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Introduction

ProGuardCORE is a free library to read, analyze, modify, and write Java class files. It is the core of the well-known shrinker, optimizer, and obfuscator ProGuard and of the ProGuard Assembler and Disassembler.

Typical applications:

  • Perform peephole optimizations in Java bytecode.
  • Search for instruction patterns.
  • Analyze code with abstract evaluation.
  • Optimize and obfuscate, like ProGuard itself.

Design

The library defines many small classes as the building blocks for applications that contain the processing logic. This is sometimes taken to the extreme: even loops and conditional statements can often be implemented as separate classes. Even though these classes are verbose and repetitive, the resulting main code becomes much more compact, flexible, and robust.

Data classes

Basic data classes define the structures to represent Java bytecode. They reflect the Java bytecode specifications literally, to ensure that no data are lost when reading, analyzing, and writing them. The data classes contain only a minimum number of methods. They do have one or more accept methods to let the visitor classes below operate on them.

Visitor classes

The library applies the visitor pattern extensively. Visitor classes define the operations on the data: reading, writing, editing, transforming, analyzing, etc. The visitor classes have one or more 'visit' methods to operate on data classes of the same basic type.

For example, a Java bytecode class contains a constant pool with constants of different types: integer constants, float constants, string constants, etc. The data classes IntegerConstant, FloatConstant, StringConstant, etc. all implement the basic type Constant. The visitor interface ConstantVisitor contains methods 'visitIntegerConstant', 'visitFloatConstant', 'visitStringConstant', etc. Implementations of this visitor interface can perform all kinds of operations on the constants.

The reasoning behind this pattern is that the data classes are very stable, because they are directly based on the bytecode specifications. The operations are more dynamic, since they depend on the final application. It is practically impossible to add all possible operations in the data classes, but it is easy to add another implementation of a visitor interface. Implementing an interface in practice helps a lot to think of all possible cases.

The visitor pattern uses visitor interfaces to operate on the similar elements of a data structure. Each interface often has many implementations. A great disadvantage at this time is that visitor methods can invoke one another (directly or indirectly), but they can't communicate easily. Since the implementations can't add their own parameters or return values, they often have to rely on fields to pass values back and forth. This is more error-prone. Still, the advantages of the visitor pattern outweigh the disadvantages.

Dependency injection

The library classes heavily use constructor-based dependency injection, to create immutable instances. Notably the visitor classess are often like commands that are combined in an immutable structure, via constructors. You can execute such commands by applying the visitors to the data classes.

API

You can find the complete API in the ProGuardCORE javadoc.