Transformation Mechanics

Program-Transformation.Org: The Program Transformation Wiki
Jonne van Wijngaarden and Eelco Visser. Program Transformation Mechanics. A Classification of Mechanisms for Program Transformation with a Survey of Existing Transformation Systems. Technical Report UU-CS-2003-048. Institute of Information and Computing Sciences, Utrecht University. (pdf)


Transformation techniques are spreading from application in compilers to general use in generative programming and document processing. Since transformation requires operations such as pattern matching, generic structure traversal, and querying, which are not normally provided by general-purpose programming languages, many tools have been developed to provide higher-level support for the implementation of transformations. These tools come in many flavors each with their own merits and based on different paradigms, which makes comparison difficult.

In this paper, we consider transformation from the point of view of mechanics and develop a classification of transformation mechanisms that provides a reference for comparing tools developed for different applications, using different implementations, and in different programming paradigms. To do so we distinguish three fundamental aspects of transformation mechanisms: scope, direction, and stages. We apply this classification in a discussion of design patterns for transformation, characterization of several typical transformations, and a systematic comparison of eleven representative transformation tools.