Basic Techniques

This section presents two basic techniques of using AspectJ, one each from the two fundamental ways of capturing crosscutting concerns: with dynamic join points and advice, and with static introduction. Advice changes an application's behavior. Introduction changes both an application's behavior and its structure.

The first example, the section called “Join Points and thisJoinPoint, is about gathering and using information about the join point that has triggered some advice. The second example, the section called “Roles and Views”, concerns a crosscutting view of an existing class hierarchy.

Join Points and thisJoinPoint

(The code for this example is in InstallDir/examples/tjp.)

A join point is some point in the execution of a program together with a view into the execution context when that point occurs. Join points are picked out by pointcuts. When a program reaches a join point, advice on that join point may run in addition to (or instead of) the join point itself.

When using a pointcut that picks out join points of a single kind by name, typicaly the the advice will know exactly what kind of join point it is associated with. The pointcut may even publish context about the join point. Here, for example, since the only join points picked out by the pointcut are calls of a certain method, we can get the target value and one of the argument values of the method calls directly.

before(Point p, int x): target(p)
                     && args(x)
                     && call(void setX(int)) {
    if (!p.assertX(x)) {
        System.out.println("Illegal value for x"); return;

But sometimes the shape of the join point is not so clear. For instance, suppose a complex application is being debugged, and we want to trace when any method of some class is executed. The pointcut

pointcut execsInProblemClass(): within(ProblemClass)
                             && execution(* *(..));

will pick out each execution join point of every method defined within ProblemClass. Since advice executes at each join point picked out by the pointcut, we can reasonably ask which join point was reached.

Information about the join point that was matched is available to advice through the special variable thisJoinPoint, of type org.aspectj.lang.JoinPoint. Through this object we can access information such as

  • the kind of join point that was matched
  • the source location of the code associated with the join point
  • normal, short and long string representations of the current join point
  • the actual argument values of the join point
  • the signature of the member associated with the join point
  • the currently executing object
  • the target object
  • an object encapsulating the static information about the join point. This is also available through the special variable thisJoinPointStaticPart.

The Demo class

The class tjp.Demo in tjp/ defines two methods foo and bar with different parameter lists and return types. Both are called, with suitable arguments, by Demo's go method which was invoked from within its main method.

public class Demo {
    static Demo d;

    public static void main(String[] args){
        new Demo().go();

    void go(){
        d = new Demo();,d);
        System.out.println( Integer(3)));

    void foo(int i, Object o){
        System.out.println("" + i + ", " + o + ")\n");

    String bar (Integer j){
        System.out.println("" + j + ")\n");
        return "" + j  + ")";

The GetInfo aspect

This aspect uses around advice to intercept the execution of methods foo and bar in Demo, and prints out information garnered from thisJoinPoint to the console.

aspect GetInfo {

   static final void println(String s){ System.out.println(s); }

   pointcut goCut(): cflow(this(Demo) && execution(void go()));

   pointcut demoExecs(): within(Demo) && execution(* *(..));

   Object around(): demoExecs() && !execution(* go()) && goCut() {
      println("Intercepted message: " +
      println("in class: " +
      println("Running original method: \n" );
      Object result = proceed();
      println("  result: " + result );
      return result;

   static private void printParameters(JoinPoint jp) {
      println("Arguments: " );
      Object[] args = jp.getArgs();
      String[] names = ((CodeSignature)jp.getSignature()).getParameterNames();
      Class[] types = ((CodeSignature)jp.getSignature()).getParameterTypes();
      for (int i = 0; i < args.length; i++) {
         println("  "  + i + ". " + names[i] +
             " : " +            types[i].getName() +
             " = " +            args[i]);
Defining the scope of a pointcut

The pointcut goCut is defined as

cflow(this(Demo)) && execution(void go())
so that only executions made in the control flow of Demo.go are intercepted. The control flow from the method go includes the execution of go itself, so the definition of the around advice includes !execution(* go()) to exclude it from the set of executions advised.

Printing the class and method name

The name of the method and that method's defining class are available as parts of the org.aspectj.lang.Signature object returned by calling getSignature() on either thisJoinPoint or thisJoinPointStaticPart.

Printing the parameters

The static portions of the parameter details, the name and types of the parameters, can be accessed through the org.aspectj.lang.reflect.CodeSignature associated with the join point. All execution join points have code signatures, so the cast to CodeSignature cannot fail.

The dynamic portions of the parameter details, the actual values of the parameters, are accessed directly from the execution join point object.

Roles and Views

(The code for this example is in InstallDir/examples/introduction.)

Like advice, inter-type declarations are members of an aspect. They declare members that act as if they were defined on another class. Unlike advice, inter-type declarations affect not only the behavior of the application, but also the structural relationship between an application's classes.

This is crucial: Publically affecting the class structure of an application makes these modifications available to other components of the application.

Aspects can declare inter-type

  • fields
  • methods
  • constructors
and can also declare that target types
  • implement new interfaces
  • extend new classes

This example provides three illustrations of the use of inter-type declarations to encapsulate roles or views of a class. The class our aspect will be dealing with, Point, is a simple class with rectangular and polar coordinates. Our inter-type declarations will make the class Point, in turn, cloneable, hashable, and comparable. These facilities are provided by AspectJ without having to modify the code for the class Point.

The Point class

The Point class defines geometric points whose interface includes polar and rectangular coordinates, plus some simple operations to relocate points. Point's implementation has attributes for both its polar and rectangular coordinates, plus flags to indicate which currently reflect the position of the point. Some operations cause the polar coordinates to be updated from the rectangular, and some have the opposite effect. This implementation, which is in intended to give the minimum number of conversions between coordinate systems, has the property that not all the attributes stored in a Point object are necessary to give a canonical representation such as might be used for storing, comparing, cloning or making hash codes from points. Thus the aspects, though simple, are not totally trivial.

The diagram below gives an overview of the aspects and their interaction with the class Point.

The CloneablePoint aspect

This first aspect is responsible for Point's implementation of the Cloneable interface. It declares that Point implements Cloneable with a declare parents form, and also publically declares a specialized Point's clone() method. In Java, all objects inherit the method clone from the class Object, but an object is not cloneable unless its class also implements the interface Cloneable. In addition, classes frequently have requirements over and above the simple bit-for-bit copying that Object.clone does. In our case, we want to update a Point's coordinate systems before we actually clone the Point. So our aspect makes sure that Point overrides Object.clone with a new method that does what we want.

We also define a test main method in the aspect for convenience.

public aspect CloneablePoint {

   declare parents: Point implements Cloneable;

   public Object Point.clone() throws CloneNotSupportedException {
      // we choose to bring all fields up to date before cloning.
      return super.clone();

   public static void main(String[] args){
      Point p1 = new Point();
      Point p2 = null;

      p1.setPolar(Math.PI, 1.0);
      try {
         p2 = (Point)p1.clone();
      } catch (CloneNotSupportedException e) {}
      System.out.println("p1 =" + p1 );
      System.out.println("p2 =" + p2 );

      p1.rotate(Math.PI / -2);
      System.out.println("p1 =" + p1 );
      System.out.println("p2 =" + p2 );

The ComparablePoint aspect

ComparablePoint is responsible for Point's implementation of the Comparable interface.

The interface Comparable defines the single method compareTo which can be use to define a natural ordering relation among the objects of a class that implement it.

ComparablePoint uses declare parents to declare that Point implements Comparable, and also publically declares the appropriate compareTo(Object) method: A Point p1 is said to be less than another Point p2 if p1 is closer to the origin.

We also define a test main method in the aspect for convenience.

public aspect ComparablePoint {

   declare parents: Point implements Comparable;

   public int Point.compareTo(Object o) {
      return (int) (this.getRho() - ((Point)o).getRho());

   public static void main(String[] args){
      Point p1 = new Point();
      Point p2 = new Point();

      System.out.println("p1 =?= p2 :" + p1.compareTo(p2));

      System.out.println("p1 =?= p2 :" + p1.compareTo(p2));

      System.out.println("p1 =?= p2 :" + p1.compareTo(p2));

      p1.setPolar(Math.PI, 4);
      p2.setPolar(Math.PI, 4);
      System.out.println("p1 =?= p2 :" + p1.compareTo(p2));

      p1.rotate(Math.PI / 4.0);
      System.out.println("p1 =?= p2 :" + p1.compareTo(p2));

      System.out.println("p1 =?= p2 :" + p1.compareTo(p2));

The HashablePoint aspect

Our third aspect is responsible for Point's overriding of Object's equals and hashCode methods in order to make Points hashable.

The method Object.hashCode returns an integer, suitable for use as a hash table key. It is not required that two objects which are not equal (according to the equals method) return different integer results from hashCode but it can improve performance when the integer is used as a key into a data structure. However, any two objects which are equal must return the same integer value from a call to hashCode. Since the default implementation of Object.equals returns true only when two objects are identical, we need to redefine both equals and hashCode to work correctly with objects of type Point. For example, we want two Point objects to test equal when they have the same x and y values, or the same rho and theta values, not just when they refer to the same object. We do this by overriding the methods equals and hashCode in the class Point.

So HashablePoint declares Point's hashCode and equals methods, using Point's rectangular coordinates to generate a hash code and to test for equality. The x and y coordinates are obtained using the appropriate get methods, which ensure the rectangular coordinates are up-to-date before returning their values.

And again, we supply a main method in the aspect for testing.

public aspect HashablePoint {

   public int Point.hashCode() {
      return (int) (getX() + getY() % Integer.MAX_VALUE);

   public boolean Point.equals(Object o) {
      if (o == this) { return true; }
      if (!(o instanceof Point)) { return false; }
      Point other = (Point)o;
      return (getX() == other.getX()) && (getY() == other.getY());

   public static void main(String[] args) {
      Hashtable h = new Hashtable();
      Point p1 = new Point();

      p1.setRectangular(10, 10);
      Point p2 = new Point();

      p2.setRectangular(10, 10);

      System.out.println("p1 = " + p1);
      System.out.println("p2 = " + p2);
      System.out.println("p1.hashCode() = " + p1.hashCode());
      System.out.println("p2.hashCode() = " + p2.hashCode());

      h.put(p1, "P1");
      System.out.println("Got: " + h.get(p2));