Already 158 Checkstyle and PMD rules deprecated by SonarQube Java rules

Recently, we released the SonarQube Java 1.4 plugin ecosystem, and as announced in What’s coming up for SonarQube in 2013, we’re working hard to progressively deprecate as many Checkstyle and PMD rules as possible, and write native replacements for them using the SonarQube Java rule engine. We’ll continue to support both tools for the foreseeable future, but the goal is to remove them from the default SonarQube Java plugin ecosystem package.

Fans of those two mature, well-known Java quality tools may wonder why we’re moving away from such popular tools. There are in fact several good reasons behind this move :

  • Productivity: the activity is low on both projects. In the past, we invested time in updating both tools to support the new language features in Java 7, but in the long term it’s not a viable approach for SonarSource. Continuing to support these tools – both directly with our commits to those code bases, and indirectly – means to working on three different source code analysis stacks: Antlr for Checkstyle, Javacc for PMD, and SSLR for SonarQube’s own Java rule engine.
  • Performance: analyzing a project with SonarQube while using Checkstyle and PMD rules leads to parsing the same Java files three times: once each with Antlr, JavaCC and SSLR
  • Functional overlap between rules: There is a big overlap between Checkstyle and PMD rules (and in fact even with some Findbugs rules), which makes it difficult to define and manage a Java quality profile.
  • Too many configuration options: in a perfect world, a good quality rule is a rule WITHOUT any configuration options. The user should not have to understand what a token is, or what an AST is, and he should not have to tune configuration options to start playing with a rule. On new SSLR rules, we do our best to cover all the use cases, to avoid generating false positives so the user isn’t bothered with configurations.
  • Rule descriptions: however perfect a rule implementation is, the rule is worthless without a good description. A rule’s description should always clearly state its purpose, so the reader isn’t left to experimentation to truly understand what a rule does.

None of this is to say that Checkstyle and PMD aren’t great Java tools with wide user bases. They are. But whatever we do at SonarSource, we always try to do it with the long term in mind. And in the long term, it’s well worth migrating existing Java rules to the SonarQube-native Java SSLR engine.

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