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Executable Trigger-Action Comments

by   Pengyu Nie, et al.

Natural language elements, e.g., todo comments, are frequently used to communicate among the developers and to describe tasks that need to be performed (actions) when specific conditions hold in the code repository (triggers). As projects evolve, development processes change, and development teams reorganize, these comments, because of their informal nature, frequently become irrelevant or forgotten. We present the first technique, dubbed TrigIt, to specify triggeraction todo comments as executable statements. Thus, actions are executed automatically when triggers evaluate to true. TrigIt specifications are written in the host language (e.g., Java) and are evaluated as part of the build process. The triggers are specified as query statements over abstract syntax trees and abstract representation of build configuration scripts, and the actions are specified as code transformation steps. We implemented TrigIt for the Java programming language and migrated 20 existing trigger-action comments from 8 popular open-source projects. We evaluate the cost of using TrigIt in terms of the number of tokens in the executable comments and the time overhead introduced in the build process.


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