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DSpace Java Style Guide (Adopted 2018, for DSpace 7.x and above)

DSpace Java Style Guide is enforced on "master" branch

As of Feb 2018, the below DSpace Java Style Guide is enforced on all Pull Requests to the "master" branch. Therefore, if a Pull Request to the "master" branch does not align with the below Style Guide, it will fail the build process within Travis CI.

  1. 4-space indents for Java, and 2-space indents for XML. NO TABS ALLOWED.
  2. K&R style braces required. Braces are required on all blocks.

    if (code) {
      // code
    } else {
      // code
  3. Maximum length of lines is 120 characters (except for long URLs, packages or imports)

  4. No trailing spaces allowed (except in comments)
  5. Do not use wildcard imports (e.g. import java.util.*). Duplicated or unused imports are not allowed.
  6. Write Javadocs for public methods and classes. Keep it short and to the point.
    1. Javadoc @author tags are optional, but should refer to an individual's name or handle (e.g. GitHub username) when included
  7. Tokens should be surrounded by whitespace, e.g.

    // This is NOT valid. Whitespace around tokens is missing
    String []={"one","two","three"}
    // This is valid. Whitespace exists around all tokens
    String [] = { "one", "two", "three" }
  8. Each line of code can only include one statement.  This also means each variable declaration must be on its own line, e.g.

    // This is NOT valid. Three variables are declared on one line
    String first = "", second = "", third = "";
    // This is valid. Each statement is on its own line
    String first = "";
    String second = "";
    String third = "";
  9. No empty "catch" blocks in try/catch.  A "catch" block must minimally include a comment as to why the catch is empty, e.g. 

    try {
      // some code ..
    } catch (Exception e) {
      // ignore, this exception is not important
  10. All "switch" statements must include a "defaut" clause.  Also, each clause in a switch must include a "break", "return", "throw" or "continue" (no fall throughs allowed), e.g.

    // This is NOT valid. Switch doesn't include a "default" and is missing a "break" in first "case"
    switch (myVal) {
      case "one":
         // do something
      case "two":
         // do something else
    // This is valid. Switch has all necessary breaks and includes a "default" clause
    switch (myVal) {
      case "one":
         // do something
      case "two":
         // do something else
         // do nothing
  11. Any "utility" classes (a utility class is one that just includes static methods or variables) should have non-public (i.e. private or protected) constructors, e.g.

    // This is an example class of static constants
    public class Constants {
       public static final String DEFAULT_ENCODING = "UTF-8";
       public static final String ANOTHER_CONSTANT = "Some value";
       // As this is a utility class, it MUST have a constructor that is non-public.
       private Constants() { }
  12. Each source file must contain the required DSpace license header, e.g.

     * The contents of this file are subject to the license and copyright
     * detailed in the LICENSE and NOTICE files at the root of the source
     * tree and available online at

Old DSpace Java Style Guide (for versions 6.x and prior)

Per the Code Contribution Guidelines page (see "Coding Conventions" section), our existing style guide is listed as follows:

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.

These older style guidelines were based heavily on the Sun coding conventions (circa 1999) which are no longer maintained, but still available at

Because the Sun Java style guide is no longer maintained, it will not be keeping up with current Java style best practices, features, etc.  

In 2018, we decided to update our guide based on / inspired by these two guides:


IDE Support

Most major IDEs include plugins that support Checkstyle configurations. The plugin usually let you import an existing "checkstyle.xml" configuration to configure your IDE to use and/or validate against that style.

IntelliJ IDEA

(These instructions are based on IntelliJ 2017.3.4.  They should apply to other recent versions, but some menus or settings may have changed.)

  • Install the IntelliJ IDEA checkstyle plugin:
    • File →  Settings →  Plugins
    • Restart IDE
  • Configure it to use our custom checkstyle.xml for DSpace
    • File →  Settings →  Checkstyle
      • In older versions of IntelliJ, this menu may be under File → Settings → Other Settings → Checkstyle
    • Add a "Configuration File" (press the + in the table). Select our checkstyle.xml
    • Make it "Active"
    • Click Apply
  • Update IDEA's Code Style to obey the Checkstyle Rules (See also
    • File → Settings → Editor → Code Style
    • Click the small gear icon next to "Scheme", Select "Import Scheme" → CheckStyle Configuration
    • Select our checkstyle.xml
    • Click OK
    • Click Apply
  • After importing the Checkstyle settings, your "Copyright profiles" may get reset (if you had them previously configured).  If you want IntelliJ to automatically add a copyright statement / license at the top of every Java class, you should ensure this is (re)configured:
    • File → Settings → Editor → Copyright 
    • Add a Copyright profile.  If you wish to use the DSpace copyright/license statement, the text of it is available in the LICENSE_HEADER file in the codebase (or see the Code Style Guide above)
    • Select the profile from the list, and adjust the formatting (unchecking the option "Add blank line after")
  • Optionally, you also may wish to change some default IntelliJ settings, to allow the IDE to automatically reformat code for you (when making bulk edits). This is especially important if you plan to do any bulk cleanup of existing code using IntelliJ tools
    • First, fix the default order import statements per our CheckStyle rules (these don't seem to be auto updated by the Checkstyle plugin at this time)
      • File → Settings → Editor → Code Style → Java → Imports
      • In the "Import Layout" section, ensure  the settings are in this order
        • "import static all other imports"
        • <blank line>
        • "import java.*"
        • "import javax.*"
        • <blank line>
        • "import all other imports"
      • Once reordered, click OK
    • Then, update to auto-wrap lines at the right margin
      • File → Settings → Editor → Code Style → Java → Wrapping and Braces
      • CHECK "Ensure right margin is not exceeded"
      • Click OK
    • Then, OPTIONALLY, for better looking bulk reformatting (i.e. results in more human-readable code), you may want to tweak which types of statements are set to "Wrap if long" 
      • (NOTE: Without these settings, IDEA's bulk "Reformat Code" option sometimes will generate line breaks wherever the line ends, which can result in somewhat odd looking code. These settings cleanup some of the more odd line wrappings that may occur.)
      • File → Settings → Editor → Code Style → Java → Wrapping and Braces
      • Optionally, set all of the following to "Wrap if long":
        • Extends/implements list (also check "align when multiline")
        • Extends/implements keyword
        • Throws list
        • Throws keyword
        • Method declaration parameters (also check "align when multiline")
        • Method call arguments (also check "align when multiline")
        • Chained method calls (also check "align when multiline")
        • "for()" statement (also check "align when multiline")
        • "try-with-resources" (also check "align when multiline")
      • Click OK
    • Finally, update IDEA's Javadoc settings to not insert "<p>" on blank Javadoc lines (as this seems to cause IDEA to change all our DSpace license headings improperly during bulk editing)
      • File → Settings → Editor → Code Style → Java → JavaDoc
      • UNCHECK "Generate <p> on empty lines"
      • Make sure "Keep empty lines" is checked
      • Click OK


These instructions were created using Eclipse Neon.  Note: Eclipse Che (Codenvy) does not seem to support checkstyle.

  • Use the Eclipse Checkstyle plugin:
    • Note that you can drag the plugin into your Eclipse installation
  • Right click your DSpace project; select Properties → Checkstyle
  • Go to "Checkstyle → Local check configurations" and click "New"
    • Create a "Project Relative Configuration"
    • Name: DSpace Internal
    • Location: checkstyle.xml
  • An "Unresolved Properties Error" box will appear; click "Edit Properties"
    • Add a new property
      • Name: checkstyle.suppressions.file
      • Value: checkstyle-suppressions.xml
    • Click OK
  • Go to "Checkstyle → Main"
    • Select "DSpace Internal" from the drop down
    • Check "Checkstyle active for this project"
    • Click OK
  • Code will be rebuilt
  • Edit a java file.  Place a curly brace on a line by itself.
    • The line of code should get highlighted in red.

Tested and works to validate code. To format you must generate a formatter style following the steps here. It seems impossible to force eclipse to use braces on sinle-line if statement

(Please help us enhance these instructions to provide a step-by-step configuration for Eclipse)


(Please help us enhance these instructions to provide a step-by-step configuration for NetBeans)

Fixing existing code / PRs

Use IntelliJ to perform bulk cleanup

  • First, you MUST follow all the configurations in the IntelliJ configuration section above.  Especially pay attention to the settings marked optional, unless you are doing bulk edits.  Since you want to do bulk edits, those settings are now required.
  • Now open up any Java source file. You'll see Checkstyle warnings appear (if any) in RED.
    • This highlighting is enabled via the checkstyle plugin.
  • Bulk Reformat (an entire module): You can also reformat code in bulk in IDEA:
    • Right click on a single directory / module
    • Select "Reformat Code"
      • Check "Optimize imports"  (This will remove any import statements with an asterisk)
      • Leave "Rearrange entries" unchecked (This will rearrange methods/variables based on arrangement settings in IDEA. We don't need this)
      • Under "Filters" → Check "File Masks" and enter in "*.java, *.xml"  (As we'll only bulk reformat Java and XML files)
      • Click Run
  • Finally, run Checkstyle against the module. There likely will still be a few failures to fix manually.

    # mvn install  (Only necessary if checkstyle:check below complains about missing SNAPSHOT dependencies)
    mvn -U checkstyle:check
  • Also double check license headers are still accurate. Sometimes these get "munged" during bulk reformat (as IDEA occasionally tries to merge nearby comments into one larger comment)

    mvn license:check
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  1. When setting up Checkstyle in IntelliJ, I found the ability to add the checksyle settings under: File → Settings → Other Settings → Checkstyle (it's listed as File → Settings → Checkstyle here). This is with IntelliJ 2017.1.6.

    Also, after importing the Checkstyle settings, I did need to go back and reset the File → Settings → Editor → Copyright by adding a Copyright profile, selecting the profile from the list and adjusting the formatting (unchecking the option "Add blank line after")

    1. Thanks for the notes, Bill Branan.

      I just double-checked my IntelliJ.  Looks like I'm on a more recent version : IntelliJ 2017.3.4 (Ultimate Edition).  And in that version, I guess the menus have changed as Checkstyle is under File → Settings → Checkstyle.

      Thanks for the notes on Copyright. Looks like I don't even have that configured in my IntelliJ (I'm still a bit new to IntelliJ), so I had not even set that up yet.

      In any case, I'll use these notes to enhance the instructions above.

      UPDATE: I've just enhanced the instructions above and reorganized the page a bit.  The updated instructions (with Bill Branan's notes) are now at

      1. One more tweak I made in IntelliJ settings, that definitely falls into the optional category:

        Under Settings → Editor → Code Style → Java → Spaces → Before Left Brace

        uncheck the "Annotation array initializer left brace" box. This allowed annotations to have consistent spaces on the left and right parenthesis.

        You may also want to consider the option in Settings → Editor → Code Style → Java → Spaces → Within → "Array initializer braces", as the example in #7 on this page suggests the need for spaces around brackets on arrays. Other "Within" spacing may be useful as well.