Adding profiling instructions to applications

Kaarthik Rao Bekal Radhakrishna edited this page Sep 12, 2017 · 4 revisions

To complete this tutorial, the developer should have a basic knowledge of Soot, including the SootClass, SootMethod and Unit classes. They are described in this tutorial.


This tutorial describes how to write a BodyTransformer which annotates JimpleBody's with a goto-counter. In particular, the developer will be able to write code to:

  • Retrieve a desired method from the Scene by signature.
  • Add a field to a class file.
  • Differentiate between various types of Jimple statements.
  • Insert Jimple instructions at a certain point.

The GotoInstrumenter example instruments a class or application to print out the number of goto bytecodes executed at run time.

Creating a GotoInstrumenter

We will instrument a class to print out the number of goto instructions executed at run time. The general strategy is:

  1. Add a static field gotoCount to the main class.
  2. Insert instructions incrementing gotoCount before each goto instruction in each method.
  3. Insert gotoCount print-out instructions before each return statement in 'main' method.
  4. Insert gotoCount print-out statements before each System.exit() invocation in each method.

Once we create a BodyTransformer class and add it to the appropriate Pack, it will be invoked for each Body in the program.

Subclassing BodyTransformer

This example works by creating a Transformer which is added to the appropriate pack. We thus declare a subclass of BodyTransformer to carry out our instrumentation:

public class GotoInstrumenter extends BodyTransformer
    private static GotoInstrumenter instance = new GotoInstrumenter();
    private GotoInstrumenter() {}

    public static GotoInstrumenter v() { return instance; }

The above code creates a private static instance and an accessor to that instance.

protected void internalTransform(Body body, String phaseName, Map options)

Every BodyTransformer must declare some internalTransform method, carrying out the transformation.

Adding a Field

We already know how to add Locals to a method body, this can be read here. We now show how to add a field to a class.

Here, we want to add a counter field to the main class.

Sanity check - find main() method

First of all, we check the main method declaration by its subsignature.

if (!Scene.v().getMainClass().
          declaresMethod("void main(java.lang.String[])"))
    throw new RuntimeException("couldn't find main() in mainClass");

A couple of notes about this snippet of code. First, note that we call Scene.v().getMainClass(). This returns the Scene's idea of the main class; in application mode, it is the file specified on the command-line, and in single-file mode, it is the last file specified on the command-line. Also, note that if we fail, then a RuntimeException is thrown. It is not worthwhile to use a checked exception in this case.

The main class for a Java program will always have subsignature (the Soot word for a complete method signature) .void main(java.lang.String[]). The call to declaresMethod returns true if a method with this subsignature is declared in this class.

Fetching or adding the field

Now, if we've already added the field, we need only fetch it:

if (addedFieldToMainClassAndLoadedPrintStream)
    gotoCounter = Scene.v().getMainClass().getFieldByName("gotoCount");

Otherwise, we need to add it.

    // Add gotoCounter field
    gotoCounter = new SootField("gotoCount", LongType.v(), 

Here, we create a new instance of SootField, for a static field containing a long, named gotoCount. This is the field which will be incremented each time we do a goto. We add it to the main class.

    // Just in case, resolve the PrintStream SootClass.
    javaIoPrintStream = Scene.v().getSootClass("");

    addedFieldToMainClassAndLoadedPrintStream = true;

We will use the method, so we load it just in case.

Add locals and statements

Recall that a BodyTransformer operates on an existing method Body. In this step, Locals are added to the Body, and profiling instructions are inserted while iterating over the statements of the Body.

We first use the method's signature to check if it is a main method or not:

boolean isMainMethod = body.getMethod().getSubSignature()
            .equals("void main(java.lang.String[])");

We could also check to see if body.getMethod().getDeclaringClass() is the main class, but we don't bother.

Next, a Local is added; we already know how to do this.

Local tmpLocal = Jimple.v().newLocal("tmp", LongType.v());

Here, we are inserting statements at certain program points. We look for specific statements by iterating over the Units chain; in Jimple, this chain is filled with Stmts.

Iterator stmtIt = body.getUnits().snapshotIterator();
while (stmtIt.hasNext())
    Stmt s = (Stmt);
    if (s instanceof GotoStmt)
        /* Insert profiling instructions before s. */
    else if (s instanceof InvokeStmt)
        /* Check if it is a System.exit() statement.
         * If it is, insert print-out statement before s.
    else if (isMainMethod && (s instanceof ReturnStmt 
                 || s instanceof ReturnVoidStmt))
        /* In the main method, before the return statement, insert
         * print-out statements.

The snapshotIterator() returns an iterator over the Chain, but modification of the underlying chain is permitted. A usual iterator would throw a ConcurrentModificationException in that case!

We can determine the statement type by checking its class with instanceof. Here, we are looking at four different statement types: GotoStmt, InvokeStmt, ReturnStmt and ReturnVoidStmt.

Before every GotoStmt, we insert instructions that increase the counter. The instructions in Jimple are:

    tmpLong = <classname: long gotoCount>;
    tmpLong = tmpLong + 1L;
    <classname: long gotoCount> = tmpLong;

Creating a reference to a static field is done via a call to Jimple.v().newStaticFieldRef(gotoCounter.makeRef()). The entire assignment statement is created with the newAssignStmt method.

AssignStmt toAdd1 = Jimple.v().newAssignStmt(tmpLong,

The new statements can then be added to the body by invoking the insertBefore() method. There are also some other methods that can add statements to a body. Note that above, we need to get a SootFieldRef from the SootField gotoCounter, in order to construct the Jimple StaticFieldRef grammar chunk properly.

units.insertBefore(toAdd1, s);

We have thus added profiling instructions before every goto statement.

It is quite dandy to keep counters; they are useless unless outputted. We add printing statements before calls to System.exit(). This is done similarly to what we did for goto statements, except that we will look more deeply into the Jimple statements and expressions.

InvokeExpr iexpr = (InvokeExpr) ((InvokeStmt)s).getInvokeExpr();
if (iexpr instanceof StaticInvokeExpr)
    SootMethod target = ((StaticInvokeExpr)iexpr).getMethod();
    if (target.getSignature().equals
                ("<java.lang.System: void exit(int)>"))
        /* insert printing statements here */

Every InvokeStmt has an InvokeExpr. The InvokeExpr must be able to return the target method. Again, we can use signatures to test for the wanted method.

We already saw how to make printing statements in creating a class from scratch example. Here is the generated Jimple code.

tmpRef = <java.lang.System: out>;
tmpLong = <test: long gotoCount>;
virtualinvoke tmpRef.< void println(long)>(tmpLong);

In the main() method, we must also insert the same statements before each return statement.

Outputting annotated code

Since we are providing a BodyTransformer, the modified Body is treated as input to the next phase of Soot, and outputted at the end, as per the Soot options.

Adding this transformation to Soot

The preferred method of adding a transformation to Soot is by providing a Main class in one's own package. This class adds transformers to Packs, as needed. It then calls soot.Main.main with the arguments it has been passed.


In this tutorial, we have seen how to instrument class files in Soot. Usually, anything we want to do can be viewed as a transformer of class files.


If you want to see how one can count the number of InvokeStatic instructions of a programm have a look in this example here.

Table of Contents

Also check out Soot's webpage NOTE: If you find any bugs in those tutorials (or other parts of Soot) please help us out by reporting them in our issue tracker.

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