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Eclipse Plug-in Developer Guide
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Workbench concurrency support

We've seen that the JFace UI framework provides basic support for showing task progress in a dialog (see Longrunning operations for details). In Concurrencyinfrastructure, we reviewed the platform runtime support for concurrency and long running operations. Now we will look at how the platform UI enhances this infrastructure in the org.eclipse.ui.progress package. This package supplies the UI for showing job progress in the workbench and defines additional support for jobs that run in the UI thread.

First, let's look at the different kinds of background operations that may be running and how they are shown in the workbench UI:

  • User initiated jobs are those that the user has triggered. The workbench will automatically show user jobs in a modal progress dialog with a button to allow the user to run the operation in the background and continue working. A global preference is used to indicate whether user jobs should always run in the background. User jobs are distinguished as such in the Job API using ( Job#setUser). Examples of user jobs include building, checking out a project, synchronizing with the repository, exporting a plug-in, and searching.

  • Automatically triggered jobs have a meaning for users but are not initiated by the user. These jobs are shown in the progress view and in the status line, but a modal progress dialog won't be shown when they are run. Examples include autobuild and scheduled synchronization.

  • System operations are not triggered by the user and can be considered a platform implementation detail. These jobs are created by setting the system flag using( Job#setSystem). Examples of system jobs include jobs that lazily populate widgets or compute decorations and annotations for views.

Given an environment where several things may be happening at the same time, a user needs the following:

  • Indication that a long running operation has started.

    User jobs are shown to the user in a progress dialog giving immediate feedback, whereas automatically triggered jobs are shown in the status line and progress view. Jobs that affect a part should be scheduled or registered with the part so that the workbench can provide hints to the user that something is running that affects the part.

  • Indication that an operation has ended.

    The user can easily know when a user job ends because the progress dialog closes. For non-user jobs, there are a couple of feedback mechanisms available. If the job is scheduled or registered with a part then the part's progress hint will show when it is complete. If a job returns an error, an error indicator will appear in the bottom right of the status line showing a hint that an error has occured.

  • Indication of interesting new results, or new information, without stealing focus by using a dialog.

    A user job can directly show the results to the user when the operation completes. For non-user jobs, it is recommended to use something other than a dialog to show results, so that the user is not interrupted. For example, a view could be opened when the job starts and the results shown in this view without disrupting the user's workflow. In addition, job properties can be added to the job to indicate that it should be kept in the progress view and that it provides an action that will show the results. In this case, a warning indication will appear in the bottom right corner of the status line when a job remains in the progress view and has results to show the user.

  • A general feeling of being in control of what is running, with the ability to monitor and cancel background operations.

    User jobs provide the best control for the user since they are easily cancelled and provide strong indication of blocking or conccurent operations running via the Details tab of the progress dialog. Note that the enhanced progress dialog that provides the Details area is only shown when plug-ins use IProgressService#busyCursorWhile or IProgressService#runInUI. In addition, the progress view provides access to jobs that are running.

  • Consistent reporting of progress by all installed plug-ins.

    The advantage of using the progress service API is that users get a consistent progress experience.

Progress service

The workbench progress service (IProgressService) is the primary interface to the workbench progress support. It can be obtained from the workbench and then used to show progress for both background operations and operations that run in the UI thread. The main purpose of this class is to provide one-stop shopping for running operations, removing the need for plug-in developers to decide what mechanism should be used for showing progress in a given situation. Another advantage is that the progress dialog shown with these methods provides good support for indicating when an operation is blocked by another and gives the user control to resolve the conflict. Where possible, long running operations should be run using IProgressService#busyCursorWhile:

   IProgressService progressService = PlatformUI.getWorkbench().getProgressService();
   progressService.busyCursorWhile(new IRunnableWithProgress(){
      public void run(IProgressMonitor monitor) {
         //do non-UI work

This method will initially put up a busy cursor, and replace it with a progress dialog if the operation lasts longer than a specified time threshhold. The advantage of this method over using a progress dialog is that the progress dialog won't be shown if the operation is short running . If your operation must update the UI, you can always use Display.asyncExec or Display.syncExec to run the code that modifies the UI.

If an operation must be run in its entirety in the UI thread, then IProgressService#runInUI should be used. This method will also display a progress dialog if the operation is blocked and give the user control.

      new IRunnableWithProgress() {
         public void run(IProgressMonitor monitor) {
            //do UI work

The third parameter can be null, or a scheduling rule for the operation. In this example, we are specifying the workspace root which will essentially lock the workspace while this UI operation is run.

You can also register an icon for a job family with the progress service so that the progress view can show the icon next to the running job. Here is an example that shows how the auto-build job family is associated with its icon:

   IProgressService service = PlatformUI.getWorkbench().getProgressService();
   ImageDescriptor newImage = IDEInternalWorkbenchImages.getImageDescriptor(
   service.registerIconForFamily(newImage, ResourcesPlugin.FAMILY_MANUAL_BUILD);
   service.registerIconForFamily(newImage, ResourcesPlugin.FAMILY_AUTO_BUILD);

Showing that a part is busy

IWorkbenchSiteProgressService includes API for scheduling jobs that change the appearance of a workbench part while the job is running. If your plug-in is running background operations that affect the state of a part, you can schedule the job via the part and the user will get feedback that the part is busy. Here is an example:

   IWorkbenchSiteProgressService siteService =
   siteService.schedule(job, 0 /* now */, true /* use the half-busy cursor in the part */);

Progress Properties for Jobs

The workbench defines progress-related properties for jobs in IProgressConstants . These can be used to control how a job is shown in the progress view. These can be used to tell the progress view to keep (IProgressConstants#KEEP_PROPERTY) your job in the view after it has finished, or only keep one (IProgressConstants#KEEPONE_PROPERTY) job at a time in the view. You can also associate an action (IProgressConstants#ACTION_PROPERTY) with a job. When a job has an associated action, the progress view shows a hyperlink so that a user can run the action. You can also find out if a user job is currently being shown in a progress dialog (IProgressConstants#PROPERTY_IN_DIALOG). A hint is provided in the bottom right of the status line when an action is available. The following example uses these properties:

   Job job = new Job("Do Work") {
      public IStatus run(IProgressMonitor monitor) {
         // do some work.  
         // Keep the finished job in the progress view only if it is not running in the progress dialog
         Boolean inDialog = (Boolean)getProperty(IProgressConstants.PROPERTY_IN_DIALOG);
            setProperty(IProgressConstants.KEEP_PROPERTY, Boolean.TRUE);
   job.setProperty(IProgressConstants.ICON_PROPERTY, Plugin.getImageDescriptor(WORK_IMAGE));
   IAction gotoAction = new Action("Results") {
      public void run() {
         // show the results
   job.setProperty(IProgressConstants.ACTION_PROPERTY, gotoAction);

Workbench jobs

Where possible, long running operations should be performed outside of the UI thread. However, this cannot always be avoided when the operation's purpose is to update the UI. SWT threading issues explains how this can be done using the SWT Display . The workbench defines a special job, UIJob , whose run method runs inside an SWT asyncExec. Subclasses of UIJob should implement the method runInUIThread instead of the run method.

WorkbenchJob extends UIJob so that the job can only be scheduled or run when the workbench is running. As always, you should avoid excessive work in the UI thread because the UI will not refresh for the duration of the UI Job.

  Published under the terms of the Eclipse Public License Version 1.0 ("EPL") Design by Interspire