Description of this document

This document is intended to serve as a specification for the look and feel, the features and functionality, and the user interaction with the proposed Task Context Navigator window in Netbeans.

Task Context, Defined

A task context is all of the objects, settings, files, and other elements that pertain to completion of a task. In the Netbeans IDE, task context consists of three types of elements: files, debugging objects, and bookmarks. In each of these areas, as the developer works on a task, when they open a file, set a breakpoint, or toggle a bookmark on, these items become part of their context. When they later return to this task, these items will be readily available for them.

Look and Feel

The base look and feel of the Task Context Navigator is shown here:

User Interface Description


The general User Interface is that of a dockable window. The intent is to provide a common location where developers can view and navigate to elements that are included in their Task Context. The developer also has the ability to manually add objects to their context, as well as being able to remove elements they deem to not be pertinent to the task.


The default position of the Task Context Navigator will place it in the same vicinity as Netbeans' Navigator window, docked as a tab that the developer can toggle to.

Interaction with the Task Dashboard

The Task Context Navigator always shows the task context for the currently activated task. A task is activated in the Task Dashboard by right-clicking it and selecting "Activate".

Description of UI Aspects

Here are descriptions of the UI Aspects shown in the mockup above, based on the numerical callouts shown therein:

1.) Files: The files tab of the Task Context Navigator shows the files which are currently part of the Task Context. This is visualized in a two-level tree. The top-level nodes are the projects, and the subnodes are the files themselves. Files are populated automatically into this list when they are opened in the IDE while the task is active. The user can also manually add files using the "Add" button in the toolbar. Finally, the user can remove files, either manually or automatically added, by selecting them and pressing the "Remove" button in the toolbar.


2.) Debugging: The debugging tab of the Task Context navigator will show the breakpoints and watches that are part of the context. As developers work on the task, when they set breakpoints and watches, they will be added to the context. The disabled/enabled state of these objects will also be retained as part of the context. If the developer decides that they want to make a breakpoint or watch global, such that it executes all the time, and not just when the task is active, they can use the "Remove from Context" button on the toolbar. They can also delete the breakpoint or watch completely, which unsets it and removes it from the context.


3.) Preferences: The Preferences dialog (launch point for this dialog is TBD) determines how the Task Context renders itself onto the Netbeans IDE. It is pervasive across all task contexts, not specific to each one. The preferences determine which files are saved as part of a context, as well as which ones are opened when a task is made active. The developer can also determine how breakpoints and watches are saved and restored when working with an active task.


Alternative UI Approach

For the first release of the Task Context Navigator, given that we've limited scope to just files and debugging objects, the context navigator could be streamlined as shown below:


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