Action Language for EMF

MiniFSM tutorial

In this tutorial you will learn how to make an executable language from scratch.

  1. We will start by creating a Finite State Machine metamodel with EMF
  2. We will then write a simple interpreter in ALE


In this section we will create the abstract syntax of our language as an Ecore model.

Finite State Machine

First of all, we need to define the domain of our language.

So what is a FSM?

Wikipedia’s definition:

is a mathematical model of computation. It is an abstract machine that can be in exactly one of a finite number of states at any given time. The FSM can change from one state to another in response to some external inputs; the change from one state to another is called a transition. A FSM is defined by a list of its states, its initial state, and the conditions for each transition.

FSM sample

Create Ecore model

  1. File > New > Project...
    Eclipse Modeling Framework > Empty EMF Project > Next
  2. Fill Project name with ‘minifsm’ and Finish
  3. Right-click on the model folder and select New > Others...
    Select Eclipse Modeling Framework > Ecore model, then Next
  4. Name it ‘minifsm.ecore’ and click Finish

Fill the metamodel

Create a .aird file

  1. Right click on minifsm.ecore and select Initialize Ecore Diagram ...
  2. Click Next >
  3. Entities in a Class Diagram is already selected, click Next >
  4. Select the root EPackage and click Finish

Name the root EPackage

  1. Open the Properties view (Menu Show View > Other... > General > Properties)
  2. Fill Name with ‘minifsm’
  3. Fill Ns URI with ‘http://minifsm’
  4. Fille Ns Prefix with ‘minifsm’

Create EClasses

  1. Select Classifier > Class and create with a simple click:
    • FSM
    • State
    • InitialState
    • Transition

Create Relations

  1. Select Relation > Super Type
  2. Select the InitialState class
  3. Select the State class to end the relation creation

In similare way with Relation > Composition create

End with Relation > Reference create

Create Attributes

  1. Select Feature > Attribute
  2. Click on State to create the new feature
  3. In the Propeties view fill Name with ‘name’
  4. For the EType select ‘EString’

In similare way add event typed EString into Transition

Declare EOperation

  1. Select Feature > Operation
  2. Click on FSM
  3. In the Properties view fill Name with ‘handle’
  4. In the left part of the Properties view, open the Parameter tab
  5. Click the Add button at the right
  6. In Parameter Details name it ‘event’ and type it ‘EString’

Add also an operation:

Your metamodel should look like that now:

FSM syntax


In this section we will write an interpreter for our language by implementing the EOperations defined in the Ecore model.

Make sure you are in the Modelin perspective

  1. In the menu Window > Perspective > Open Perspective > Other...
  2. Select Modeling

Then we activate the Behavior tools:

  1. Right click on minifsm.aird and select Viewpoints Selection
  2. Check Behavior and click OK
  3. Now you can activate the Behavior layer in the toolbar


A new selection Behavior is activated in the Palette at the right


Two new files are also created:

Add Dynamic features

  1. Select Behavior > Reference
  2. Click on FSM
  3. Click on State
  4. Click yes if it asking to convert to XText project
  5. In the automatically opened minifsm.ale, change newRef for currentState

Do the same with Behavior > Attribute to add String currentEvent into FSM

Implement EOperations

  1. In the Class Diagram editor, right click on isActivated from Transition
  2. Select Edit implementation
  3. Fill the body with:
    def boolean isActivated () {
     result := self.fsm.currentEvent = self.event and self.incoming = self.fsm.currentState;

We are checking

The content of the variable result will be returned at the end of isActivated
The variable self refer to the current object (here it is a Transition)

In similar way we implements execute from State

override void execute () {
	('  Execute ' +;

We just log the name of the State

And for the implementation of handle from FSM

override void handle (EString event) {
	(' Handle ' + event).log();
	self.currentEvent := event;
	self.currentState :=
		->select(t | t.isActivated() )

Here we simply update currentEvent, search for an activated Transition and update currentState accordingly.

Define new operation

To complete the behavior of our language, we will now define an entry point to run an FSM.

  1. Select Behavior > Operation
  2. Click on FSM

This tool create an operation int newMethod() in FSM. You can notice that newMethod start with the keyword def contrary to implemented EOperation that use the keyword override. This distinction is done to raise an error if we try to implement an EOperation that doesn’t exist in the metamodel.

  1. Change def int newMethod() to def void entryPoint()
  2. Add @main before the entryPoint declaration

We changed the return type to void since the entryPoint return nothing
We also added the tag main to call this operation at the execution of an FSM

And for the content:

def void entryPoint() {
	Sequence(String) events := Sequence{'event1','event2'};
	self.currentState :=
		->select(s | s.oclIsKindOf(minifsm::InitialState) )
	for(event in events) {

We created a sequence of 2 events, initialized currentState with an InitialState and notify the FSM with the events.

Your FSM language should now look like:

full FSM

Launch the execution

Create dynamic instance

Before test our implementation we need an FSM model

  1. Select Dynamic > Dynamic instance
  2. Click on FSM
  3. Name it FSM.xmi and click Finish
  4. In the automatically opened FSM.xmi, right click on FSM and select New Child > States Initial State
  5. Name it First in the Properties view
  6. Create a child State named Second and a Final State named Third
  7. Create a Transition and edit the properties Event to event1, Incoming to First and Outgoing to Second
  8. Add another Transition from Second to Third with event2

Your FSM model should look like:

full FSM


Now we can test!

  1. Right click on minifsm.dsl
  2. Select Run As > ALE launch
  3. Enter *xmi
  4. Select FSM.xmi
  5. Then click OK

Console output:

Run minifsm.dsl
  Execute First
 Handle event1
  Execute Second
 Handle event2
  Execute Third

Congratulation, you created an executable language from scratch !
With EcoreTools you defined the abstract syntax of a FSM, you then implemented its EOperations with ALE and you run it on a FSM model.