Deprewriter: On the fly rewriting method deprecations

By: St├ęphane Ducasse, Guillermo Polito, Oleksandr Zaitsev, Marcus Denker, Pablo Tesone


Deprecations are a common way to indicate that a given feature or API will not be available in subsequent versions of a library or framework. While raising deprecation warnings lets developers of libraries evolve their APIs, the developers of client applications often have to manually rewrite their applications to adapt to the deprecation (removal, new APIs, ... ). Some may use static analysis tools to support the rewriting. However, dynamically-typed languages or the use of reflective features often produce incorrect rewrite candidates. This is a costly activity that can lead to bug introductions. In this article, we present a method deprecation approach and a tool called DEPREWRITER that can automatically rewrite the callers of deprecated methods during program execution. Clients of a deprecated API execute their program and associated tests, and DEPREWRITER dynamically rewrites the source code of methods that called a deprecated API to use the new API. The implementation of DEPREWRITER is based on dynamic program transformation: when a deprecated method is executed, a program transformation engine rewrites and recompiles the caller's code before continuing the execution. The approach presented in this article has been developed by the Pharo consortium. Since 2016, DEPREWRITER is used in production in multiple distributions of the Pharo programming language: Pharo 6, 7, 8, and 9 alpha. This article presents and validates this approach. The validation is done in two steps: first with an analysis of deprecations available in Pharo 8 and second with an open survey of software developers about DEPREWRITER. We studied 367 Pharo 8 deprecations, among which we analyzed the 218 rewriting deprecations that use transformation rules. We identified the validity conditions and reported defects to the community. We also proposed 33 transformation rules to be added to the non-rewriting deprecations. Both contributions were accepted into Pharo 9 alpha. We classified the rules and identified possible points of improvement. In addition, we performed a user survey and collected information from 46 software developers: some of them used existing DEPREWRITER' rules and executed them on their code, others used DEPREWRITER to create rewriting deprecations, and finally, some were not aware of DEPREWRITER. 28 of 46 developers (60%) reported that the rewriting deprecations helped them, while 10 stated the inverse and 8 were uncertain. After discussing the current implementation, we sketch possible implementations for other languages than Pharo, showing that the approach is general enough to be applied to other languages.


Dynamically-typed Language, Deprecation, Automatic Rewriting, Program Transformation, Runtime, Refactoring, Reflection, Pharo.

Cite as:

St├ęphane Ducasse, Guillermo Polito, Oleksandr Zaitsev, Marcus Denker, Pablo Tesone, “Deprewriter: On the fly rewriting method deprecations”, Journal of Object Technology, Volume 21, no. 1 ( 2022), pp. 1:1-23, doi:10.5381/jot.2022.21.1.a1.

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The JOT Journal   |   ISSN 1660-1769   |   DOI 10.5381/jot   |   AITO   |   Open Access   |    Contact