Design, construction, and application of a generic visual language generation environment

Kang Zhang, Da Qian Zhang, Jiannong Cao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


The implementation of visual programming languages (VPLs) and their supporting environments is time consuming and tedious. To ease the task, researchers have developed some high level tools to reduce the development effort. None of these tools, however, can be easily used to create a complete visual language in a seamless way like the lex/yacc tools for textual language constructions. This paper presents the design, construction, and application of a generic visual language generation environment, called VisPro. The VisPro design model improves the conventional Model-View-Controller framework in that its functional modules are decoupled to allow independent development and integration. The VisPro environment consists of a set of visual programming tools. Using VisPro, the process of VPL construction can be divided into two steps: lexicon definition and grammar specification. The former step defines visual objects and a visual editor, and the latter step provides language grammars with graph rewriting rules. The compiler for the VPL is automatically created according to the grammar specification. A target VPL is generated as a programming environment which contains the Compiler and the visual editor. The paper demonstrates how VisPro is used by building a simple visual language and a more complex, visual modeling language for distributed programming.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-307
Number of pages19
JournalIEEE Transactions on Software Engineering
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2001


  • Graph grammar
  • Language construction
  • Visual languages
  • Visual programming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software

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