Learn how to define your own properties both for Java and XPath rules.
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Defining properties

If you’re a rule developer, you may want to think about what would be useful for a user of your rule to parameterise. It could be a numeric report level, a boolean flag changing the behaviour of your rule… PMD ships with many types of properties ready to use!

Overview of properties

The basic thing you need to do as a developer is to define a property descriptor and declare that your rule uses it. A property descriptor defines a number of attributes for your property:

  • Its name, with which the user will refer to your property;
  • Its description, for documentation purposes;
  • Its default value

Don’t worry, all of these attributes can be specified in a single Java statement (or xml element for XPath rules).

Without further ado, here is the list of available (single-value) properties:

Class name Value type
IntegerProperty int
DoubleProperty double
FloatProperty float
LongProperty long
EnumeratedProperty<E> E
StringProperty String
BooleanProperty boolean
CharacterProperty char
FileProperty java.io.File
MethodProperty java.lang.reflect.Method
TypeProperty java.lang.Class<?>

Each of these is complemented by a multivalued variant, whose name ends with “MultiProperty”, and which returns a list of values, e.g.

Class name Value type
LongMultiProperty List<Long>
EnumeratedMultiProperty<E> List<E>

For Java rules

The procedure to define a property is quite straightforward:

  • Create a property descriptor of the type you want, using its builder;
  • Call definePropertyDescriptor(<your descriptor>) in the rule’s noarg constructor.

You can then retrieve the value of the property at any time using getProperty(<your descriptor>).

Creating a descriptor

From version 6.0.0 on, properties can be built using specific builders. For example, to build a string property, you’d call

              .desc("This is my property")

This is fairly more readable than a constructor call, but keep in mind the description and the default value are not optional.

For numeric properties, you’d add a call to range to define the range of acceptable values, e.g.

               .desc("This is my property")
               .range(0, 100)

Enumerated properties are a bit less straightforward to define, though they are arguably more powerful. These properties don’t have a specific value type, instead, you can choose any type of value, provided the values are from a closed set. To make that actionable, you give string labels to each of the acceptable values, and the user will provide one of those labels as a value in the XML. The property will give you back the associated value, not the label. Here’s an example:

static Map<String, ModeStrategy> map = new HashMap<>();

static {
  map.put("easyMode", new EasyStrategy());
  map.put("hardMode", new HardStrategy());

static EnumeratedProperty<ModeStrategy> modeProperty
 = EnumeratedProperty.<ModeStrategy>named("modeProperty")
                     .desc("This is my property")
                     .defaultValue(new EasyStrategy())

Note that you’re required to fill in the type of the values too, using type().


You can see an example of properties used in a PMD rule here. There are several things to notice here:

  • The property descriptor is declared static final, which should generally be the case, as descriptors are immutable and can be shared between instances of the same rule;
  • The property is declared using definePropertyDescriptor in the constructor, which ensures the property gets recognised by PMD;
  • The value of the property is not retrieved in the constructor, but in one of the visit methods (typically on the highest node in the tree, since the property doesn’t change).

For XPath rules

XPath rules can also define their own properties. To do so, you must add a property element in the properties element of your rule, which declares the type attribute. This attribute conditions what type the underlying property has, and can have the following values:

type attribute Property type
Integer IntegerProperty
Double DoubleProperty
Float FloatProperty
Long LongProperty
String StringProperty
Character CharacterProperty
Boolean BooleanProperty
Class TypeProperty

Note that enumerated properties are not available in XPath rules (yet?).

Properties defined in XPath also must declare the description attribute. Numeric properties also expect the min and max attributes. Here are a few examples to sum it up:

<property name="stringProp" type="Boolean" value="true" description="A BooleanProperty."/>
<property name="intProp" type="Integer" value="3" min="1" max="20" description="An IntegerProperty."/>

You can then use the property in XPath with the syntax $propertyName, for example:

<rule name="MyXpathRule" ...>
    <property name="maxStatements" type="Integer" value="10" min="1" max="40"
              description="Max number of statements per method"/>
    <property name="xpath">
      //MethodDeclaration/Block[count(//BlockStatement) > $maxStatements]

Multivalued properties

Multivalued properties are also allowed and their type attribute has the form List[Boolean] or List[Character], with every above type allowed. These properties require XPath 2.0 to work properly, and make use of the sequence datatype provided by that language. You thus need to set the version property to 2.0 to use them. Properties can also declare the delimiter attribute.

<rule name="MyXpathRule" ...>
    <property name="version" value="2.0" />
    <property name="intProp" type="List[Integer]" value="1,2,5" description="An IntegerMultiProperty." />
    <property name="reportedIdentifiers" type="List[String]" value="foo$bar" delimiter="$"
              description="A StringMultiProperty." />
    <property name="xpath">
      //VariableDeclaratorId[@Image = $reportedIdentifiers]

Notice that in the example above, @Image = $reportedIdentifiers doesn’t test @Image for equality with the whole sequence ('foo', 'bar'), it tests whether the sequence contains @Image. That is, the above rule will report all variables named foo or bar. All other XPath 2.0 functions operating on sequences are supported.

Tags: customizing