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Contributing Code to DSpace Software

This page provides specific guidelines on how to contribute your code to DSpace, and details how the code review/acceptance process works.
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Developers - See also the Developer Guidelines and Tools for hints/tips on using popular IDEs to develop with DSpace.

Contribution Quick Checklist

This page has a lot of great information on it. But, if you just need the high level overview, here it is. NOTE: the checkboxes below are here for "decorative" purposes, and aren't really intended to be used. If you'd like, and you find it helpful, you may print this page and then check off each step as you proceed with your contribution. Happy coding, and please ask for help if you find you need it! We are a community of developers, and we love to help.

  • Create a ticket in the DSpace Issue Tracker (describe your contribution, how to use it, and perhaps some use cases).
  • Submit your code (preferably via GitHub). It is HIGHLY recommended to do so via a GitHub Pull Request (see Development with Git), which references your newly created ticket by number (e.g. DS-1234).  If you are uncomfortable with Git/GitHub, you may instead attach a patch to the ticket you created. Be warned that the review/approval process for patch files is often much slower, as we first must locate someone to create a Pull Request on your behalf.
  • Review your own code. Does it follow our Contribution Checklist? Does it need Documentation? If you are using any third party tools/APIs, do they all have an acceptable Open Source License (see Licensing of Contributions)? The Committers will also be reviewing these aspects of your code, but if you can catch these gaps or issues up front it can speed up the process of correcting them.
  • Respond to feedback. If the Committers ask questions or make suggestions for changes, please try to be responsive. The Committers are all volunteers and are trying to help as best we can, but the process moves more quickly if you can try to be responsive as well.
  • Help rework/update code as needed. If suggestions for changes are made, if you can rework the code, it speeds up the process. If you submitted your code as a Pull Request, you can just quickly add changes/updates to the branch linked to from your Pull Request.
  • Ask questions. If there is a long delay in the Committers responding, or if you aren't sure of the status of your contribution, please ask. We'd be glad to explain whether the delay is just because we are all busy, or if there's something else we are waiting on.
  • Pay attention to release deadlines. As the next DSpace release approaches, the Committers will announce a "Contribution Deadline" for the upcoming release (usually the release schedule & deadlines are emailed to all lists in July/August). In order to keep releases on-time, the Committers must set a date after which they can no longer accept new feature contributions.  Although you may add code contributions year round, they will only be considered for a specific release if they are contributed before that release's contribution deadline.

Overview of Code Approval Process – How to get your Code into DSpace!

0. Share Early, Share Often!

The overriding mantra is share early, share often. Here are a few things to consider before you begin working on your code:

  • Please be sure to share your plans with the DSpace community on the 'dspace-devel' list (or via one of the weekly Developer Meetings) before embarking on any sizable development effort. This will ensure you achieve your goals in a way that is consistent with the DSpace architecture and plans of the rest of the community. It will minimize the chances of a scenario where you have invested a large amount of time and effort into a body of code that does not fit in with the DSpace architecture or the consensus of the community.
  • Develop incrementally; try and implement and contribute a basic form of your feature as soon as possible, rather than aiming to implement a complete and 'polished' solution. This will help ensure you're on the right track with regards to the rest of the DSpace community and platform. The sooner your code is part of the core code base, the less time you will have to spend 'chasing' the main code base, i.e. keeping your changes up-to-date with that core code base.
  • Obtain the DSpace code using GitHub (see also Development with Git). This will make code management much easier. It's very simple to do; see Developer Guidelines and Tools.
  • Read Code Contribution Guidelines (this page) to ensure you are following DSpace conventions. This will ensure your code is more likely to be immediately accepted as part of out-of-the-box DSpace.
  • Ensure that any third-party tools/libraries that you plan to utilize are released under compatible open source licenses. See the Licensing of Contributions section below.
  • For Larger Initiatives/Codebases: If you are building out a much larger project, we highly recommend notifying the community of the work early on via an email to dspace-devel@lists.sourceforge.net. This can help find collaborators or get early feedback. We also recommend you develop your project in GitHub, as it provides easier ways to review/collaborate with other developers.

But, my code's not ready!

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Oh, please. Think of it like this: open source software development is like a conversation. The conversation has to start somehow. Here's what you can do right now: create a JIRA issue, explaining your idea, and make a new branch, using that issue number in the branch name. Now, commit your new code to that branch, and push it up to your fork on GitHub. Now, the conversation has already started, and people have a way to discuss your idea in a meaningful fashion–referring to the JIRA issue number, perhaps reviewing and commenting on your branch on GitHub. It would probably be a good idea to link to your work in progress branch from the JIRA issue, as it will make finding you work, and the process of reviewing it, easier. Before you know it, you'll be ready to make a pull request, and your work will already have champions within the DSpace community, all because you put it out there and made it available for review early.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it? That's because it is fun. Come, join the conversation!

 

1. Make your code available (preferrably in GitHub) and create a ticket in our Issue Tracker

Once your code is ready, you must make your code available to the DSpace Committers Group for review. The easiest way for us to review your code is by putting your code into GitHub (just create your own account – it's free!). Then, submit a "Pull Request" to our GitHub repository (see Development with Git). Alternatively, if you are not yet comfortable with GitHub, you may create a patch (and upload it to our DSpace Issue Tracker). However, please be aware that submitting a patch may delay the review process (see below note)

In either case, you must also create a new ticket in our DSpace Issue Tracker. This ensures that the DSpace Developers are notified of your contribution, and acts as a place for us to comment on the work or make suggestions for improvements.

Code Standards

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Code contributions that meet certain standards are much more likely to be accepted immediately. For a list of our current standards, please read through the Code Contribution Standards section below.

To ensure your contribution is reviewed more quickly, send us a GitHub Pull Request!

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When making a code contribution, at the very least you should create a new ticket in our DSpace Issue Tracker. In that issue you should provide information as to why you feel this code is a worthwhile contribution (e.g. describe the bug it fixes or a use case that it meets). You can submit your code as an attachment to that ticket (not recommended, see below), or submit it as a Pull Request to our GitHub code repository (highly recommended).

We highly recommend submitting a GitHub Pull Request (see Development with Git for hints/tips), which mentions the ticket by number (e.g. DS-1234).  In order to add any new feature to DSpace, a Pull Request must be generated (by someone). So, if you are able to create and submit the Pull Request, it makes it that much easier for the Committers to review and accept the changes. If you are unable to create the Pull Request, then the review process may be delayed, as we will need to locate a "steward" for your contribution, i.e. someone who is willing and able to create the necessary Pull Request on your behalf.

Keep in Mind the "Feature Contribution Deadline" for the Next Release

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When the next release of DSpace is getting close, the Committers will set a "Feature Contribution Deadline" date, after which no new feature submissions will be accepted for that release. The reason for this is that the Committers need time to review & stabilize the current code before the next release can be completed. Make sure to check the Next Release Status page for details on when the next "Feature Contribution Deadline" is. Please note that bug fixes are still accepted after the "Code Contribution Deadline", as they will help to stabilize the upcoming release.

2. Code Review Process

Once the code is made available, the Committers Group will take time to review the work and provide feedback/comments. Usually, one (or more) committers who are interested in this work will contact you and discuss any feedback we have, and whether or not there would need to be some general changes before we could accept it. Some patches/features are readily accepted (because they are stable and look good), others may require more work (if there are concerns or issues that Committers notice).

Code Review Timeframe

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The timeframe of a code review will vary, based on how much time the Committers have. Smaller changes may be reviewed within days, while larger changes/features may take many weeks to do a full review. All Committers are volunteers and only have a small amount of time to provide to the project in a given week. We will make every effort to get back to you with feedback within a few weeks. But, if you haven't heard anything, feel free to ask!

What are we reviewing for?

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When we review your code, we are mostly ensuring it generally follows our Code Contribution Standards. However, there are a few other things we generally check for:

  • The code is stable and has no stability or security concerns
  • The code is properly using existing APIs, etc.
  • The code is not too specific to one institution's local policies or workflows. (I.e. we will review the code to ensure it looks to be generally useful to most institutions, or configurable enough such that others can change it to match their own local policies/workflows)
  • Any third-party tools/libraries used by your code have compatible open source licenses. See Licensing of Contributions

3. Reworking Code (if necessary) & Next Steps

After the code review & feedback, interested Committers may help you to rework the code (if needed). They'll also provide you with next steps on getting the code into DSpace. If it can be accepted immediately, it will be. If not, we'll try to help figure out the best route forward.

How you can help speed up the process

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As our Committers are all volunteers, they don't always have the time to rework code changes for you. If you want your code change accepted in a timely manner, please offer to make the changes yourself (otherwise your patch suggestion may wait in a "holding queue" until someone has enough time to work on any necessary fixes).

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

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If you are unsure of next steps, please let us know by adding a comment to your issue in the Issue Tracker. Communication is absolutely necessary to ensure that we can help you rework anything that needs reworking. If we don't hear from you, we'll assume you are hard at work. So, if you've run into issues, please let us know! If, locally, you don't have the time or expertise to do the rework that is necessary, also let us know. We can try to locate a community developer to help out, and/or ask both the Committers Team and the DSpace Community Advisory Team if they know of any interested developers with time to spare.

4. Acceptance!

Once your code is accepted, it will be released in the next version of DSpace software! It is time to celebrate, as your name will be added to the prestigious list of DSpace Contributors!

Code Contribution Standards

Code contributions that meet the following standards are much more likely to be accepted. If you don't understand any of these standards, please contact us – we'll be glad to explain or help.

Contribution Checklist

When you contribute to DSpace, please be sure that your submission adheres to the points in this checklist. The DSpace Committers need you to do this to keep quality of the DSpace code high and their work manageable.

  1. Any changes must be Java 1.6 compliant.
  2. When possible, your contribution should be a "Pull Request" sent to our GitHub repository (see Development with Git). However, you may also create a patch against the latest version of the code (but submitting a patch may delay the review process, as we will need to locate a volunteer to create a Pull Request on your behalf).
  3. Ensure the code is commented and correctly formatted (you can use many IDE's format functions to do that or a tool like Jacobe ). Refer to the Coding Conventions section below.
  4. Your contribution must adhere to licensing requirements to be included. Refer to the Licensing of Contributions below
  5. User interface patches must be internationalised (see the Internationalization Support (I18nSupport) guide)
  6. User interface patches must be XHTML-compliant and have a W3C WAI Conformance Level of "Double-A"
  7. Where possible, new User Interface features are encouraged to support both XMLUI and JSPUI interfaces. However, this is not a requirement. Patches supporting only one interface may be accepted.
  8. Your patch must come with Documentation. Minimally, technical documentation must be part of the system docs – see Documentation Contributions below. Ideally, we'd also like User/Usage Documentation.
  9. Examples or Use Cases should be submitted to help Committers understand and adequately test the patch prior to applying it to the core code
  10. Any new features should be configurable (i.e. try not to make features specific to your own institution, they need to be generalized if possible). Be careful in particular with the dspace.cfg file. Make sure you only patch this if you change involved new configuration parameters in it, and make sure you have good default values for them. Don't accidentally include your own local configuration parameters (e.g. host name etc) in the patch! If the new feature is in any way specific to a particular application (e.g. open access, theses), it should be switched off by default
  11. If you add new configuration parameters, name them appropriately. Also, they should not be required to be in dspace.cfg – if the parameters are omitted, DSpace should continue to operate as before.
    • For example, if you add a new e-thesis-related submission step, you might add a couple of new config parameters: webui.submit.thesisstep, and webui.submit.thesisstep.color. If webui.submit.thesisstep = false, the submission process should not be affected for those not using DSpace for e-theses. Also, if your code finds that webui.submit.thesisstep is missing, it should assume a default of 'false' so that after an update, previous installations of DSpace behave as expected, and they do not have to add that parameter to their dspace.cfg.
  12. Add appropriate WARN, INFO and DEBUG-level logging. Use the included Apache Log4J toolkit, in concert with the org.dspace.core.LogManager class to do this. See org.dspace.app.webui.servlet.DSpaceServlet for an example of how to do this.
  13. Retain backwards compatibility where possible. If there are questions/concerns about this, let us know. There are always exceptions.
  14. No Database schema changes unless absolutely necessary – this will mean upgrading would require effort. In this case, you also need to supply upgrade instructions and/or code to upgrade in existing installation. See Database schema changes below

If there are questions/concerns about any of these guidelines, let us know on the 'dspace-devel' list. We are willing to make exceptions in some areas, if exceptions are necessary.

Attempt to Follow all Guidelines

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Omission of one or more of these items is likely to result in the patch not being applied and returned to you for further work. See the Overview of Code Approval Process above, for more information.

Coding Conventions

Your code needs to follow the Sun Java code conventions with the following minor modifications:

  • Curly braces must be on new lines.
  • Source files must have a copy of the copyright Duraspace notice and BSD license at the top (see Licensing of Contributions below). Also take a look at Copyright and Licensing.
  • You must use 4-space tabulation.
  • 'else' should be on a new line. 'else if' stays on one line.
  • Users of the Eclipse IDE can have eclipse do the formatting automatically using this profile: - Dspace-eclipse-format.xml. See the Eclipse section below for details of how to apply this profile.

Your code should be well commented with Javadoc (including package and class overviews). All code contributions must come with Documentation. At a bare minimum, this should include Technical Documentation covering all configuration options and/or setup. See Documentation Contributions below for more details.

Licensing of Contributions

Any third-party libraries (e.g. JARs / Maven Dependencies) required to compile or run DSpace must be included. The license of any required jar/dependency MUST be compatible with BSD. It must not prevent any commercial use of DSpace, nor have any impact on the rest of the code by its inclusion. It is not acceptable to require additional downloads of JARs/dependencies to make DSpace compile or function.

Non-Java third-party web frameworks or tools (e.g. XSLT, CSS, Images) should follow these same licensing guidelines.

Examples of acceptable licenses:

Examples of unacceptable licenses:

Why is GPL (and similar) unacceptable?

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DuraSpace feels it is important for commercial entities and service providers to be able to customize the entire codebase and redistribute/repackage/sell it in a binary form. GPL licenses prevent this, as noted in the following FAQ questions:

JDBC drivers for databases are an exception since:

  • They must correspond to the database version and not the DSpace version.
  • They are not required for DSpace to compile and run; a variety of databases, including open source databases, may be used.

Database schema changes

Database schema changes will be done only on major revisions to the source; this is when the version number takes the form x.0 (e.g. 2.0). When making patches which cause schema changes, it is necessary to update all of the relevant SQL files with your sequences, tables, views etc. (in /dspace/etc/postgresql, /dspace/etc/oracle, and /dspace/etc/h2):

  • database_schema.sql - the SQL to create the database from scratch
  • clean-database.sql - the SQL to remove all the parts of the database
  • database_schema_<old version>-<new version>.sql (e.g. database_schema_11_12.sql) - the SQL to update the <old version> of the schema to the <new version>
  • update-sequences.sql - the SQL to ensure that sequences are set correctly

Documentation Contributions

All new features require documentation before they will be accepted. You may send us code before documentation is completed, but we will be unable to accept that code into DSpace until it is properly documented. Bug fixes may not require documentation, unless they somehow make a modification which changes how DSpace functions.

As of 1.7.0, the documentation is now built in a special section of the Wiki at DSpace Documentation. Therefore, the best way to send us Documentation is to actually create a new page(s) in this DSpace Wiki. You should link these Wiki page(s) to your issue in our DSpace Issue Tracker. We'll move them over into the official DSpace Documentation area once you code has been accepted.