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This repository contains our ongoing work on PHP Analysis in Rascal (PHP AiR).

An Important Note

To date, the definition of a System has been just a map from file locations to ASTs for that file. This means that a System knows nothing about itself, e.g., it doesn't know that it represents WordPress version 4.3.1. We just updated the definition of a System so that it is a datatype with constructors to allow this kind of information to be stored. This does mean that, wherever you currently iterate over a system, you should update that code to instead iterate over the files field, e.g., for (l <- sys) { ... }, which would iterate over the locations in the system, should be for (l <- sys.files) { ... } and sys[l] should then be sys.files[l].

If you have binaries built for an existing corpus of PHP systems, you don't need to rebuild all these. Instead, run the convertCorpusToNamedSystems function in lang::php::util::Utils, which will convert all the existing binaries for you, or run convertCorpusItemToNamedSystem to convert a single binary, given the name of the system and the version.

Running Our Software

The main prerequisites to running the PHP, Java, and Rascal code used to implement our analysis are:

Eclipse versions 4.5 (Mars) is required to use the newest version of Rascal. The latest version of PHP should also work -- we use PHP to parse PHP files, but otherwise just pick the version you need to run the PHP software you plan to use (variants of 5.3 or greater should all work).

Once these are installed, you can install the Eclipse Rascal plugin by following the directions at the Rascal download page.

Note that we are actively developing Rascal, which means the standard plugin is more stable, but potentially slower and missing some new features. You can use the Rascal unstable release channel to get the most recent version of Rascal which builds and passes all unit tests. This release is available at

Also, the Rascal installation instructions specify that you should allocate 1GB of RAM for Rascal; in some cases, since we are working with large amounts of source code, this may need to be adjusted upwards even beyond this. For most functionality in the analysis, a maximum heap size of 4GB is fine. Some operations may require more, especially those that work over not just one system, but multiple systems at the same time, for instance in the work we are doing on comparing how features are used in various systems.

To parse PHP code, we are using a fork of an open-source PHP Parser. This is also available in our Github repository, and is named PHP-Parser.

Note that we assume, for this README, that all code is being placed in directory ~/PHPAnalysis. To check out the parser from Github, one would do:

cd ~/PHPAnalysis
git clone

Downloading the Corpus

The corpus is rather large, so here we are providing just those systems that we used in our experiments in our ISSTA 2013 submission (the same corpus was used in our ICSE 2013 submission) and in our ESEC/FSE 2013 submission. The first part of the corpus is used in both papers, while the second is used just in the ESEC/FSE 2013 submission. We have also just uploaded a single archive containing all releases of WordPress available on the WordPress site through version 3.6. We still need to incorporate 3.6.1 and 3.7, and then will try to keep this up to date as new versions are released. You can also download new versions and put them into the existing directory created for WordPress, so you do not need to download this again every time.

Assuming that wget is installed:

cd ~/PHPAnalysis
tar -xpzvf corpus-icse13.tgz

and, if needed:

tar -xpzvf corpus-includes-extension.tgz

To get the WordPress releases, just do:

tar -xpzvf wordpress.tgz

The first will place the files into a subdirectory named corpus-icse13. If wget is not installed, click on the base corpus link, save this to the ~/PHPAnalysis directory, and extract it with the command given above. The last will put all the WordPress releases into a directory named WordPress. To make this easier to find, this can be placed under the corpus directory created for the first download. If you go this, PHP AiR will automatically find all the versions of WordPress.

Checking Out the PHP Analysis Project

To use the PHP Analysis code, you will first need to check it out from its Github repository. This can be done either with the git command-line tools or using the git support built in to Eclipse. For instance, you can import the PHP Analysis project using the Eclipse Import functionality. There is currently only one branch, master, which should be checked out.

If you use the Eclipse functionality for checking out the Github repository, make sure to NOT put the repository in the same location that Eclipse will create the project (i.e., under the workspace location you selected when you started Eclipse). If you put the repository in this location, you will get an error, since Eclipse will try to create a directory for the project with the same name as the directory you gave for the repository.

Setting Configuration Options

Once the PHP Analysis project is imported, the paths to several files need to be configured. This can be done in Rascal module lang::php::util::Config. You should create this by copying file /src/lang/php/util/Config.rsc-dist to /src/lang/php/util/Config.rsc and then making any needed changes.

  • phploc points to the location of the php binary
  • parserLoc points to the location of the PHP-Parser project
  • analysisLoc points to the location of the php-analysis project
  • astToRascal points to the location of file AST2Rascal.php inside PHP-Parser
  • parserWorkingDir points to the location of the working directory for when the parser runs
  • baseLoc provides the base location for a number of files created as part of the parsing and extraction process, including the directory where parsed files are stored and the root of the corpus; the remaining directories are subdirectories of this
  • logLevel indicates how much debugging information will be seen, and can be set to 0 to turn output of this information off

Given the working directory mentioned above, the configuration file would contain the following lines. Obviously, /Users/hillsma should be substituted for the location of your home directory, or whichever other directory PHPAnalysis has been installed in:

module lang::php::util::Config

@doc{Indicates whether to use the parser contained in a distributed jar file or from the directory given below}
public bool usePhpParserJar = false;

@doc{The location of the PHP executable}
public loc phploc = |file:///usr/local/php5/bin/php|;

@doc{The base install location for the PHP-Parser project}
public loc parserLoc = |file:///Users/hillsma/Projects/phpsa/PHP-Parser|;

@doc{The base install location for the php-analysis project}
public loc analysisLoc = |file:///Users/hillsma/Projects/phpsa/rascal/php-analysis/|;

@doc{The memory limit for PHP when the parser is run}
public str parserMemLimit = "1024M";

@doc{The location of the AST2Rascal.php file, inside the PHP-Parser directories}
public str astToRascal = "lib/Rascal/AST2Rascal.php";

@doc{The working directory for when the parser runs}
public loc parserWorkingDir = (parserLoc + astToRascal).parent;

@doc{The base location for the corpus and any serialized files}
public loc baseLoc = |home:///PHPAnalysis|;

@doc{Where to put the binary representations of parsed systems}
public loc parsedDir = baseLoc + "serialized/parsed";

@doc{Where to put the binary representations of extracted statistics}
public loc statsDir = baseLoc + "serialized/stats";

@doc{Where the PHP sources for the corpus reside}
public loc corpusRoot = baseLoc + "systems";

@doc{Where to put extracted counts (e.g., SLOC)}
public loc countsDir = baseLoc + "serialized/counts";

@doc{This should only ever be true if we don't have source, we only have the extracted binaries for parsed systems}
public bool useBinaries = false;

@doc{Parser options, setting these to true can result in additional annotations on ASTs}
public bool includePhpDocs = false;
public bool includeLocationInfo = false;
public bool resolveNamespaces = false;

@doc{Debugging options}
@logLevel {
    Log level 0 => no logging;
    Log level 1 => main logging;
    Log level 2 => debug logging;
public int logLevel = 2;

Make sure that useBinaries is false; this should only be true in cases where you have the binaries built and no longer have the source.

To check to ensure that the directories are properly set up, you can run the following:

import lang::php::util::Utils;

This will run several checks to make sure the directories can be found and that the parser can parse a simple PHP expression.

Building Binaries for Each Corpus Item

To build the binaries, first load lang::php::util::Utils in a Rascal console (right click in an open Rascal file, such as the Utils module mentioned above, and select Start Console, then import lang::php::util::Utils). Then, you can run the command to build all the binaries:

import lang::php::util::Utils;

Several of the files do not parse, so parse errors are reported in the console. These are expected errors: one of the files, part of the Zend Framework, is intended to trigger a parsing error, while the others are template files that are intended to be filled in and are not valid PHP. There are also several files that show the error Expected Script, but got node; this did not occur during our tests with Eclipse 3.7 running on Linux, but this occurred with 3 files while running with Eclipse 4.2 on Mac OS X. We are working to track down the source of this bug and repair it. Note: if you have installed the WordPress systems as well, this step will take a while, since there are more than 75 releases of WordPress included in the download.

Building Binaries with Includes Information

At runtime, the actual program is the PHP page that is visited with all includes resolved. We have developed an analysis that tries to resolve these includes statically, and are currently working on improving this. To use this information in the analysis, we first build binaries (as above), but with includes resolved, where possible, to literal paths. To do this, run the following code:

import lang::php::stats::Unfriendly;

This will generate a new binary, with includes resolved, for each product in the corpus. Note that this is needed to recreate the feature usage information, since that accounts for features included transitively where possible.

Running the PHP Feature Usage Analysis Code

The code to extract information on PHP feature usage is in folder lang/php/stats, shown as package lang.php.stats in Eclipse. Most of this code is in the Rascal module lang::php::stats::Unfriendly, in file Unfriendly.rsc. This module contains code that measures the use of "analysis unfriendly" features such as variable variables and magic methods. This code also uses a number of functions defined in Stats.rsc for extracting information on the uses of individual features from PHP files.

To make our experiments easily reproducible, folder lang/php/experiments contains a subdirectory for each set of experiments, categorized by the paper in which they were collected, with a file containing calls that build the figures and tables. For instance, module lang::php::experiments::issta2013::ISSTA2013 contains one function for each table and figure in the submitted paper. Tracing through these functions shows the analysis steps taken to yield the results we reported.

Comparing Multiple Releases

One project we are currently working on is to compare feature usage, especially with dynamic features, across multiple versions of WordPress. A current example, that simply shows how many "eval-like" features (eval and calls to create_function) are present in WordPress, is shown in module lang::php::experiments::wcre2014::WCRE2014. This can be run by calling printEvalLike("WordPress"), which will extract all the uses of eval and create_function and summarize them by system. Note: one point of unsoundness here is that, since create_function is just a function, it could be invoked inside an eval, using variable functions, or using dynamic invocation, but those cases are not checked here (and, in extreme cases, cannot be checked at all).