PMD was recently enhanced with the ability to compute code metrics on Java and Apex source (the so-called Metrics Framework). This framework provides developers with a straightforward interface to use code metrics in their rules, and to extend the framework with their own custom metrics.
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Using code metrics in custom rules

Using the metrics framework

In PMD’s Metrics framework, a metric is an operation that can be carried out on nodes of a certain type and produces a numeric result. In the Java framework, metrics can be computed on operation declaration nodes (constructor and method declaration), and type declaration nodes (class, interface, enum, and annotation declarations). A metric object in the framework can only handle either types or operations, but not both.

PMD ships with a library of already implemented metrics. These metrics are referenced by MetricKey objects, which are listed in two public enums: JavaClassMetricKey and JavaOperationMetricKey. Metric keys wrap a metric, and know which type of node their metric can be computed on. That way, you cannot compute an operation metric on a class declaration node. Metrics that can be computed on both operation and type declarations (e.g. NCSS) have one metric key in each enum.

For XPath rules

XPath rules can compute metrics using the metric function. This function takes a single string argument, which is the name of the metric key as defined in JavaClassMetricKey or JavaOperationMetricKey. The metric will be computed on the context node.

The function will throw an exception in the following cases:

  • The context node is neither an instance of ASTAnyTypeDeclaration or ASTMethodOrConstructorDeclaration, that is, it’s not one of ClassOrInterfaceDeclaration, EnumDeclaration, AnnotationDeclaration, MethodDeclaration, or ConstructorDeclaration.
  • The metric key does not exist (the name is case insensitive) or is not defined for the type of the context node.

Examples

  • //ClassOrInterfaceDeclaration[metric('NCSS') > 200]
  • //MethodDeclaration[metric('CYCLO') > 10 and metric('NCSS') > 20]
  • //ClassOrInterfaceDeclaration[metric('CYCLO') > 50]: IllegalArgumentException! CYCLO’s only defined for methods and constructors.

For Java Rules

First, similarly to XPath rules, you should add the metrics="true" attribute to your rule’s XML element.

The static façade class JavaMetrics is the single entry point to compute metrics in the Java framework.

This class provides the method get and its overloads. The following sections describes the interface of this class.

Basic usage

The simplest overloads of JavaMetrics.get take two parameters: a MetricKey and a node of the corresponding type. Say you want to write a rule to report methods that have a high cyclomatic complexity. In your rule’s visitor, you can get the value of Cyclo for a method node like so:

public Object visit(ASTMethodDeclaration method, Object data) {
  int cyclo = (int) JavaMetrics.get(JavaOperationMetricKey.CYCLO, method);
  if (cyclo > 10) {
    // add violation
  }
  return data;
}

The same goes for class metrics: you select one among JavaClassMetricKey’s constants and pass it along with the node to JavaMetrics.get.

Capability checking

Metrics are not necessarily computable on any node of the type they handle. For example, Cyclo cannot be computed on abstract methods. Metric keys provides a supports(Node) boolean method to find out if the metric can be computed on the specified node. If the metric cannot be computed on the given node, JavaMetrics.get will return Double.NaN . If you’re concerned about that, you can condition your call on whether the node is supported or not:

public Object visit(ASTMethodDeclaration method, Object data) {
  if (JavaOperationMetricKey.CYCLO.supports(node)) {
    int cyclo = (int) JavaMetrics.get(JavaOperationMetricKey.CYCLO, method);
    if (cyclo > 10) {
      // add violation
    }
    return data;
  }
}

Metric options

Some metrics define options that can be used to slightly modify the computation. You’ll typically see these options gathered inside an enum in the implementation class of the metric, for example CycloMetric.CycloOptions. They’re also documented on the index of metrics.

To use options with a metric, you must first bundle them into a MetricOptions object. MetricOptions provides the utility method ofOptions to get a MetricOptions bundle from a collection or with varargs parameters. You can then pass this bundle as a parameter to JavaMetrics.get:

public Object visit(ASTMethodDeclaration method, Object data) {
  int cyclo = (int) JavaMetrics.get(JavaOperationMetricKey.CYCLO, method,
                                    MetricOptions.ofOptions(CycloOptions.IGNORE_BOOLEAN_PATHS));
  if (cyclo > 10) {
      // add violation
  }
    return data;
}

The version of MetricOptions.ofOptions using a collection is useful when you’re building a MetricOptions from eg the value of an EnumeratedMultiProperty, which gives users control of the options they use. See CyclomaticComplexityRule for an example usage.

Result options

The Metrics API also gives you the possibility to aggregate the result of an operation metric on all operations of a class very simply. You can for example get the highest value of the metric over a class that way:

public Object visit(ASTClassOrInterfaceDeclaration clazz, Object data) {
  int highest = (int) JavaMetrics.get(JavaOperationMetricKey.CYCLO, clazz,
                                      ResultOption.HIGHEST);
  if (highest > 10) {
      // add violation
  }
    return data;
}

Notice that we use an operation metric and a class node. The ResultOption parameter controls what result will be computed: you can choose among HIGHEST, SUM and AVERAGE. You can use metric options together with a result option too.

Complete use case

The following is a sample code for a rule reporting methods with a cyclomatic complexity over 10 and classes with a total cyclo over 50. A metric option can be user-configured with a rule property. More complete examples can be found in CyclomaticComplexityRule, NcssCountRule, or GodClassRule.

public class CycloRule extends AbstractJavaMetricsRule {

  public static final BooleanProperty COUNT_BOOLEAN_PATHS
      = new BooleanProperty("countBooleanPaths", "Count boolean paths",
                            true, 0f);

  private static final MetricOptions options;

  public CycloRule() {
    definePropertyDescriptor(COUNT_BOOLEAN_PATHS);
  }

  @Override
  public Object visit(ASTCompilationUnit node, Object data) {
    options = getProperty(COUNT_BOOLEAN_PATHS)
              ? MetricOptions.ofOptions(CycloOptions.IGNORE_BOOLEAN_PATHS)
              : MetricOptions.emptyOptions();
  }

  @Override
  public Object visit(ASTAnyTypeDeclaration clazz, Object data) {
    int total = (int) JavaMetrics.get(JavaOperationMetricKey.CYCLO, clazz,
                                      options, ResultOption.SUM);

    if (total > 50) {
     // add violation
    }

    return data;
  }

  @Override
  public Object visit(ASTMethodDeclaration method, Object data) {
    int cyclo = (int) JavaMetrics.get(JavaOperationMetricKey.CYCLO, method,
                                      options);
    if (cyclo > 10) { // this is safe if the node is not supported, as (Double.NaN > 10) == false
      // add violation
    }
    return data;
  }
}

Available metrics

There are already many metrics ready to use. We maintain the following documentation pages to describe them all, including their usage and options:

Writing custom metrics

You can use the framework to customize the existing metrics at will, or define new ones quite easily. Here’s some info to get you started. Again, the examples are for the Java framework but it’s symmetrical in the Apex framework.

The really short guide

  1. Determine whether your metric is an operation metric or a class metric and extend the correct base class (AbstractJavaClassMetric or AbstractJavaOperationMetric)
  2. You’re immediately prompted by your IDE to implement the computeFor method. This method takes a node of the type you want to handle, a bundle of options, and returns the result of the metric.
  3. Optionally specify a predicate to check if a node can be handled by overriding the supports method.
  4. Optionally define options (implementing MetricOption) and handle them as you see fit in your computeFor method
  5. Create a metric key using MetricKeyUtil’s of method, specifying a name for your metric and an instance of your metric. You’re done and can use your metric key as if it were a standard one.

Best practices

  • Metrics should be stateless. In any case, instances of the same metric class are considered equals. The same instance of your metric will be used to compute the metric on the AST of different nodes so it should really be “functionnally pure”. That rule also makes you keep it simple and understandable which is nice.
  • Implementation patterns: You can implement your computeFor method as you like it. But most metrics in our library are implemented following a few patterns you may want to look at:
    • Visitor metrics: Those metrics use one or more AST visitor to compute their value. That’s especially good to implement metrics that count some kind of node, e.g. NPath complexity or NCSS. Additionnally, it makes your metric more easily generalisable to other node types.

    • Signature matching metrics: That’s even more straightforward when you want to count the number of methods or fields that match a specific signature, e.g. public static final fields. Basically a signature is an object that describes a field or method, with info about its modifers and other node-specific info. AbstractJavaClassMetric has a few methods that allow you to count signatures directly, see e.g. the metrics NOPA and WOC.

Capability checking

You may have noticed that when you extend e.g. AbstractJavaClassMetric, the computeFor method you’re prompted to implement takes a node of type ASTAnyTypeDeclaration as a parameter. That’s not a concrete node type, but an interface, implemented by several concrete node types. Basically that’s done so that class metrics are given the ability to be computed on any type declaration, and operation metrics on constructors and methods. Here are the concrete node types you can target with class and operation metrics, by language:

Language Java Apex
Operation declaration ASTMethodOrConstructorDeclaration
>: ASTMethodDeclaration, ASTConstructorDeclaration
ASTMethod
Type declaration ASTAnyTypeDeclaration >: ASTEnumDeclaration,
ASTAnnotationDeclaration, ASTClassOrInterfaceDeclaration
ASTUserClassOrInterface >: ASTUserClass, ASTUserInterface

What if you don’t want such a generalisation? The supports method lets you define a predicate to check that the node is supported by your metric. For example, if your metric can only be computed on classes, you may override the default behaviour like so:

@Override
public boolean supports(ASTAnyTypeDeclaration node) {
  return node.getTypeKind() == TypeKind.CLASS;
}

The supports method already has a default implementation in the abstract base classes. Here’s the default behaviour by language and type of metric:

Language Java Apex
Operation metrics supports constructors and non abstract methods supports any non abstract method except <init>, <clinit>, and clone
Type declaration supports classes and enums supports classes
Tags: customizing