Research: Extension Management

Kevin Dangoor edited this page Oct 24, 2013 · 20 revisions

Note: Brackets now ships with extension management. This page is here as a historical reference of the thinking behind extension management features.

Extension Management Research

In Sprint 21, we had a story to research Extension Management Workflow and Metadata. This document has a summary of the results and links to the details. If you're interested in diving straight into all of the details, take a look at the "Detailed Documents" section at the end.

In the interest of truly summarizing what we've come up with, this document will leave out background and details, so do be sure to dive in where you are interested in learning more or helping with implementation.

Finding and Installing Extensions

The Extension Manager Workflows document how users will interact with the extension manager in Brackets.

The wireframe below gives a couple of ideas of how the extensions may be presented (the first shows in a sidebar, the second in a full view).

Wireframe of Extension Listing (sidebar)

Wireframe of Extension Listing (full view)

  • Users will be able to quickly see the most popular extensions (based on ratings and downloads)
  • Very speedy (entirely client-side) search is right at the top
  • Installing an extension just takes a click on the install button
  • More information is available to help the user pick the right extension (longer description, reviews)
  • Installation occurs in the background, while the user works
  • Our goal is to make extensions restartless, but the details and timing need to be worked out in the extension API research

Managing Extensions

This wireframe shows how the user can manage installed extensions:

Wireframe showing installed extensions

  • Users can disable an extension to temporarily turn it off
  • Or, if they're sure they no longer want it, they can remove the extension
  • They'll have a way to get help if an extension isn't working properly
  • In the future, extensions may offer settings of their own which the user can get to from here
  • Users will be able to rate and review extensions, after authenticating with the registry
  • Brackets will tell the user when updates are available
    • They can get more information about the updates
    • Ideally, updates will happen without a restart of Brackets

Creating Extensions

  • We want to support a workflow that makes it easy to get started writing an extension with a template for a new extension
  • Testing extensions will be easy as it is today
  • In-development extensions will appear in the extension manager
  • When the extension developer is ready to publish their extension, they can do so from the extension manager with the click of a button (authentication is required for this)

The extension package format will be familiar for anyone who has used npm, and easy for anyone who has not. All of the information about the extension is located in a package.json file, with optional information in some other files. This allows that information to be stored in a version control system and makes publishing a new version a one click step.

Our goal is for extensions to be as compatible with Brackets and one another as possible, even as changes are made. We'll do our best to minimize disruption for Brackets users while ensuring that their editor remains stable.

The Registry Server

The registry server will be set up to quickly deliver information about the extensions and the extensions themselves. It will have a straightforward REST+JSON API for submitting ratings and reviews and publishing extensions, and we will seek to make authentication as easy on the users as possible.

There will also be a management API for ensuring that Brackets users get updates as quickly as possible when out of date or potentially damaging extensions are identified.

Detailed Documents

The preceding sections were intended as a quick overview of the results of our research. For background and additional details, you can dive in below:

Candidate Stories

These proposed stories have already been moved to the backlog in Trello. Look there for the latest versions. (They're left here for convenient reading.)

  • Extension publishing
    • Web-based UI with login and file upload
    • Validation of extension
      • Required package.json fields
      • No required files missing
      • Version number different from previously published extension
    • Authentication for server (OAuth preferred)
    • Server side to handle publishing
  • Extension management mechanism
    • Provides critical management functions
      • Hide extension from listing
      • Disable extension everywhere
      • Reactivate extension
      • Change max version of extension
      • Deactivate/activate user (disallow login)
      • Set authorizations (ability to access this API, for example)
    • Authorized for Brackets committers/core team only
    • UI should be whatever is easiest to implement
  • Extension install
    • Given a URL to an extension package, install it
    • Checks for compatibility with Brackets and peer dependencies
  • Extension handling on Brackets update
    • Disable extensions that are no longer compatible
    • Warn the user
    • Update extensions as possible
  • Extension Listing
    • Compact view only
    • Secured Markdown formatting of description
    • Tell user why certain extensions can't be installed
      • newer or older version of Brackets required
      • Incompatibility between extensions (peer dependency issues)
    • Sort by downloads, alphabetical
    • Server side of listing
    • Consider sending SHAs for packages
    • One click install
    • Handle extensions that require a restart
  • Extension Detail View
    • Optionally provides more screenshots
    • Links to homepage, bug reporting
    • If available, shows reviews, rating breakdown
    • View of changelog
  • Extension search/filter
    • Search
    • Filter by keyword
    • See more by author
  • Extension updates
    • Can automatically disable extensions that are found to be damaging
    • Prompts for restart for extensions that require a restart
    • Displays changelog entries since installed version
    • Warns users of extensions that will be disabled because of compatibility issues
  • Extension ratings and reviews
    • Requires authentication to submit review
    • Integrate ratings/reviews into listings
    • Change default sorting to include ratings along with download popularity
    • Required server side changes

The following possible stories have been discussed but are not yet part of the backlog:

  • Improved extension discoverability
    • Look at languages in project and suggest extensions based on that
  • Create an Extension workflow
    • Installs an extension template into a new directory.
  • Extension collections
    • One click "distributions" of extensions
  • View extensions on the web
  • Synchronize settings and extensions between Brackets instances
  • Share extension via Twitter, Facebook

Deferred Questions

The answers to these questions will be resolved at implementation time.

  • Will the extension manager live in a sidebar, popover or full frame?
  • What will the login workflow be like? does the login need to time out? can we safely implement a flow within Brackets that authenticates with other services?
  • Is there enough space for an update count badge on the extension manager icon?
  • How do we present extension descriptions securely? (allow Markdown formatting, but escape embedded HTML?)
  • How do parts of an extension run within Node? (Do we defer this until the Extension API research?)
  • How do we reconcile the module format difference between node/npm and Brackets?
  • Feasibility of packages being submitted to other registries as appropriate (maybe for Edge Code)?
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