amanuensis : Java Glossary



The Concise Oxford English Dictionary Luxury Edition defines amanuensis as one who writes from dictation or copies manuscript; literary assistant. In other words an amanuensis is an intelligent scribe who helps you compose words or music. You don’t have to give her all the details. She is quite capable of filling them in for you. I use the term mainly to describe a program that helps you write programs. You tell it in general what you want and it fills in the details for you. I have written many amanuensis Applets, most of which help you write Java code. You give them just a few bits of information about what you want and they fill in the details generating the reams of code Java requires. A wizard is similar to an amanuensis, but a wizard presumes you are a novice and leads you by the hand step by step, often refusing to let you backtrack. An amanuensis presumes you are more expert. Usually you specify everything you need in one step using a dialog box. An amanuensis is smarter than a typical macro, but has no facility for automatic regeneration. If you need to change the code, you either rengenerate it or tweak the generated code.

I envision amanuenses eventually working in two modes: interactive and batch. In interactive mode you select your parameters from multiple choice Lists. In batch mode the parameters are specified in the source code. A generic macro processor invokes the macro and inserts the output in the source. The generic macro processor can also reprocess macros to regenerate them if the rules of generation change. I have described the mechanism in the context of HTML Macros, but the same principle applies to Java macros.

An amanuensis generally generates either Java or HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), though it could generate any sort of structured text.

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