare thing indeed as the company wnet bust soon after I bought it. I still have the ZX81 and New Brain boxed away somewhere.
    4. My first programming job was in a robotics firm based in the village in Hampshire where I was brought up. I wrote Z80 assembly code for the controller of a steel rod cutting machine. Now that was fun.
    5. I went to a public boarding school (a 'private school' is called a 'public school' in the UK, and a 'public school' is called a 'state school' - don't ask me why) from the age of 8 to 16, when I left to go to university. There I learnt to play lots of sports - football, rugby, squash, cricket - though was not particularly good at any of them, although I did enjoy trying. I did get into the school cross country running team, though, and still enjoy pounding through the mud when I can find the time. And I was part of the choir that won the first ever National School Choir Competition.
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