A decade of development

Visual XML editor Vex ‘reborn’ under Eclipse, with 1.0 release

Chris Mayer

The past ten years have seen the XML editor passed around the open source community, but finally Vex 1.0 gets its new lease of life at Mylyn Docs

While the current hot topic among the Eclipse community may be the faltering performance of the new 4.2 platform, let’s not let it distract us from the launch of a new Eclipse project ten years in the making.

Visual XML editor Vex adds a glossy interface to dull raw XML files. It uses standard DTD files to define types and CSS stylesheets to define layouts of documents. By being under the Eclipse banner, Vex also brings in many of the familiar Java IDE plug-ins such as a CVS interface, document searching and bookmarking. It doesn’t stop here though as it can be extended through third-party plugins or reused cross-platform as a widget.

Yet v1.0 arrived after the lengthiest of incubation phases. Written by John Krasnay and initially beginning life as a project at SourceForge in 2002, the Java Swing application was essentially XML editor that looked like a word processor and could produce better looking documentation. Krasnay open sourced it, hoping to acquire development help along the way, but it failed to make impact. An Eclipse-based version arrived in 2004, but development had all but ceased by the following year.

Yet, against the odds, Vex saw a new lease of life In 2008 as Dave Carver brought the project to Eclipse. He told our German sister publication, Eclipse Magazin that he wanted to reboot to give the editor “greater exposure”. He added:

It had been sitting on SourceForge for years and active development on it had stopped. There was also a need for a good base in the XML community to have a good open source Visual editor for XML. There are good commercial visual editors, but none of them except for OxygenXML’s Author mode worked natively on eclipse.

Putting Vex under the larger Eclipse Web Tools Platform (WTP) Incubator Project back in 2008 seemed a natural fit to Carver, utilising WTP’s XML pedigree. But last year it moved across to another Eclipse project focused on markup languages, Mylyn Docs, under the stewardship of Holger Voormann and Florian Thienel (lead).

After a decade of project pass the parcel, Vex is here for all to use for their XML needs and the goals are still the same – to create a sustainable community around the project. Hopefully it still has relevance to developers over all that time. Why not give this reborn visual editor a go?

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