Unit Testing for Domain-Specific Languages

Hui Wu, Jeffrey G. Gray, Marjan Mernik. Unit Testing for Domain-Specific Languages. In Walid Mohamed Taha, editor, Domain-Specific Languages, IFIP TC 2 Working Conference, DSL 2009, Oxford, UK, July 15-17, 2009, Proceedings. Volume 5658 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science, pages 125-147, Springer, 2009. [doi]


Domain-specific languages (DSLs) offer several advantages by providing idioms that are similar to the abstractions found in a specific problem domain. However, a challenge is that tool support for DSLs is lacking when compared to the capabilities offered in general-purpose languages (GPLs), such as Java and C++. For example, support for unit testing a DSL program is absent and debuggers for DSLs are rare. This limits the ability of a developer to discover the existence of software errors and to locate them in a DSL program. Currently, software developers using a DSL are generally forced to test and debug their DSL programs using available GPL tools, rather than tools that are informed by the domain abstractions at the DSL level. This reduces the utility of DSL adoption and minimizes the benefits of working with higher abstractions, which can bring into question the suitability of using DSLs in the development process. This paper introduces our initial investigation into a unit testing framework that can be customized for specific DSLs through a reusable mapping of GPL testing tool functionality. We provide examples from two different DSL categories that serve as case studies demonstrating the possibilities of a unit testing engine for DSLs.