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From "Stephen Colebourne" <>
Subject [BeanUtils][Betwixt][commons] Proposal: Reflection/Introspection/MetaData package
Date Sun, 16 Jun 2002 11:40:56 GMT
Currently, Betwixt and other users of BeanUtils rely on the java.beans class
Introspector to extract details from a class. Introspector is a very old and
limited class in todays terms:
- it doesn't support collections, just simple objects and arrays
- it doesn't support modern conventions such as addXxx() adds to a the xxx
- it doesn't support overloading well
- the bean info technique is difficult to code, poorly understood and
- it's just too plain dumb.

I propose that BeanUtils/Betwixt/commons should replace Introspector with a
more general purpose reflection/introspection package. Architecturally this
would sit above reflection, but below Introspection:

- handle classes other than beans
- support extensible metadata (not just for GUI builders)
- handle normal (today) bean conventions (get/set/add/put methods)
- handle future conventions that are not yet standard
- support method overloading
- be easily used directly from BeanUtils and Betwixt (and probably others)
- be a complete alternative to using java.lang.reflect
- return immutable objects

My proposed solution (not coded, fully open to discussion):
Build a system with similarities to Digester. Rules get called when the
class is examined determine how to link the methods together. For example
the FindGetPropertyMethodRule would look at method names starting with get
etc. The rule then classifies the method as a GET method and stores it into
a structure something like this:

- MethodSetInfo - holds details about a related set of methods.
public String getName()
public List getMethodInfos()
public MethodInfo getMethodInfo(name)
public Map getMetaData()
public MetaData getMetaData(String name)

- ClassInfo - main class that holds the representation of class. Subclass of
public List getMethodSetInfos()
public MethodSetInfo getMethodSetInfo(name)
public List getMethodSetInfos(methodSetType)
public MethodSetInfo getMethodSetInfo(methodSetType, name)
public PropertyInfo getPropertyInfo(name)  // convenience

- PropertyInfo - subclass of MethodSetInfo for properties (Lists/Maps etc.
public Class getPropertyType()
public MethodInfo getGetMethodInfo()  // convenience
public MethodInfo getSetMethodInfo()  // convenience
public Object getValue()
public void setValue()

- MethodInfo - categorised info about a method
public String getName()
public Method getMethod()
publc String getCategory()
public Map getMetaData()
public MetaData getMetaData(String name)
public Object invoke(object, args, respectAccessFlags)

Attached to each element is the ability to hold MetaData. This is
particularly important for Betwixt. It would allow the XMLBeanInfo class to
be held directly on the representation of the class. And I'm sure other
projects want MetaData - its supposed to be a long standing request for J2SE
(I know I need it for the Joda project).

Note that I haven't expanded on the Rule part at the moment. Basically,
people must be able to write their own rules and add them to the standard
rules for beans.

As for which project it belongs with...I suggest lang or something new
(reflect?). I would like to extract it from BeanUtils because its not Bean

Well, its an idea at the moment. There are some similarities to DynaBeans,
but I think it goes way further. I already have a partial version of this,
but its specific to my needs. It needs some rework anyway, so I thought
about if it could be generic. Opinions??


PS. Three more possibilities for lang:

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