Software framework

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In computer programming, a software framework is an abstraction in which software providing generic functionality can be selectively changed by user code, thus providing application specific software. It is a collection of software libraries providing a defined application programming interface (API).

Frameworks contain key distinguishing features that separate them from normal libraries:

  1. inversion of control - In a framework, unlike in libraries or normal user applications, the overall program's flow of control is not dictated by the caller, but by the framework.[1]
  2. default behavior - A framework has a default behavior. This default behavior must actually be some useful behavior and not a series of no-ops.
  3. extensibility - A framework can be extended by the user usually by selective overriding or specialized by user code providing specific functionality.
  4. non-modifiable framework code - The framework code, in general, is not allowed to be modified. Users can extend the framework, but not modify its code.


[edit] Rationale

The designers of software frameworks aim to facilitate software development by allowing designers and programmers to devote their time to meeting software requirements rather than dealing with the more standard low-level details of providing a working system, thereby reducing overall development time.[2] For example, a team using a web application framework to develop a banking web-site can focus on the operations of account withdrawals rather than the mechanics of request handling and state management.

By way of contrast, an in-house or purpose-built framework might be specified for the same project by a programming team as they begin working the overall job — specifying software needs based on first defining data types, structures and processing has long been taught as a successful strategy for top down design. Contrasting software data, its manipulation, and how a software system's various grades and kinds of users will need to either input, treat, or output the data are then used to specify the user interface(s)  — some types of access being privileged and locked to other user types — all defining the overall user interfaces which to the users are the visible in-house Framework for the custom coded project. In such a case, each sort of operation, user interface code and so forth need written and separately integrated into the job at hand also more or less adding to necessary testing and validation.

Frameworks often add to the size of programs, a phenomenon termed "code bloat". Due to customer-demand driven applications needs, both competing and complementary frameworks sometimes end up in a product. Further, due to the complexity of their APIs, the intended reduction in overall development time may not be achieved due to the need to spend additional time learning to use the framework, this criticism is clearly valid when a special or new framework is first encountered by a development staff.[citation needed] If such a framework is not used in subsequent job taskings, the time invested in learning the framework can cost more than purpose written code familiar to the project's staff; many programmers keep copies of useful boilerplate for common needs.

However, once a framework is learned, future projects can be faster and easier to complete; the concept of a framework is to make a one-size-fits-all solution set, and with familiarity, code production should logically rise. There are no such claims made about the size of the code eventually bundled with the output product, nor its relative efficiency and conciseness. Using any library solution necessarily pulls in extras and unused extraneous assets unless the software is a compiler-object linker making a tight (small, wholly controlled, and specified) executable module.

The issue continues, but a decade-plus of industry experience[citation needed] has shown that the most effective frameworks turn out to be those that evolve from re-factoring the common code of the enterprise, instead of using a generic "one-size-fits-all" framework developed by third-parties for general purposes. An example of that would be how the user interface in such an application package as an office suite grows to have common look, feel and data sharing attributes and methods as the once disparate bundled applications grow unified; hopefully a suite which is tighter and smaller as the newer evolved one can be a product sharing integral utility libraries and user interfaces.

This trend in the controversy brings up an important issue about frameworks. Creating a framework that is elegant, versus one that merely solves a problem, is still an art rather than a science. "Software elegance" implies clarity, conciseness, and little waste (extra or extraneous functionality, much of which is user defined). For those frameworks that generate code, for example, "elegance" would imply the creation of code that is clean and comprehensible to a reasonably knowledgeable programmer (and which is therefore readily modifiable), versus one that merely generates correct code. The elegance issue is why relatively few software frameworks have stood the test of time: the best frameworks have been able to evolve gracefully as the underlying technology on which they were built advanced. Even there, having evolved, many such packages will retain legacy capabilities bloating the final software as otherwise replaced methods have been retained in parallel with the newer methods.

[edit] Examples

Software frameworks typically contain considerable housekeeping and utility code in order to help bootstrap user applications, but generally focus on specific problem domains, such as:

[edit] Architecture

According to Pree,[9] software frameworks consist of frozen spots and hot spots. Frozen spots define the overall architecture of a software system, that is to say its basic components and the relationships between them. These remain unchanged (frozen) in any instantiation of the application framework. Hot spots represent those parts where the programmers using the framework add their own code to add the functionality specific to their own project.

Software frameworks define the places in the architecture where application programmers may make adaptations for specific functionality—the hot spots. These hot spots are usually formalized by defining an explicit component Interface, or a defacto interface as defined by some existing component that is being overridden. Without a framework though, "there is no such thing as a component"[10]

In an object-oriented environment, a framework consists of abstract and concrete classes. Instantiation of such a framework consists of composing and subclassing the existing classes.[11]

When developing a concrete software system with a software framework, developers utilize the hot spots according to the specific needs and requirements of the system. Software frameworks rely on the Hollywood Principle: "Don't call us, we'll call you."[12] This means that the user-defined classes (for example, new subclasses), receive messages from the predefined framework classes. Developers usually handle this by implementing superclass abstract methods.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. ^ Riehle, Dirk (2000), Framework Design: A Role Modeling Approach, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, 
  2. ^ "Framework". DocForge. Retrieved 15 December 2008. 
  3. ^ Vlissides, J M; Linton, M A (1990), "Unidraw: a framework for building domain-specific graphical editors", ACM Transactions of Information Systems 8 (3): 237–268, doi:10.1145/98188.98197 
  4. ^ Johnson, R E (1992), "Documenting frameworks using patterns", Proceedings of the Conference on Object Oriented Programming Systems Languages and Applications (ACM Press): 63–76 
  5. ^ Johnson, R E; McConnell, C; Lake, M J (1992), Giegerich, R; Graham, S L, eds., "The RTL system: a framework for code optimization", Proceedings of the International workshop on code generation (Springer-Verlag): 255–274 
  6. ^ Birrer, A; Eggenschwiler, T (1993), Frameworks in the financial engineering domain: an experience report, Springer-Verlag, pp. 21–35 
  7. ^ Hill, C; DeLuca, C; Balaji, V; Suarez, M; da Silva, A (2004), "Architecture of the Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF)", Computing in Science and Engineering: 18–28 
  8. ^ Gachet, A (2003), "Software Frameworks for Developing Decision Support Systems - A New Component in the Classification of DSS Development Tools", Journal of Decision Systems 12 (3): 271–281 
  9. ^ Pree, W (1994), "Meta Patterns: A Means for Capturing the Essentials of Reusable Object-Oriented Design", Proceedings of the 8th European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming (Springer-Verlag): 150–162 
  10. ^ Wallace, Bruce. "A Hole for every Component and every Component in its Hole". Existential Programming. Retrieved 9 April 2011. 
  11. ^ Buschmann, F (1996), Pattern-Oriented Software Architecture Volume 1: A System of Patterns. Chichester, Wiley, ISBN 0471958697 
  12. ^ Larman, C (2001), Applying UML and Patterns: An Introduction to Object-Oriented Analysis and Design and the Unified Process (2nd ed.), Prentice Hall, ISBN 0130925691 
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