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EMF uses a(n instance of the) Resource (class) as the container of the object graph and scope of serialisation. The object graph will mainly consist of EObjects, since this is the base superclass of all modelled data, hence we'll use EObjects as a synonym for graph of instances of an Ecore model. Thus, you serialise the EObjectcontained in a Resource to an OutputStream (e.g. a FileOutputStream) with its save method, and de-serialise from an InputStream (e.g. a ByteArrayInputStreaminto a Resource with its load method, which then will contain the re-constructed EObjects.

The Resource class is abstract, and it's the Resource subclass you use that implements the serialisation logic which determines the format of the byte or character sequence. E.g. the XMIResource class supports a generic format named XML Metadata Interchange (XMI), which is an XML-based model format standardised by the Object Management Group (OMG), so if you want your EObjects serialised as XMI, you use an XMIResource as the container. You can implement your own custom format by making your own Resource subclass, e.g. to support existing legacy formats or a format designed to be easier to read and write for humans (e.g. a DSL).

The (structure of) EObjects within a Resource is often self-contained, but cross-links between Resources, are supported, and this must be handled by the serialisation and de-serialisation mechanism. EMF uses a dual technique based on URIs: 1) a URI is used to identify a Resource , e.g. "file:/Users/hal/resource2.xmi" and 2) a fragment is used to identify an EObject within a Resource. The fragment is computed by the target Resource's getURIFragment(EObject) method and is typically a path-like string like "/orgUnits/0/workers/2". Together this gives URIs like "file:/Users/hal/resource2.xmi#/orgUnits/0/workers/2" where "#" is used as separator according to the URI standard. The fragment is useful on its own, as it can be used to serialise links within a Resource, too.

So, when serialising (saving) a link to a target EObject, a URI to this EObject is created as described above, and the resulting string is used. When de-serialising (loading) a Resource with a cross-link, the URI is split into a base URI and a fragment, and the base URI is used to identify and auto-load the target Resource, before looking up the target EObject by giving the fragment to the Resource's getEObject(String) method.

Det circles in Resource 1 and 2 are instances of subclasses of EObject, where the classes typically are generated from your Ecore model. The arrows from circles in Resource 1 to Resource 2 are cross-links.


The ResourceSet

As described above, when loading a Resource, you may need to load other Resources as you encounter cross-links. To avoid loading a Resource more than once, it needs to be stored and reused if its URI is encountered later. A ResourceSet is used as the container for Resources, giving a hierarchy of (at least) three levels: a ResourceSet, Resources and EObjects, where each Resource contains part of a large EObject graph, as shown in the figure above. Before loading a Resource, you must add it to a ResourceSet so it 1) can be used for lookup up Resources by URI later and 2) can store the other Resources that are implicitly auto-loaded in the process. The code may look like this:

Code Block
ResourceSet resourceSet = new ResourceSetImpl();
Resource resource = new XMIResourceImpl(URI.create("file:/Users/hal/resource2.xmi"));
resource.load(null); // TODO: catch exceptions
Code Block
// create an instance of the default ResourceSet implementation
// create an instance of the default XMIResource implementation
// add the Resource to the ResourceSet
// load using default loading options
// now the size of resourceSet.getResources() is >= 1

The Resource.Factory

The auto-loading mechanism requires a Resource to (be able to) create other Resources. As described above, the Resource implements the serialisation and de-serialisation logic, so it's crucial that the correct Resource subclass is instantiated. But how does the Resource know which subclass to use?

The actual instantiation of a Resource (subclass) is done by a Resource.Factory, and global and local registries of such objects are used to find the appropriate one to use. The global registry is stored in Resource.Factory.Registry.INSTANCE and the local one is stored in the ResourceSet and retrieved by the getResourceFactoryRegistry method. The lookup and instantiation is encapsulated by the ResourceSet's createResource(URI) method, so we only need to write the following code:

Code Block
ResourceSet resourceSet = new ResourceSetImpl();
Resource resource = resourceSet.createResource(URI.create("file:/Users/hal/resource2.xmi"));
Code Block
// create an instance of the default ResourceSet implementation
// use it to create the Resource

However, first we need to make sure the registry is initialised with the relevant Resource.Factory implementations, so our custom ones are found (whether generated or hand-written):

Code Block
ResourceSet resourceSet = new ResourceSetImpl();
Resource.Factory.Registry registry = resourceSet.getResourceFactoryRegistry();
registry.getExtensionToFactoryMap().put("org", new OrgResourceFactoryImpl());
Code Block
// create an instance of the default ResourceSet implementation
// retrieve the Resource.Factory.Registry
// map the file extension to our Resource.Factory

To register our Resource.Factory globally, use Resource.Factory.Registry.INSTANCE instead of retrieving the one in the ResourceSet. Note that if you use genmodel and generate code, and install your EMF project into Eclipse, this is done automatically, using Eclipse's plugin.xml-based extension mechanism. If running standalone, as in an ordinary JUnit test, you must include similar code, in the case of JUnit in the setUp or @BeforeClass method.

The EPackage.Registry

In the code above for loading a Resource, an important element is missing.  When de-serialising a model instance, e.g. when creating and linking EObjects, the EClasses of a model is needed and hence the containing EPackage. EMF identifies the latter by its nsURI, so this identifies is typically included in the character stream. E.g. in the XMI format described below, XML namespaces are related to the nsURI. However, this only solves half the problem, the other being retrieving the corresponding EPackage object. For this an EPackage.Registry is used.

An EPackage.Registry is a map from the nsURI to the corresponding EPackage object, and as for Resource.Factory.Registry, there is a global one and local ones the ResourceSets. The global one can be retrieved from EPackage.Registry.INSTANCE and the local ones using ResourceSet's getPackageRegistry() method. To initialise it with a specific EPackage (here OrgPackage), you write code similar to the following:

Code Block
ResourceSet resourceSet = new ResourceSetImpl();
EPackage.Registry registry = resourceSet.getPackageRegistry(); // or EPackage.Registry.INSTANCE
registry.put(OrgPackage.eINSTANCE.getNsURI(), OrgPackage.eINSTANCE); // map from nsURI to EPackage instance

As for Resource.Factory.Registry, if you use genmodel and generate code, and install your EMF project into Eclipse, this is done automatically, using Eclipse's plugin.xml-based extension mechanism. If running standalone, as in an ordinary JUnit test, you must include similar code, in the case of JUnit in the setUp or @BeforeClass method.

Supported serialisation formats

EMF itself supports both the standardised XMI format and more ad-hoc XML-formats. Other projects supports more human-readable ones.