Inside Guice 2: exercising elements

Part 3 in a Series.

Background: modelling configuration

One of the most distinct features of Guice is our fluent embedded domain specific language (DSL). By chaining method calls, Guice supports a wide combination of binding sources, targets and scopes:

bind(new TypeLiteral<Connector<Processor>>() {})
.toProvider(new CheckoutProcessorConnectorProvider());

.toInstance(new InMemoryTransactionLog());

In our first implementation of the DSL, calls to bind() etc. configured the injector directly. This works well, but it's not very flexible. As long as creating injectors is all that we do with modules, it's sufficient.

The Elements SPI

In Guice 2, the DSL is used to build an intermediate configuration model. Calls to bind() etc. create Element instances. For example, the three statements above will create a LinkedKeyBinding, a ProviderInstanceBinding and an InstanceBinding. The API to get the configuration model from a module is called Elements.getElements().

By converting the method calls into value objects, we get an opportunity to inspect and transform them. For example, the following prints all of the keys bound in a module:
  public static Set<Key<?>> getBoundKeys(Module module) {
Set<Key<?>> result = newHashSet();
for (Element element : Elements.getElements(module)) {
if (element instanceof Binding) {
result.add(((Binding) element).getKey());
return result;

Internally, we use this API to simplify injector creation. Now we can process elements in order we want, even when that's different from the order that the user has specified. We prefer to handle scope registrations before bindings, and bindings before injection requests.

These elements are useful in other APIs. For module overrides, we take elements from two modules and compute a union. We can also use elements to unit test modules without having their dependencies on hand. They'll also come in handy for development tools.

By converting method calls into value objects, we can do powerful new things.

Inside Guice 2: injecting null

Part 2 in a Series.

Background: marking nulls

Null is bad. Most of the time, use of null indicates clumsy modeling. Instead of null collections, use empty ones. Instead of a null service, use a no-op implementation. The JDK gets this wrong for comparators by using null as a stand-in for natural order; the result is special cases instead of polymorphism.

To help you to detect null problems sooner, Guice refuses to inject null by default. When asked to do so, it will fail with a ProvisionException instead. This increases your confidence in your app by eliminating an entire category of runtime problems.

But sometimes — and only sometimes — null is necessary. Value objects don't lend themselves to the null object pattern. And in some cases you can be sure that a null reference won't be used. To make intentional null use explicit, you can use one of several @Nullable annotations, including those from FindBugs, IntelliJ or old snapshots of Google Collections. These will soon be standardized by another @Nullable in JSR 305.

Injecting null

Guice tolerates null to be injected wherever a parameter is annotated @Nullable:
  public Person(String firstName, String lastName, @Nullable Phone phone) {
this.firstName = checkNotNull(firstName, "firstName");
this.lastName = checkNotNull(lastName, "lastName"); = phone;

But which @Nullable?

Rather than arbitrarily choosing an @Nullable to support (and alienating everyone else), Guice permits any Nullable annotation to be used. And I do mean any: it scans the injected parameter or field's annotations, looking at their names. If any has the simple name Nullable, it is honoured. This means that even your company's internal will work.

More generally

This trick works particularly nicely for annotations, since they tag objects without adding behaviour. It also avoids an aggravating problem, where code that looks right doesn't work right. Consider:
import javax.annotation.Named;

public class RealPaymentService implements PaymentService {

public RealPaymentService(@Named("creditcard") Processor processor) {

This code appears legitimate, and it might even execute without error. But the wrong @Named annotation is applied! The unreleased javax.annotation.Named is incompatible with Guice and has no effect. Since it looks the same as, there's potential for error.

When applying annotations, be careful about overlapping names. When processing them, be mindful of mistakes! What's the annotation-equivalent of a precondition? If a user applies an annotation incorrectly, is it detected?

Part 3.

Inside Guice 2: binder sources

To celebrate the release of Guice 2.0, I'd like to showcase my favourite parts of the new code. In this N-part series, I'll go deep into the implementation details to explain the clever and interesting code within the project. I'll focus on general techniques that you can use in your own applications.

Background: Getting sources

When you invoke methods on a Binder (or invoke them indirectly, via AbstractModule), Guice captures the caller's source. This is used to create javac-like error messages in the event of a configuration problem. For example, the following binding is illegal because Executor is an interface without an implementation:
class BadModule extends AbstractModule {
protected void configure() {
When this faulty module is used to create an injector, Guice reports the problem with the source line where it occurred:
Exception in thread "main" Guice creation errors:

1) No implementation for java.util.concurrent.Executor was bound.

1 error

To obtain the offending source line, Guice grabs a stacktrace using new Throwable().getStackTrace() and scans through its frames to find the logical source. It has to ignore some classes:,, etc.

The stacktrace grabbing trick is extremely cool, but it's not sufficient. Guice can't always know the full set of classes that it should skip. Extensions like Multibinder create bindings on their user's behalf and need to omit additional classes from the trace (, And Provider Methods specify their source as a method name instead of relying on a stack trace.

We need an API to specify which classes to skip in stacktraces, and another API to specify a source object directly.

Binder Sources

The difficulty in finding a nice API for configuring sources is that it's naturally temporal. We want to specify a source, use it for a binding or two, and then reset it back:
  public void configure(Binder binder) {
Method method = ...
Object previous = binder.getSource();

try {
.toProvider(new ProviderMethod(method));
} finally {


Taking inspiration from List.subList(), our approach is to instead return a new binder that works with the provided source:
  public void configure(Binder binder) {
Method method = ...
Binder sourcedBinder = binder.withSource(method);
.toProvider(new ProviderMethod(method));

Every binding, injection or configuration applied to sourcedBinder will use the user-specified source. But the passed-in binder is untouched. With some inlining and the binder's existing embedded DSL, the whole thing can be a single statement:
  public void configure(Binder binder) {
Method method = ...
.toProvider(new ProviderMethod(method));

This new API is cute and fits nicely with the existing code.

Part 2.

My perspective on Atinject

Back in February, a discussion flared up over Guice's lack of support for industry-standard annotations. James Strachan described the problem succinctly:
So my show stopper issue with ever adopting & recommending Guice is to be able to use IoC framework agnostic annotations for lifecycle & injection (JSR 250/EJB3 for starters, @Resource, @PostConstruct, @PreDestroy - you could throw Spring/WebBeans/JAX-RS/JAXWs in there too really but JSR250/EJB3 is the tip of this massive iceberg). i.e. so that my application code can be used by Spring or Guice IoC containers without having to double-annotate everything (using JSR 250 and Guice annotations) or using JSR 250 annotations then forcing producer methods for every class I write to be written by users using Guice.

In response to the immediate issue, Guice got support for custom injectors. And we're planning an API for lifecycle callbacks.

Unfortunately, the current annotations aren't really sufficient. @Resource precludes immutability. It lacks a compiler-checked way to qualify a type. And it lacks a mechanism for lazy or multiple injection.

Since @Resource is mostly a non-starter, each of the established containers defines its own annotations:
public class TweetsClient {

public TweetsClient(OpenIdCredentials credentials,
HttpConnectionFactory connectionFactory) {

The differences between these are superficial. There just aren't many ways to mark an injection point!

To unity their annotations, the established Java dependency injection vendors collaborated on a new API to serve as a common standard. The entire API is five annotations (including @Inject) plus Provider for lazy/multiple injection.

The spec enables class portability. Your classes can be used with any injector: annotate implementation class once to support all of Spring, Guice, PicoContainer, Tapestry IoC, and Simject.

But the new standard does not cover injector configuration. The lack of standardized configuration hurts application portability, because you must reconfigure for each injector.

Configuration was left out because there's no consensus on the best way to do it. Unlike annotations, each injector takes a distinct approach, each with relative strengths and weaknesses. For example, consider this (simplified) matrix:

InjectorXML etc.CodeAnnotationsNotes
Butterfly has its own DSL
JSR 299 plus classpath scanning

I'm excited about the new proposal because it's pragmatic. It paves the well-worn paths (the annotations), but permits innovation to foster elsewhere. Fantastic work guys!

Java Minutiae - Reflex

Pop Quiz
The following is a method from a very decent implementation of Java SE. I've substituted x and y for the actual method name and parameter type. What are the values of x and y ?
public static boolean x(y z) {
return z != z;

PS - it's a reasonable method. it may take you a few minutes to come up with the answer.

Show Answer