Utilizing Design Information in Aspect-Oriented Programming

Istvan Nagy, Lodewijk Bergmans, Wilke Havinga, Mehmet Aksit

Traditionally in aspect-oriented languages, pointcut designators select joinpoints of a program based on lexical information such as explicit names of program elements. However, this reduces the adaptability of software, since it involves too much information that is hard-coded, and often implementation specific. We claim that this problem can be reduced by referring to program units through their design intentions. Design intention is represented by annotated design information, which describes for example the behavior of a program element or its intended meaning. In this paper, we analyze four techniques that are regularly used in state-of-the-art object-oriented languages in associating design information with program elements. Also, the usage of design information in the weaving process of aspect-oriented languages is illustrated and their deficiencies are outlined. Accordingly, we formulate requirements for the proper application of design information in aspect-oriented programming. We discuss how to use design information for the superimposition of aspects, and how to apply superimposition to bind design information to program elements. To achieve this, we propose language abstractions that support semantic composition: the ability to compose aspects with the elements of the base program that incorporate certain design information. Based on this proposal, we show how the aspect-oriented language Compose* can be extended to support design information. We demonstrate the application of design information to improve the reusability of aspects. The paper ends with related works, a discussion, and conclusions.