[jsword-devel] ProjectB Primer (part3)

Joe Walker jsword-devel@bibletechnologieswg.org
Wed, 10 Apr 2002 17:03:34 +0100

This is cut from some of the JavaDoc for ProjectB. It describes the most
fundamental interfaces in the Model layer.

Project B Primer part 3: Design of "Model" layer

This is overview documentation that explains how the Book and Bible
interfaces are arranged and justifies the design decisions. Note that most
of what is documented here is current for ProjectB - there are a few
sections that reflect where we will be given a bit more re-factoring.

The most important thing any Bible program does is to access Bible data, and
in more general terms, book data. There may be many different sources of
data - Bibles stored in different formats, or even on remote systems,
dictionaries, lexicons and so on. It would be good (where appropriate) to be
able to treat them all similarly without needing to reinvent the wheel too
often. Clearly we should be able to use inheritance to specialize where
So we start by creating an interface that is common to all 'Books' but that
allows is to do as much as possible.
The first goal is to read data and to be able to direct where to read from
with some sort of pointer system. So we start with an interface that looks
like this:

interface Book
    Data getData(Pointers ptr);

Before we look at what Data and Pointers look like, a Book will need to be
able to do 2 other things:
Firstly tell us about itself: what it is called, where it comes from and so
on - MetaData about the Book itself.
Secondly help us to find stuff by searching. Now searching can be complex
and we should not aim to implement a full search system in every Book,
however I think we can build a couple of simple methods that will allow us
to construct a powerful generalized search system separately. All we need is
to find any given word and to be able to find words that match a given

So we can develop our interface like this:

interface Book
    BookMetaData getMetaData();
    Data getData(Pointers ptr);
    Pointers search(String word);
    String[] matchingWords(String spec);

The definition of the matchingWord spec needs attention - in ProjectB the
method is called getStartsWith(String base) which allows stemming (the most
commmon search word manipulation) but does not allow more complex wildcard
cases. I want to avoid adding too much complexity that will be hard to
implement and rarely used. Certainly any solution that involves regular
expression is going to be 1. very hard to implement and 2. not actually
useful for 99% of users. So I propose a simplifiaction:

interface Book
    String[] startsWith(String spec);

This interface can be implemented several times, once by something that
reads Sword format data, once by something that reads ProjectB format data,
and so on.
The users, and indeed the developers of the front ends do not want to know
about the various different implementors and what implementations need to be
looked at. So we can use a couple of classes to fix this. If you like GoF
patterns, an AbstractFactory:

interface Books
    Iterator listBooks();
    void registerDriver(BookDriver driver);

interface BookDriver
    Iterator listBooks();

Both listBooks() methods allow you to iterate over the Books known to the
whole system (Books) or the particular BookDriver. The question is what sort
of Object should these iterators iterate over?
The Books themselves would be a bad idea because creating a Book may be a
time and memory consuming process (indexes to be loaded etc) so we need some
sort of a key to refer to Books by.
A simple string is OK, but better (and more unique) would be the MetaData
objects previously noted. So these MetaData objects need to be able to give
access to the Book they represent.

interface Books
    Iterator listBooks();
    void registerDriver(BookDriver driver);
    Book getBook(BookMetaData id);

The BookMetaData itself looks something like this:

interface BookMetaData
    String getName();

Before we move on to what BookData and Pointers look like, I have
intentionally ignored 2 issues:
Encrypted works - some works will need to be encrypted - however the finding
of keys or deobfustication will be done within the Driver so we don't need
to worry about it too much.
Configuration - some Books will need configuring before they will work,
maybe with encryption keys, maybe with directories under which to find
information. Each BookDriver will need to take care of configuring the Books
that it creates we don't attempt to do anything more fancy even though there
are parts of ProjectB that have implemented a generic configuration system.

BookData and Pointers are related. BookData describes the actual Book text
(for example "In the beginning God created ...") and Pointers describe where
that text comes from (for example "Gen 1:1")

BookData first. We do not want to force users of this code to use it in any
specific way, so BookData should describe the text in as much detail as
possible without forcing how that text is used. The final display could be a
PDA, a web browser, a matching verse list or a full-blow GUI display. This
to me rules out RTF, HTML and plain text, as they are all either display
specific (RTF/HTML) or low detail (text), and makes me think that XML along
with some standard converters to turn XML into RTF/HTML/PDF/text/blah is the
best choice.
This has the added benefit that it allows us to specify not just what output
format is required, but also how that transformation is done, the fonts and
layout details of the produced RTF/HTML are all very configurable.<br>
It also turn out to be very easy in Java simply by using the XSL libraries
produced by Sun and Apache. XSL libraries are freely available in all good
languages. :-)
However there is still the question of how to marshal the XML into objects
for manipulation. In Java there are many options - SAX/DOM/JDOM/JAXB -
ordered in my opinion from worst for this job (SAX) to best for the job
(JAXB) however JAXB is still very alpha so I am currently using JDOM and
I've implemented some classes to hide the marshalling method for all but the
most fancy of Books.

Pointers are used to request BookData from a Book and are also used as a
reply from a search - so we have Pointers that tell us where the word
"aaron" exists in a particular Book. For the case of a Bible a pointer could
look like this: "Gen 1:1, Isa 45:2, Rev 20:4", for the case of a dictionary
a pointer would be like this: "aaron", or for a BookDriver that contained
sermons: "page 153, para 4-5".

I have not placed a requirement on Pointers for them to apply only to single
results, or even for the results to be contiguous (Pointers would be of
little use as search answers if this was to be the case).
The only common feature of Pointers that I can think of is that they ought
to be convertible to and from strings.

For the Bible case a Pointers is a collection of verses, and ProjectB has a
set of classes called Verse, VerseRange and Passage which are a fundamental
building block. Passage is a specialization of Pointers where the Book in
question is a Pointer. The Passage package has classes to do all sorts of
useful manipulations to lists of verses