ExtendJ Transpiler Extension Template

This is a minimal template for ExtendJ extensions.

This extension builds a compiler which outputs source code instead of bytecode. This is useful for transpilers and automated source manipulation tools.

This extension demonstrates two ways of modifying a Java program via JastAdd aspects:

  • With an AST rewrite rule. See src/jastadd/StringFuzz.jrag
  • With desugaring. (TODO)

Test the transpiler by running these commands:

./gradlew jar
java -jar template.jar testfiles/

The output is a modified version of the input code.


This code is simple template code that is meant to be copied, and I give anyone permission to use it without attribution. If you copy this code to create your own project, you can delete the LICENSE file. The license is there just to make it possible to use this project if your employer is strict about Open Source licensing.

Cloning this Project

To clone this project you will need Git installed.

Use this command to clone the project with Git:

git clone --recursive <REPOSITORY URL>

The --recursive flag makes Git also clone the ExtendJ submodule while cloning the template repository.

To manually clone or update ExtendJ, use these commands:

cd backend-extension-base
git submodule init
git submodule update

This downloads the ExtendJ Git repository into a subdirectory named extendj.

Build and Run

This project is built with Gradle, but you do not need to install Gradle to use it. If you have Java installed, run the following commands to build the project:

./gradlew jar

If you are running on Windows, replace ./gradlew by just gradlew.

Run the generated compiler with

java -jar template.jar <Java Source File>

The jarfile name is based on the project name in settings.gradle.

File Overview

Here is a short description of some notable files in this project:

  • build.gradle - the main Gradle build script. More about this below.
  • gradlew.bat - script for building on Windows.
  • gradlew - script for building on Unix-likes.
  • testfiles/ - a simple Java file to test the generated compiler.
  • settings.gradle - sets the Gradle project name to template. Edit this.
  • <PROJECT NAME>.jar - the generated compiler Jar file.

Extension Architecture

We use the JastAdd Gradle plugin to build this project. This plugin has its own DSL for JastAdd modules which significantly simplifies the process for combining extensions with the core ExtendJ compiler.

The template build script has a small module specification which starts with this line:


This line includes the core ExtendJ modules by loading the file with the path extendj/jastadd_modules. That file is a module specification which in turn includes modules from subdirectories in the extendj directory.

Module specifications can define multiple modules. In the build script, there is just one module named template:

module "template", {
    imports "java8 frontend"
    java {
        basedir "src/java/"
        include "**/*.java"
    jastadd {
        basedir "src/jastadd/"
        include "**/*.ast"
        include "**/*.jadd"
        include "**/*.jrag"

The build script has comments to show how to add parser or scanner files to the module. Parser and scanner files will be necessary if you want to make Java language extensions.

The module uses an imports clause to import all of the JastAdd files from the core ExtendJ module java8 frontend. Each supported Java version in ExtendJ has a frontend and backend module. The frontend module is used if you do not want to generate bytecode.


Although the Gradle plugin can handle some automatic rebuilding when a source file changes, it does not handle all possible cases. In some situations you will need to force Gradle to rebuild your project. This can be done with the following command:

./gradlew clean jar

It is necessary to rebuild the project if you remove any JastAdd AST class. The Gradle plugin will otherwise leave the old AST classes among the generated Java code and this can cause compilation problems.

Upgrading ExtendJ

Use the following commands to update to the latest version of ExtendJ:

cd extendj
git fetch origin
git reset --hard origin/master

This may be necessary if a bugfix that you need was committed to ExtendJ in a version later than the version that this template repository links to.

I recommend that you use a test suite to ensure that your extension functionality is preserved after upgrading the core ExtendJ compiler.

Additional Resources

More examples on how to build ExtendJ-like projects with the JastAdd Gradle plugin can be found here: