Welcome to Typeframed, a protocol, API, plugin and code generators for polomorphic protobuf streaming.

  1. Typeframed introduces a wire protocol for determining type and message length of protobuf messages. It also adds an optional header and checksum per message.

  2. There is an API for handling protobuf messages in runtime, including utilities for writing them off/on streams and byte buffers.

  3. Typeframed contains a build time code generator that will parse a protobuf file to determine message ID's and generate code to help with polymorphism.

  4. There are also plugins for various build systems to run the above code generation.

Currently the code generation and API is Java only, but we're looking at Python, Go and JavaScript down the road.

When Do You Need This?

You can use Typeframed anytime you which to stream multiple Protobuf message types to a single source, and have the ability to read them in a type-safe manner. Eg. saving data to disc, writing a socket server, etc.


Typeframed is in the central Maven repository. If for some reason you do not do Maven-style dependencies you can download releases from the URL below:


You need Gradle and Java 7 to build.

hg clone
cd typeframed
gradle build

The above builds everything except the Maven plugin. To build that you need to install from Gradle and then buid the plugin with Maven:

gradle install
cd codegen/maven-plugin 
mvn package

Wire Protocol

The wire protocol wraps each protobuf message in an envelope containing an optional header field and an equally optional checksum.

| type | hdr len [| header] | msg len | msg | chsum len [| chsum] |

In order of appearance:

  • type - Type identifier; varint.
  • header length - Length of header; varint (0 == no header)
  • header - Header data, custom encoded.
  • message length - Message length; varint.
  • message - Protobuf message
  • checksum length - Length of checksum; varint (0 == no checksum)
  • checksum - Checksum data, custom encoded

All length fields and the type field are 32 bit raw varints. From this follows that a minimal Typeframed messages is 4 bytes excluding protobuf message length.


The header field is optional and will be customized per installation. It could for example carry a correlation ID for request/response messaging, transaction ID for idempotent messaging etc.


Likewise the checksum is optional. If included it should contain a fast checksum (such as the default CRC32) on the protobuf message in its binary form.

Embedding ID in .proto files

Typeframed uses an option field in protobuf to embed ID information for each message. An example protofile for a hello world example might look like this:

package test;

// #1 - import descriptor
import "descriptor.proto";

// #2 - declare type_id option
extend google.protobuf.MessageOptions {
  optional int32 type_id = 50666;

message HelloRequest {
  // #3 - set ID for message
  option (type_id) = 100; 
  required string name = 1;

message HelloResponse {
  // #3 - set ID for message
  option (type_id) = 101; 
  required string text = 1;

The protofile above declares two messages with type ID 100 and 101. These type ID's are set as option fields - hence the import and separate declaration - which will be read by Typeframed to generate polymorphic helper code.

Code Generation

Typeframed contains a parser for proto files to extract ID information and can generate helper code for dealing with the different types.


There are two plugins available for Gradle and Maven. Both will generate the same code:

  • JavaTypeDictionary - A concrete instance of a type dictionary that maps the Java version of the protofile messages to their type ID's.
  • JavaTypeSwitchTarget - An abstract message handler class with one handle method for each message type.
  • JavaTypeSwitch - A router implementation that given a java switch target and a java type dictionary knows how to cast generic message instances to the switch target handler.

Here's a simple example of our hello world protocol. Notice that it extends the JavaTypeSwitchTarget which have been generated - that way you will never forget protocol changes as your code will stop compiling until you repair it.

public class Handler extends JavaTypeSwitchTarget {

    public void handle(HelloRequest msg) { }

    public void handle(HelloResponse msg) { }


Given this, we can now read and handle messages using the Typeframed API:

public void readMsg() throws IOException {
    // get input stream
    InputStream in = getInputStream();
    // create generated dictionary
    JavaTypeDictionary dictionary = new JavaTypeDictionary();
    // create stream reader (API class)
    StreamReader<Void> reader = new StreamReader<Void>(dictionary, in);
    // read an envolope (message plus a void header)
    Envelope<Void> envelope =;
    // create handler and generated switch
    Handler handler = new Handler();
    JavaTypeSwitch typeSwitch = new JavaTypeSwitch(handler);
    // forward message to handler

Maven Plugin

You will need a protoc plugin to compile your protocol files. After that you need a Typeframed dependency:


Then add the Typeframed plugin (after the protoc plugin):


Most probably you will need the "build helper plugin" to add your generated sources to the main artifact build:


Gradle Plugin

As with the maven plugin you will also need a protoc plugin to compile your protocol classes. Below is an extract from a gradle build file containing only the Typeframed sections:

apply plugin: 'typeframed'

buildscript {
  repositories {
  dependencies {
    classpath 'org.typeframed:typeframed-codegen-generator:1.0.0'
    classpath 'org.typeframed:typeframed-codegen-gradle-plugin:1.0.0'

typeframed {
  codegenPackage = "org.typeframed.protobuf"

dependencies {
  compile ''
  compile 'org.typeframed:typeframed-api:1.0.0'

Release Notes


  • Making parser errors visible in ocde generation by default


  • Upgrading to Gradle 2.x


  • Adding reader and writer for byte buffers


  • First release.