Here's the first of the two interviews I mentioned in the last post. My subject? Zoran Sevarac, an Assistant Professor at the University of Belgrade and a member of the NetBeans Dream team with an impressive list of activities around NetBeans and Java. He has served on the NetBeans Governance board; started a NetBeans User Group in Serbia; presented at JavaOne; hosted NetBeans Platform trainings in Serbia; and oh yeah, he sings too!
His latest contribution? Leading the community project to develop a NetBeans UML plugin. Read on. (The interview below is also posted to NetBeans Zone.)
A recent YouTube video stirred up some excitement amongst NetBeans
users. In it, viewers saw first glimpses of a new community-led
project--the revival of the NetBeans UML Plugin.
The plugin is in development by a team from the University of
Belgrade's newly launched Open-Source Center, and the team is led by
Zoran Sevarac, an Assistant Professor at the institution and who is
also a long-time member of the NetBeans Dream Team. In this
interview, Zoran shares more about the plugin's development and
What is the Open-Source Center at the University of Belgrade? The Open-Source Center
is a part of the
Department for Software Engineering at the University.
The center is dedicated to the development of open source software
projects and using these projects to also teach software
development. (More about the Open-Source Center on NetBeans Zone
In what stage is the UML plugin currently?
The plugin is still under development--we're finalizing the first
phase--it will soon be ready for an early-preview release. At the
moment, people can use it to draw class diagrams, and I expect the
plugin to have some basic code generation functionality soon.
What other features are planned?
We plan to do sequence diagrams for sure [since there is no good
open source tool for that at the moment]. Most likely we'll do
module diagrams as component diagrams. After the preview release,
when we get feedback from the community, we'll consider additional
types of diagrams/features.
We also want to provide simple Java API for UML models (check out
the sources in UMLModel module), and maybe some experimental
AI-based algorithms for software design analysis in the future
(similar to what's been done in Featureous
Is the plugin (in its current stage) available for download and
testing by the public?
Yes, the source code is available from SVN on Java.net
. People can checkout and run
it from the NetBeans IDE. However, I recommend that they wait
another week or two, since we still have to polish some bugs.
There have been other attempts to create a NetBeans-UML plugin.
How is your team's approach different?
Well, we want to create an easy-to-use, developer-friendly tool--a
tool that will allow developers to quickly implement basic design
and then continue coding. We want to provide enough features to be
useful, and to leave out everything that developers don't find
useful. Judging from the comments on Twitter and YouTube so far
there are many users who likes this approach, and I want to thank
Tim Boudreau for giving us insightful tips about UML
tooling on his blog
What challenges has your team faced on this project?
The first challenge was to learn how to use Visual Library for this
project. We're still not experts, but I think we're now able to
figure out what we need. Another was to keep the design clean and
simple. I think we're doing well, though we've had do some
refactoring from time to time.
An upcoming challenge is to create good documentation for the
project so new developers are able to continue development. We have
two students writing their graduate thesis about this project, so
that will be a kind of introductory material for future developers.
Probably the most important of all is to create a good user
interface and interaction design. It's not the main focus at the
Why is it not a
We want to avoid getting stuck with UI in the
beginning, without having more experience with Visual Library. Our development strategy is to
create a basic feature set, stabilize the design first, and then work on
more fancy features related to UI. (Visual Library provides a pretty good user interface with basic features out-of-the-box.) We also want to get feedback
from community and then decide how/what things should be done.
How many people are working on the UML plugin?
At the moment, three of us: Jelena Djordjevic, Uros Stojkic and
. There were also early contributors such as Jelena Stojanovic, Igor
Cordas, Marjan Hrzic and Vedrana Gajic
. All are my students.
We also have some new potential developers who signed up for the
project after the last NetBeans training in Belgrade we had with
Can the public get involved in the development?
Of course. Actually I'm hoping that something like that will happen
after the first release. I've received some emails and questions
about this already. The challenge will be to introduce them to the
project; maybe we'll create some wiki on NetBeans.org for that.
Do you have a target date for when the plugin will be ready?
Well, I'm hoping to have the first version available in the next few
weeks. We'll do our best to have something ready to use in
September--a demo at Java One 2013. :-) I'm having a session at
JavaOne this year together with Sven Reimers and Jaroslav Tulach
(Building Rich Visual Tools in Java
) in which we'll share some
experience and best practice from this project.
Good luck with the NetBeans UML Plugin project, Zoran. We look
forward to hearing more about the next phases from you and your