Model Transformation Languages under a Magnifying Glass: A Controlled Experiment with Xtend, ATL, and QVT

Regina Hebig, Christoph Seidl, Thorsten Berger, John Kook Pedersen, Andrzej Wasowski

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


In Model-Driven Software Development, models are processed automatically to support the creation, build, and execution of systems. A large variety of dedicated model-transformation languages exists, promising to efficiently realize the automated processing of models. To investigate the actual benefit of using such specialized languages, we performed a large-scale controlled experiment in which 78 subjects solved 231 individual tasks using three languages. The experiment sheds light on commonalities and differences between model transformation languages (ATL, QVT-O) and on benefits of using them in common development tasks (comprehension, change, and creation) against a modern general-purpose language (Xtend). The results of our experiment show no statistically significant benefit of using a dedicated transformation language over a modern general-purpose language. However, we were able to identify several aspects of transformation programming where domain-specific transformation languages do appear to help, including copying objects, context identification, and conditioning the computation on types.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSoftware Engineering and Software Management, SE/SWM 2019, Stuttgart, Germany, February 18-22, 2019
PublisherGesellschaft fur Informatik (GI)
Publication date2019
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-88579-686-2
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventSoftware Engineering and Software Management - , Germany
Duration: 1 Jan 2019 → …


ConferenceSoftware Engineering and Software Management
Period01/01/2019 → …
SeriesLecture Notes in Informatics


  • Model-Driven Software Development
  • Model Transformation Languages
  • Controlled Experiment
  • ATL
  • QVT-O
  • General-Purpose Language
  • Xtend
  • Transformation Programming
  • Comprehension Tasks
  • Domain-Specific Languages


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