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This is an introduction. Just like the title told you it would be.

What it Does

java2python reads the Java source files you give it and produces somewhat roughly equivalent Python source code. It tries to make the same decisions you would if you were porting the code manually. It can perform the translation faster and more accurately than you could (usually).

Where It's Useful

java2python can help in two situations. First, if you're doing a one-time port of a Java project to Python, it can save you a lot of time and effort by getting you really far really fast.

Second, if you've got a Java project and you'd like to generate a Python port and keep the port up to date, you'll find that java2python can help tremendously. The per-project and per-file configuration system helps out a lot in this area.

Where It's Not

Where java2python is not useful is also important. It won't be useful to you if you expect your newly translated Python code to run correctly the first time. The platforms are too different and this tool is too limited for that to happen. Also, you won't find java2python very useful if you expect to convert Java sources at runtime. I suppose you could try, but I wouldn't.

How it Works

java2python first converts the source code you give it into an abstract syntax tree. (That's a lie, really. java2python doesn't do this step, ANTLR does this step, and ANTLR is a whole lot bigger and cooler than java2python could ever be. Obviously, really smart people worked on ANTLR and only one fairly dim one worked on java2python).

After the syntax tree is constructed, it's walked and its nodes are converted to their Python equivalents. When the walking is complete, java2python takes a few more swipes at it and prints it out. It's all very boring, like geology or watching someone learn to play the xylophone.

This is all well and good for most cases where there exists a very similar Python construct for the given Java construct. Classes, for example, are pretty much the same in both languages. The trouble spots are places where a construct exists in Java that is not readily available in Python.

Note: yes, of course, we're dealing with Turing Machines and they're equivalent. If it works in Java, it can work in Python, and I'm not saying that it can't. But what I am saying is that there are chunks of Java source code that you can't make into nice and neat and obvious Python equivalents.

To get around these trouble spots, java2python takes the approach of trying make the problem go away. For example, in Java the if statement can contain an assignment expression:

if (++x == 0) { ... }

There isn't a single statement equivalent in Python because assignments are statements there, not expressions. So java2python does what it can, presumably what you would do:

x += 1
if x == 0:

Careful readers will have spotted just how close we came to driving over a cliff with that ++x expression. If the increment had been done on the other side of the variable, the meaning of the statement would have changed and the Python code would have been wrong. Fortunately, I've driven by lots of cliffs and have been scared by all of them so I thought of this ahead of time and decided to do something about it:

if (x++ ==0) { ... }

will translate to:

mangled_name_for_x = x
x += 1
if mangled_name_for_x == 0:

See what java2python did there? It tried to do what you would do. For further explanation and enumeration see the translation details page.

Why Bother?

I bothered to write this because I needed a Java package to run on the CPython interpreter. I got tired of porting by hand so I wrote this instead. And it's an interesting problem (kind of).

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