Eclipse AST Parser

How to use eclipse AST parser to parse java source code; both in a java standalone application, and in an eclipse plugin.

  1. Eclipse AST Parser
  2. AST Parser inside an Eclipse Plug-in
  3. AST Parser in a standalone java application

Keywords: Eclipse, AST, Parser

Abstract: AST parsing is needed when you want to make some kind of elaboration over source code. This article introduces the the Eclipse AST parser, make a simple example, and show hot to build a simple standalone application that uses it. At the end we build a relly simple eclipse plugin that uses the Eclipse AST parser.

Eclipse AST Parser

AST : tree representation of the abstract synctactic structure of the source code.
Eclipse AST Parser is a Parser class, used inside Eclipse, to compile source code, and produce the AST of java source code.

Below there is an example of the code needed to Obtain

// source is a string with the Java source
String source = IO.readFile(srcFile.toString());

// JLS4 is available from Eclipse 3.7.2+
ASTParser parser = ASTParser.newParser(AST.JLS4);

// creates Syntax Tree
CompilationUnit node = (CompilationUnit) parser.createAST(null);

// instantiate your Visitor class
MyASTVisitor visitor = new MyASTVisitor();

// starts the visit

The visitor is a class, implementing the Visitor design pattern, that is able to descend a full AST Syntax Tree and perform operations node by node. Below there is an example

 * Visitor that retrieves informations from the {@link CompilationUnit}
public class MyASTVisitor extends ASTVisitor {

	/** called when visitor walk in the main AST node */
	public boolean visit(CompilationUnit node) {
		System.out.println(" The Compilation Unit node: " + node);		
	/** called when Visitor walk in a "Method Declaration" */
	public boolean visit(MethodDeclaration node) {
		System.out.println(" - A method declaration node: " + node);

AST Parser inside an Eclipse Plug-in

The easy way to run your AST parser is to create an Eclipse Plugin; include org.eclipse.jdt dependency from your plugin.xml, then write your java code.

AST Parser in a standalone java application

To use the AST parser in a standalone java application you need simply to import some jars. You can find these jars into the Eclipse/plugins folder. Below there is the list of jars I use, divided into libraries needed at compile time and at runtime.

libraries needed a compile-time:

  • org.eclipse.equinox.common_3.6.100.v20120522-1841.jar
  • org.eclipse.jdt.core_3.8.1.v20120523-1356.jar

libraries needed at runtime:

  • org.eclipse.core.contenttype_3.4.200.v20120523-2004.jar
  • org.eclipse.core.jobs_3.5.200.v20120521-2346.jar
  • org.eclipse.core.resources_3.8.0.v20120511-1410.jar
  • org.eclipse.core.runtime_3.8.0.v20120521-2346.jar
  • org.eclipse.equinox.common_3.6.100.v20120522-1841.jar
  • org.eclipse.equinox.preferences_3.5.0.v20120522-1841.jar
  • org.eclipse.jdt.core_3.8.1.v20120523-1356.jar
  • org.eclipse.osgi_3.8.0.v20120522-1813.jar

Note the version of plugins depends on the Eclipse version you are using. In my case I’m developing over an Eclipse 4.2