Synopsis Using string templates to generate code.
Description Many websites and code generators use template-based code generation. They start from a text template that contains embedded variables and code. The template is "executed" by replacing the embedded variables and code by their string value. Languages like PHP and Ruby are popular for this feature. Let's see how we can do this in Rascal.

Rascal provides string templates that rival what is provided in Ruby, PHP or ANTLR. They are fully described in Rascal:Values/String.
Examples The problem we want to solve is as follows: given a number of fields (with a name and a type) how can we generate a Java class with getters and setters for those fields?

Here is a solution:
module demo::common::StringTemplate

import String;
import IO;
import Set;
import List;

// Capitalize the first character of a string

public str capitalize(str s) {  
  return toUpperCase(substring(s, 0, 1)) + substring(s, 1);

// Helper function to generate a setter
private str genSetter(map[str,str] fields, str x) {
  return "public void set<capitalize(x)>(<fields[x]> <x>) {
         '  this.<x> = <x>;

// Helper function to generate a getter
private str genGetter(map[str,str] fields, str x) {
  return "public <fields[x]> get<capitalize(x)>() {
         '  return <x>;

// Generate a class with given name and fields.
// The field names are processed in sorted order.
public str genClass(str name, map[str,str] fields) { 
    "public class <name> {
    '  <for (x <- sort([f | f <- fields])) {>
    '  private <fields[x]> <x>;
    '  <genSetter(fields, x)>
    '  <genGetter(fields, x)><}>
At an auxiliary function capitalize is defined to capitalize the first character of a string.

The heavy lifting is done at where genClass is defined that takes as arguments:
  • the name of the class.
  • a map fields that associates field names with their type (both string values).
Function genClass returns a string that contains several string interpolations delimited by < and >. Let's discuss some of them:
  • In each line, only the text following ' is contributed to the output. The text before (and including) ' can be used to properly indent the string.
  • The output of each interpolated call, like to genMethod is auto-indented.
  • public class <name>: insert the desired class name in the result.
  • <for x<-fields){> ... <}>: loops over the fields and contributes the text produced by its body to the result.
  • private <fields[x]> <x>;: finds for the current field x its type and produces an appropriate private field declaration.
  • public void set<capitalize(x)>(<fields[x]> <x>): method header for the setter for field x.
Let's see how this works out on actual data:
rascal>import demo::common::StringTemplate;
rascal>import IO;
rascal>fields = (
>>>>>>>     "name" : "String",
>>>>>>>     "age" : "Integer",
>>>>>>>     "address" : "String"
>>>>>>>  );
map[str, str]: ("name":"String","address":"String","age":"Integer")
rascal>println(genClass("Person", fields));
public class Person {
  private String address;
  public void setAddress(String address) {
    this.address = address;
  public String getAddress() {
    return address;
  private Integer age;
  public void setAge(Integer age) {
    this.age = age;
  public Integer getAge() {
    return age;
  private String name;
  public void setName(String name) { = name;
  public String getName() {
    return name;
  • String templates are ideal to generate arbitrary output. In particular, no grammar is needed to describe this output.
  • Auto-indent helps to be able to compose templates from reusable parts.
  • Since no grammar is used to control output, errors in generated code can only be detected by a downstream processor such as a compiler for the generated code.
  • In more complex cases, it can be better to introduce an abstract datatype to represent the desired code and to use string templates to produce the actual textual representation of that code.
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