Why Java compiler plugin?
There are several benefits to implementing scip-java as a compiler plugin:
- Simple installation: compiler plugins are enabled with the
-Xplugincompiler option. All Java build tools support a way to customize compiler options, simplifying installation.
- Language fidelity: by using the Java compiler to produce semantic information, we ensure that the produced SCIP data is accurate even as new Java language versions with new language features are released.
- Environment fidelity: by hooking into the compilation process of the build tool, we minimize the risk of diverging from the CI build environment such as installed system dependencies, custom compiler options and custom annotation processors.
SemanticDB is Protobuf schema for information about symbols and types in Java programs, Scala programs and other languages. There are several benefits to using SemanticDB as an intermediary representation for SCIP:
- Simplicity: It's easy to translate a single Java source file into a single SemanticDB file inside a compiler plugin. It's more complicated to produce SCIP because compiler plugins does not have access to a project-wide context, which is necessary to produce accurate definitions and hovers in multi-module projects with external library dependencies.
- Performance: SemanticDB is fast to write and read. Each compilation unit can be processed independently to keep memory usage low. The final conversion from SemanticDB to SCIP can be safely parallelized.
- Cross-language: SemanticDB has a spec for Java and Scala enabling cross-language navigation in hybrid Java/Scala codebases.
- Cross-repository: Compiler plugins have access to both source code and the classpath (compiled bytecode of upstream dependencies). SemanticDB has been designed so that it's also possible to generate spec-compliant symbols from the classpath alone (no source code) and from the syntax tree of an individual source file (no classpath). This flexibility allows the Metals language server to index codebases from a variety of different inputs, and will be helpful for scip-java in the future to unblock cross-repository navigation.