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Incremental processing

Incremental processing is a processing technique that avoids re-processing of sources as much as possible. The primary goal of incremental processing is to reduce the turn-around time of a typical change-compile-test cycle. For general information, see Wikipedia's article on incremental computing.

To determine which sources are dirty (those that need to be reprocessed), KSP needs processors' help to identify which input sources correspond to which generated outputs. To help with this often cumbersome and error-prone process, KSP is designed to require only a minimal set of root sources that processors use as starting points to navigate the code structure. In other words, a processor needs to associate an output with the sources of the corresponding KSNode if the KSNode is obtained from any of the following:

  • Resolver.getAllFiles

  • Resolver.getSymbolsWithAnnotation

  • Resolver.getClassDeclarationByName

  • Resolver.getDeclarationsFromPackage

Incremental processing is currently enabled by default. To disable it, set the Gradle property ksp.incremental=false. To enable logs that dump the dirty set according to dependencies and outputs, use ksp.incremental.log=true. You can find these log files in the build output directory with a .log file extension.

On the JVM, classpath changes, as well as Kotlin and Java source changes, are tracked by default. To track only Kotlin and Java source changes, disable classpath tracking by setting the ksp.incremental.intermodule=false Gradle property.

Aggregating vs Isolating

Similar to the concepts in Gradle annotation processing, KSP supports both aggregating and isolating modes. Note that unlike Gradle annotation processing, KSP categorizes each output as either aggregating or isolating, rather than the entire processor.

An aggregating output can potentially be affected by any input changes, except removing files that don't affect other files. This means that any input change results in a rebuild of all aggregating outputs, which in turn means reprocessing of all corresponding registered, new, and modified source files.

As an example, an output that collects all symbols with a particular annotation is considered an aggregating output.

An isolating output depends only on its specified sources. Changes to other sources do not affect an isolating output. Note that unlike Gradle annotation processing, you can define multiple source files for a given output.

As an example, a generated class that is dedicated to an interface it implements is considered isolating.

To summarize, if an output might depend on new or any changed sources, it is considered aggregating. Otherwise, the output is isolating.

Here's a summary for readers familiar with Java annotation processing:

  • In an isolating Java annotation processor, all the outputs are isolating in KSP.

  • In an aggregating Java annotation processor, some outputs can be isolating and some can be aggregating in KSP.

How it is implemented

The dependencies are calculated by the association of input and output files, instead of annotations. This is a many-to-many relation.

The dirtiness propagation rules due to input-output associations are:

  1. If an input file is changed, it will always be reprocessed.

  2. If an input file is changed, and it is associated with an output, then all other input files associated with the same output will also be reprocessed. This is transitive, namely, invalidation happens repeatedly until there is no new dirty file.

  3. All input files that are associated with one or more aggregating outputs will be reprocessed. In other words, if an input file isn't associated with any aggregating outputs, it won't be reprocessed (unless it meets 1. or 2. in the above).

Reasons are:

  1. If an input is changed, new information can be introduced and therefore processors need to run again with the input.

  2. An output is made out of a set of inputs. Processors may need all the inputs to regenerate the output.

  3. aggregating=true means that an output may potentially depend on new information, which can come from either new files, or changed, existing files. aggregating=false means that processor is sure that the information only comes from certain input files and never from other or new files.

Example 1

A processor generates outputForA after reading class A in A.kt and class B in B.kt, where A extends B. The processor got A by Resolver.getSymbolsWithAnnotation and then got B by KSClassDeclaration.superTypes from A. Because the inclusion of B is due to A, B.kt doesn't need to be specified in dependencies for outputForA. You can still specify B.kt in this case, but it is unnecessary.

// A.kt @Interesting class A : B() // B.kt open class B // Example1Processor.kt class Example1Processor : SymbolProcessor { override fun process(resolver: Resolver) { val declA = resolver.getSymbolsWithAnnotation("Interesting").first() as KSClassDeclaration val declB = declA.superTypes.first().resolve().declaration // B.kt isn't required, because it can be deduced as a dependency by KSP val dependencies = Dependencies(aggregating = true, declA.containingFile!!) // outputForA.kt val outputName = "outputFor${declA.simpleName.asString()}" // outputForA depends on A.kt and B.kt val output = codeGenerator.createNewFile(dependencies, "com.example", outputName, "kt") output.write("// $declA : $declB\n".toByteArray()) output.close() } // ... }

Example 2

Consider that a processor generates outputA after reading sourceA and outputB after reading sourceB.

When sourceA is changed:

  • If outputB is aggregating, both sourceA and sourceB are reprocessed.

  • If outputB is isolating, only sourceA is reprocessed.

When sourceC is added:

  • If outputB is aggregating, both sourceC and sourceB are reprocessed.

  • If outputB is isolating, only sourceC is reprocessed.

When sourceA is removed, nothing needs to be reprocessed.

When sourceB is removed, nothing needs to be reprocessed.

How file dirtiness is determined

A dirty file is either directly changed by users or indirectly affected by other dirty files. KSP propagates dirtiness in two steps:

  • Propagation by resolution tracing: Resolving a type reference (implicitly or explicitly) is the only way to navigate from one file to another. When a type reference is resolved by a processor, a changed or affected file that contains a change that may potentially affect the resolution result will affect the file containing that reference.

  • Propagation by input-output correspondence: If a source file is changed or affected, all other source files having some output in common with that file are affected.

Note that both of them are transitive and the second forms equivalence classes.

Reporting bugs

To report a bug, please set Gradle properties ksp.incremental=true and ksp.incremental.log=true, and perform a clean build. This build produces two log files:

  • build/kspCaches/<source set>/logs/kspDirtySet.log

  • build/kspCaches/<source set>/logs/kspSourceToOutputs.log

You can then run successive incremental builds, which will generate two additional log files:

  • build/kspCaches/<source set>/logs/kspDirtySetByDeps.log

  • build/kspCaches/<source set>/logs/kspDirtySetByOutputs.log

These logs contain file names of sources and outputs, plus the timestamps of the builds.

Last modified: 12 July 2023