Specification Matching of Software Components

Authors: Amy Moormann Zaremski and Jeannette M. Wing

To appear ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology (TOSEM), 1997.

The full text of this paper is here (in PostScript).


Specification matching is a way to compare two software components based on descriptions of the components' behaviors. In the context of software reuse and library retrieval, it can help determine whether one component can be substituted for another or how one can be modified to fit the requirements of the other. In the context of object-oriented programming, it can help determine when one type is a behavioral subtype of another.

We use formal specifications to describe the behavior of software components, and hence, to determine whether two components match. We give precise definitions of not just exact match, but more relevantly, various flavors of relaxed match. These definitions capture the notions of generalization, specialization, and substitutability of software components.

Since our formal specifications are pre- and post-conditions written as predicates in first-order logic, we rely on theorem proving to determine match and mismatch. We give examples from our implementation of specification matching using the Larch Prover.

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