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Revision as of 16:28, 20 October 2009 by Dcthomp (talk | contribs) (Some comments.)
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After looking at various other frameworks, tools and products out there here are some thoughts on the API. Employing a factory based interface seems like it would give us the most intuitive API. So a chart could be instantiated in the following way,

// Instantiate a new chart
vtkChart *chart = vtkChart::New();
// Add a bar plot
vtkPlot *barPlot = chart->AddPlot(Chart::BAR);
// Set the data source to table, column 0 is x, column 2 is y
barPlot->SetData(table, 0, 2);
// Set the width of the bars
// Add a line plot
vtkPlot *linePlot = chart->AddPlot(Chart::LINE);
// Set the data source to table, column 0 is x, column 2 is y
linePlot->SetData(table, 0, 2);
// Set the line width

I could also overload the New() function to accept an argument such as vtkChart::New(vtkChart::LINE) which would create a new chart object with a line chart contained. The chart can iterate over the plots and paint each one in turn, this allows an intuitive interface where multiple plot types can be plotted on the same axes.

AddPlot() or the vtkChart::New() variant that takes an argument should take strings and not enums. That will allow run-time addition of new plot types. A few simple functions would make it easy to create new types of plots (or even just shortcuts for plots with some style defaults set differently).

There has been a lot of talk about API. Do we want a declarative API? This would make constructs such as,

vtkChart *chart = vtkChart::New();

  ->SetData(table, 1, 2)
  ->SetLabel("My Data");

This would require setter functions that returned a pointer to the object, i.e.

vtkChart * vtkChart::SetWidth(int width);
vtkPlot * vtkChart::AddPlot(enum);
vtkPlot * vtkPlot::SetLabel(const char *label);

One nice thing about this approach is that ignoring the pointer returned allows traditional VTK syntax to be used.

vtkPlot *plot = chart->AddPlot(vtkChart::BAR);
plot->SetData(table, 1, 2);
plot->SetLabel("My Data");

Admittedly it is not in keeping with the current pattern used in VTK, there are numerous examples of its use in other libraries and frameworks. It should possibly be more of a global change to the library API, rather than isolated to one or two components.

I am not sure declarative properties are that useful. However, I think there's no harm (other than a lot of work) in changing vtkSetMacro and other SetXXX() methods to return "this" instead of void. Note that
      find /path/to/ParaView -name "*.h" -exec grep "void Set[A-Z].*(" {} \; | grep -v "static " | wc -l
returned 5262 SetXXX() methods that were declared directly instead of using vtkSetMacro (many may involve pointers to vtkObject subclasses).