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Highwheel-Modules

Highwheel modules is an extension of the class dependency visualisation tool Highwheel by Henry Coles to express, measure and verify the structure and the design of Java projects.

In general it is reasonable to expect that Java project are organised in logical entities (or modules) that serve a specific concern: a module is used to contain the core business logic of the application, a module is used to accomodate the outer interface through a web api, a module is used to contain the clients to connect to persistent storage devices and external services etc. Highwheel modules offers:

  • A language to describe and define software modules and the relation between them (module specification).
  • An analysis scanner that takes the classes of a project and fits them in the defined modules.
  • A dependency calculator that determines if the provided module specification is observed by the project or not.
  • Command line tool and a maven plugin to apply validate the specification.
  • Measurement of architectural metrics (fan-in and fan-out) useful to verify stability and abstractness of the modules.

Specification language

Highwheel-module specification language can be described by the following grammar in EBNF form:

Modules ::= ["prefix:" RegexLiteral "\n"]
            ["whitelist:" RegexLiteral{, RegexLiteral} "\n"]
            ["blacklist:" RegexLiteral{, RegexLiteral} "\n"]
            ["mode:" Mode]
            "modules:" "\n"
              { ModuleDefinition }
            "rules:" "\n"
              { RuleDefinition } 

ModuleDefinition ::= ModuleIdentifier = RegexLiteral{ , RegexLiteral } "\n"

ModuleIdentifier ::= <java identifier>

RegexLiteral ::= "<glob regex>"

Mode ::= "STRICT" | "LOOSE"

RuleDefinition ::= DependencyRule | NoDependencyRule | OneToManyRule | ManyToOneRule

DependencyRule ::= <java identifier> "->" <java identifier> { "->" <java identifier> } "\n"

NoDependencyRule ::= <java identifier> "-/->" <java identifier>

OneToManyRule ::= <java identifier> "->" "(" <java identifier> {"," <java identifier>} ")"

ManyToOneRule ::= "(" <java identifier> {"," <java identifier>} ")" "->" <java identifier>

In order for a specification to be compiled correctly:

  • At least one module needs to be defined.
  • All the identifiers used in the rules section need to be defined in the modules section.
  • The file needs to end with a new-line

An example of specification can be found in this project in the spec.hwm files of every project modules and would look like this:

prefix: "com.github.fburato.highwheelmodules."

modules:
    Utils = "utils.*"
    Core = "core.*"
    Cli = "cli.*"
    MavenPlugin = "maven.*"
    Parser = "bytecodeparser.*"
    Model = "model.*"
rules:
    (MavenPlugin, Cli) -> Core
    Core -> Parser
    (Core, MavenPlugin, Cli, Parser, Model) -> Utils
    (Core, Parser) -> Model

An equivalent way of providing the specification is to use the prefix preamble, which allows to automatically add to all module specification a prefix to compact the definition.

With the usage of prefix, the following definition:

modules:
    Algorithms = "com.github.fburato.highwheelmodules.core.algorithms.*"
    ExternalAdapters = "com.github.fburato.highwheelmodules.core.externaladapters.*"
    Specification = "com.github.fburato.highwheelmodules.core.specification.*"
    ModuleAnalyser = "com.github.fburato.highwheelmodules.core.analysis.*"
    Facade = "com.github.fburato.highwheelmodules.core.AnalyserFacade"

rules:
    Facade -> (ModuleAnalyser, Specification, ExternalAdapters)
    ModuleAnalyser -> Algorithms
    Facade -/-> Algorithms

is equivalent to

prefix: "com.github.fburato.highwheelmodules.core."

modules:
    Algorithms = "algorithms.*"
    ExternalAdapters = "externaladapters.*"
    Specification = "specification.*"
    ModuleAnalyser = "analysis.*"
    Facade = "AnalyserFacade"

rules:
    Facade -> (ModuleAnalyser, Specification, ExternalAdapters)
    ModuleAnalyser -> Algorithms
    Facade -/-> Algorithms

Whitelisting and blacklisting of modules is also supported (as of 1.5.0). By specifying whitelist and blacklists in the specification, you can force Highwheel modules to focus only on certain classes or exclude certain classes from analysis respectively.

By whitelisting you are forcing the bytecode analyser to consider elements identified to be added to the dependency graph building algorithm only if they match any of the regexes in the whitelist.

By blacklisting, you are forcing the bytecode analyser to ignore elements identified to be added to the dependency graph building algorithm if they match any of the regexes in the blacklist.

Modes of operation

Highwheel modules supports two modes of operation: strict and loose.

When running on strict mode, the rules are interpreted as follows:

  • A -> B requires that there must exist a direct dependency between a class in module A and a class in module B. The rule is violated if there is no such dependency or if A depends on B indirectly through other modules
  • A -/-> B requires that if B is reachable from A then there is no explicit dependency between classes of A and classes of B. The rule is violated if there is such a direct dependency.

Moreover, a strict analysis fails if there are dependencies in the actual dependency graph calculated from the bytecode that do not appear in the specification. Basically a strict analysis requires the entire dependency graph to be explicitly written in the specification in order for it to pass.

It is an analysis mode suggested to identify circular dependencies (i.e. if there is no such rule as A -> A in the specification but the circular dependency on A exists, the analysis will fill) and to enforce strong design decisions.

When running on loose mode, the rules are interpreted as follows:

  • A -> B requires that B is reachable from A in any way. The rule is violated if B is not reachable from A
  • A -/-> B requires that B is not reachable from A in any way. The rule is violated if A depends on B

Basically, the loose analysis is a whitelisting and blacklisting analysis: certain dependency are allowed to exist and certain are not.

It is an analysis mode suggested to ensure very specific properties in the dependency graph and not the entire structure of it.

In order to use the loose analysis mode, specify the mode in the specification file as follows.

prefix: "com.github.fburato.highwheelmodules.core."
mode: LOOSE

modules:
    Algorithms = "algorithms.*"
    ExternalAdapters = "externaladapters.*"
    Specification = "specification.*"
    ModuleAnalyser = "analysis.*"
    Facade = "AnalyserFacade"

rules:
    Facade -> (ModuleAnalyser, Specification, ExternalAdapters)
    ModuleAnalyser -> Algorithms
    Facade -/-> Algorithms

The default mode is STRICT, but the mode can be explicitly indicated with mode: STRICT in the same position.

Usage

Highwheel modules can be used by including in your build the appropriate plugin, depending on your build tool of choice: