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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 (i.e., 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

Currently, only changes in Kotlin and Java sources are tracked. Changes to the classpath, namely to other modules or libraries, trigger a full re-processing of all sources by default. To track changes in classpath, set the Gradle property ksp.incremental.intermodule=true for an experimental implementation on JVM.

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. These log files can be found in the build output folder with a .log file extension.

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, with the exception of 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 that all of the corresponding registered, new, and modified source files are reprocessed.

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 be aggregating in KSP.

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 is able to 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 sourceA -> outputA, sourceB -> outputB.

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: 16 September 2021