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Google Singleton Detector

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Google has released a tool that performs bytecode analysis in order to locate and report on Singletons within bytecode. Although Singletons are a common software pattern, many people consider them controversial, to be used carefully: arguments can be made both for and against. As stated in the project wiki:

The problem with singletons is that they introduce global state into a program, allowing anyone to access them at anytime (ignoring scope). Even worse, singletons are one of the most overused design patterns today, meaning that many people introduce this possibly detrimental global state in instances where it isn't even necessary.
[P]rograms using global state are very difficult to test ... When one class uses a singleton (and I'm talking about a classic singleton, one that enforces it own singularity thorough a static getInstance() method), the singleton user and the singleton become inextricably coupled together.
[R]elying on this static instance means that the signatures of methods no longer show their dependencies, because the method could pull a singleton “out of thin air.” This means that users need knowledge of the inner workings of code to properly use it, making it more difficult to use and test.
Because the dependencies of some given methods aren't clear when they rely on singletons, a tester may unknowing write two tests that actually depend on each other by modifying a shared resource.

The Google Singleton Detector can detect code that enforces its own singularity (singleton), helps enforce the singularity of another class (helper singleton, or 'hingleton'), returns state from a static methods without taking parameters (method singleton, or 'mingleton'), has a public static field (field singleton, or 'fingleton'), as well as code that directly relies on one of the above. You may hide some of these if you're not interested.

This is still a tool in a relatively early stage, and there are a few limitations:

  • It cannot read bytecode from multiple JARs without extracting them first.
  • It requires an external tool to view graph results.
  • It can't find all kinds of singletons, specifically not those in final fields or nested as an inner class.

Stay tuned to InfoQ for more information about code analysis, artifacts and tools and Google.

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