, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 251-300
Date: 18 Feb 2010

Type safety for feature-oriented product lines

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Abstract

A feature-oriented product line is a family of programs that share a common set of features. A feature implements a stakeholder’s requirement and represents a design decision or configuration option. When added to a program, a feature involves the introduction of new structures, such as classes and methods, and the refinement of existing ones, such as extending methods. A feature-oriented decomposition enables a generator to create an executable program by composing feature code solely on the basis of the feature selection of a user—no other information needed. A key challenge of product line engineering is to guarantee that only well-typed programs are generated. As the number of valid feature combinations grows combinatorially with the number of features, it is not feasible to type check all programs individually. The only feasible approach is to have a type system check the entire code base of the feature-oriented product line. We have developed such a type system on the basis of a formal model of a feature-oriented Java-like language. The type system guaranties type safety for feature-oriented product lines. That is, it ensures that every valid program of a well-typed product line is well-typed. Our formal model including type system is sound and complete.