Block-based environments are visual programming environments that allow users to program by interactively arranging visual jigsaw-like blocks. They have shown to be helpful in several domains but often require experienced developers for their creation. Previous research investigated the use of language workbenches to generate block-based editors based on grammars, but the generated block-based editors sometimes provided too many unnecessary blocks, leading to verbose environments and programs. To reduce the number of interactions, we propose a set of transformations to simplify the original grammar, yielding a reduction of the number of (useful) kinds of blocks available in the resulting editors. We show that our generated block-based editors are improved for a set of observed aesthetic criteria up to a certain complexity. As such, analyzing and simplifying grammars before generating block-based editors allows us to derive more compact and potentially more usable block-based editors, making reuse of existing grammars through automatic generation feasible.

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14th ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Software Language Engineering, SLE 2021
Software Analysis and Transformation

Verano Merino, M, Beckmann, T, van der Storm, T, Hirschfeld, R.A, & Vinju, J.J. (2021). Getting grammars into shape for block-based editors. In SLE 2021 - Proceedings of the 14th ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Software Language Engineering (pp. 83–98). doi:10.1145/3486608.3486908