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Praspel and the Realistic Domains

Praspel (PHP Realistic Annotation and Specification Language) is a formal specification language for PHP. It is based on the Design-by-Contract paradigm and uses preconditions, postconditions, invariants etc. Specifications are written in the comments of the PHP code. Praspel is used for manual, automated or automatic software validation and verification.

This language is inspired by JML but the difference is in the way to specify the data. PHP is dynamically and weakly typed. To specify the data, Praspel relies on realistic domains: Structures allowing to validate and generate data, with the ability to compose them to represent more complex data. Realistic domains are implemented in the Hoa\Realdom library.

Data generators

A contract can be used to automatically generate unit tests. A test is constitued of 2 parts: Test data, and an oracle. Test data are crucial since it must reflect “realistic” data as much as possible, and being to generate data at the limits is also very important. Realistic Domains is an answer to this problem by being able to generate integers, reals, strings (based on regular expressions or grammars for instance), arrays (based on a constraint solver) or objects, for the PHP language types. Thus, it is possible to combine these realistic domains to generate more sophisticated data (like dates, object models etc.).

Contract Coverage Criteria

The contract language can be evaluated to validate and verify data manipulated by the program on one hand. On the other hand, we have algorithms able to automatically generate test data from a piece of a contract. In order to ensure whether the contract is correctly covered, we have defined several contract coverage criteria.

Thus, we are able to generate unit test suites satisfying these contract coverage criteria, and thus ensuring that generated unit test suites reflect all the behavior expressed in the contract.

Research papers

This language is the result of several research papers, journals and PhD thesis.

Learn more.


With Composer, to include this library into your dependencies, you need to require hoa/praspel:

$ composer require hoa/praspel '~1.0'

For more installation procedures, please read the Source page.


Before running the test suites, the development dependencies must be installed:

$ composer install

Then, to run all the test suites:

$ vendor/bin/hoa test:run

For more information, please read the contributor guide.

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