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Model transformation languages under a magnifying glass: a controlled experiment with Xtend, ATL, and QVT

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In Model-Driven Software Development, models are automatically processed 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 over 78 subjects solve 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). Our results 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 publicationProceedings of the 2018 ACM Joint Meeting on European Software Engineering Conference and Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering, ESEC/SIGSOFT FSE 2018, Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA, November 04-09, 2018
Number of pages11
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Publication date2018
Pages445-455
ISBN (Print)978-1-4503-5573-5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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