The String Parser Service

The String Parser Service is implemented in the MonoDevelop.Core.StringParserService class and can be used to parse strings which contain tags and replace them with actual values. For example:

var values = new Dictionary<string,object> ();
values ["name"] = "Novell Inc";
values ["year"] = 2010;
string result = StringParserService.Parse ("Copyright (c) ${year} ${name)", values);
// The result will be: "Copyright (c) 2010 Novell Inc"

This kind of tagged strings are used in several places in MonoDevelop, such as in file templates, external tools and custom commands.

The StringParserService class has several overloads of the Parse method which provide different ways of specifying tag/value pairs. Tags are case insensitive.

Global tags

There are a set of global tags which are defined by the IDE and which are always processed, no matter which tag model is being used:

  • Date : Current date (short format)
  • Time : Current time (short format)
  • Year : Current year
  • Month : Current month
  • Day : Current day
  • Hour : Current hour
  • Minute : Current minute
  • Second : Current second
  • User : User login name
  • FilePath : Full path of the active document
  • FileDir : Directory of the active document
  • FileName : Name of the active document
  • FileExt : Extension of the active document
  • CurLine : Cursor line in the active document
  • CurColumn : Cursor column in the active document
  • CurOffset : Cursor offset in the active document
  • CurText : Selected text in the active document
  • EditorText : All text in the active document
  • StartupPath : MonoDevelop startup directory

Tag value formatting

It is possible to specify a formatting string for numeric and DateTime values. The format string can be specified after the tag name, using a colon as separator. For example:

string result = StringParserService.Parse ("Created on ${date:D)");
// 'D' is  the format string for the long date pattern.
// The result will be something like: "Created on Monday, June 15, 2009"

It is possible to use any format string supported by the ToString() method of each type.

String Tag Models

One of the StringParserService.Parse method overloads takes an IStringTagModel object as parameter. This interface has a single GetValue (string) method which can be implemented by a class to provide values for arbitrary strings.

Some classes of the MonoDevelop project model have methods for getting string tag models, which provide tags for common object properties. For example:

Solution s = ... // Get the solution from somewhere
IStringTagModel model = s.GetStringTagModel ();
string result = StringParserService.Parse ("The name of the solution is ${SolutionName}", model);
// The result would be something like "The name of the solution is SomeSolution"

The Solution class and all the other classes providing a GetStringTagModel() method also provide a GetStringTagModelDescription() method which can be used to get a list of all tags supported by the object. This list can be used to populate for example an editing menu.

The MonoDevelop.Ide.Gui.Components.StringTagSelectorButton widget is a drop down button which shows a list of tags.

Extensible String Tag Models

The MonoDevelop.Core.StringParsing.StringTagModel class is an implementation of the IStringTagModel interface which can be extended by add-ins. This class can be used like in the following example:

SomeObject ob = new SomeObject ();
StringTagModel tagModel = new StringTagModel ();
tagModel.Add (ob);
string result = StringParserService.Parse ("Some tag value ${SomeValue}", tagModel);

What’s special about the StringTagModel class is that it doesn’t have a method for adding key/value pairs, but instead it has a method for adding full objects. Key/value pairs will be extracted from those objects. This extraction of key/value pairs is done through a set of IStringTagProvider objects, which are registered in an extension point. This interface is defined like this:

public interface IStringTagProvider
    IEnumerable<StringTagDescription> GetTags (Type type);
    object GetTagValue (object instance, string tag);

When GetValue() is called on the StringTagModel object, it will iterate through all providers and call GetTagValue() for each object registered in the model until it gets a value.

Notice that both type and instace parameters can be null, meaning that StringTagModel is trying to get global tag values. IStringTagProvider implementations must always check for null arguments and return global tag values if they want to provide them.

Add-ins can implement IStringTagProvider classes to generate key/value pairs for some specific types of objects. Here is an example of an IStringTagProvider implementation:

class SomeTagProvider: StringTagProvider<SomeObject>
    public override IEnumerable<StringTagDescription> GetTags ()
        yield return new StringTagDescription ("SomeValue", "Some special value");

    public override object GetTagValue (SomeObject ob, string tag)
        if (tag == "SOMEVALUE")
            return ob.SomeProperty;
            throw new NotSupportedException;

Some comments:

  • The [Extension] attribute must be applied to specify that this class extends and extension point
  • The base class StringTagProvider<T> is a convenient implementation of IStringTagProvider which checks the type of the provided instance and does the required type cast to call the specialized methods.
  • The GetTags() method must return a list of tags supported by this provider. The StringTagDescription takes the tag name and description as arguments.
  • The GetTagValue() method must be able to return values for each of the tags returned by GetTags().
  • The tag name in GetTagValue is always provided in upper case, no matter how it was specified in the parsed string.

The WorkspaceItem and SolutionItem classes (and all subclasses such as Solution and Project) have a GetStringTagModel() method which returns a StringTagModel for the instance. Add-ins can use IStringTagProvider implementations to provide custom tag values for those objects.