Skip to content

How to write new taclets

New prover rules in KeY can be added in form of built-in rules1 written in plain Java code and as so-called "taclets" ("schematic theory-specific rules"). Taclets permit for an easy-readable definition of rules; when a taclet is applied during a proof, the taclet itself as well as the instantiation of its schematic parts are displayed to the user, making the rule application more transparent. Almost all rules implemented for KeY are defined as taclets (with the exception of special rules like method contract application, loop invariant application (so far) and one-step-simplification). For information about taclets, please consult the book chapter "Proof Search with Taclets" of the 2nd KeY book.

This article covers the necessary basics for adding new taclets to the KeY system. In particular, the following topics are discussed:

How to add a taclet

The standard location for .key files containing taclets is in the key.core project, location resources/de/uka/ilkd/key/proof/rules (note: unless stated otherwise, all locations in this article are relative to key.core). The file standardRules.key lists all the taclet files that are are loaded as defaults when starting KeY with the Java profile. New taclets can be added to either of the existing files listed there (if they fit into the scope), or can be added to a new file which is then referred to in standardRules.key.

The standard rule file can be obtained from a profile (de.uka.ilkd.key.proof.init.Profile) via the method getStandardRules(). The class de.uka.ilkd.key.proof.init.JavaProfile, for example, sets the standard rules to the aforementioned standardRules.key. If one wishes to add taclets that are unrelated to Java, that taclet should be referred to from the standard rules collection of an appropriate profile.

Taclets can be added to "rule sets" which are used, e.g., by strategy heuristics. Default rule sets are defined in the file resources/de/uka/ilkd/key/proof/rules/ruleSetDeclarations.key.

How to extend the taclet language


This section does not reflect recent KeY developments. The parser was recently rewritten.

Sometimes, especially when one wants to introduce new symbolic execution concepts, the existing taclet language is not expressive enough and has to be extended. There are four things one might have to extend to support new taclet features: (1) The taclet parsers; this includes the parser for the taclet language itself (which usually will not have to be changed) and the parser for new program constructs, (2) for matching different classes of statements, corresponding model classes will have to be added to the system, which are then referred to in factory classes and the parser(s), (3) whenever the standard find-replace pattern of taclets is not sufficient, one can add "transformers" performing more complex actions during taclet execution, and (4) when taclets depend on additional input such as specifications, one can define (automatic or interactive) completions for the taclet. We'll discuss all those points in the following.

It might be helpful to (additionally?) learn about the process by examples. To get started, an example for a new program statement used for matching is "merge_point", the keyword for a merge point statement. A simpler one is "ForLoop", a schema variable matching for loops. If you search for those identifiers in all files in the "key.core" project, you'll find the entry points needed for extensions. Note that merge points are also used in JML specifications, which is a different topic (therefore, you might want to ignore the corresponding parser files "KeYJMLPre{Lexer, Parser}.g, basically everything in the (...)/speclang/jml directory.). An example for a transformer is the "#for-to-while" construct which accepts a for loop as input and transforms it to a while loop. Your friends here are the eclipse functionalities Search -> File (use *.* as a pattern here, and only search in the key.core project), Ctrl+T for finding types, and Ctrl+R for finding resources.


There are several relevant parsers you might need to know. The "main KeY parser", src/de/uka/ilkd/key/parser/KeY{Lexer, Parser}.g is an ANTLR3 parser which covers KeY's language for sorts, terms, formulas etc., taclets, and proof files. For most extensions, this file does not need to be touched.

The parsers for Java extensions in taclets and proof files are src/de/uka/ilkd/key/parser/schemajava/SchemaJavaParser.jj and src/de/uka/ilkd/key/parser/schemajava/ProofJavaParser.jj, which are JavaCC parsers. In the former, you also find definitions for #for-to-while and merge_point; in the latter, only merge_point occurs since it is an extension of Java and not a transformer like #for-to-while which is only needed in taclets, but will never occur in a Java program.

So, if for your taclet the basic taclet language has to be changed, adapt KeYParser.g accordingly; for creating new transformers, SchemaJavaParser.jj is the relevant parser, and for additions to the Java language accepted by KeY, SchemaJavaParser.jj and ProofJavaParser.jj will have to be changed. The best advice here is to have a look at the existing definitions to see how to add a new one. Note that at the same time when extending the parser by new transformers or statement types, you will also have to add new Java classes and extend factories. We cover this in the next section.

New Program Statement / Expression Types

There are two categories of extensions: (1) New program schema variable sorts, which match existing programming language fragments, and (2) extensions to the language, e.g. by artificial constructs needed for a proof / symbolic execution technique.

A new "matcher sort" for taclets is added quite easily. As an example, take the "loop init" clause of a for loop. A corresponding schema variable for the use in taclets can be declared as \program LoopInit #loopInit;. After that, #loopInit can be used in a taclet to match a loop init clause. It suffices to (1) declare a new "program schema variable sort" in de.uka.ilkd.key.logic.sort.ProgramSVSort (for instance LoopInitSort in the example) which calls the constructor of ProgramSVSort with the identifier by which it later should be referred to in taclet definitions, and (2) to use that sort in SchemaJavaParser.jj. Have a look how ForInit is used there to get a feeling.

A language extension like the merge points has to be added to several parts in the system:

  1. A parser model extension is added in src/de/uka/ilkd/key/java/recoderext/ (see for an example).
  2. The factories de/uka/ilkd/key/java/recoderext/ and (...)/ are extended by corresponding factory methods.
  3. A mirror of the parser extension for the logic side of KeY is added to de/uka/ilkd/key/java/statement/ (also here, there's a
  4. A converter for the parser model extension to the logic representation in de/uka/ilkd/key/java/ Look what's done for the MergePointStatement. The methods there are called by reflection, so the name of the new method has to be convert, and it has to accept the parser model extension as only argument.
  5. Extension of Java visitor classes: Classes,,, and in directory de/uka/ilkd/key/java/visitor/. Note that now all of these might apply to you, e.g. if your new statement does not contain program variables that might have to be substituted in a proof.
  6. Extension of the pretty printer to nicely render your extension in sequents: de/uka/ilkd/key/java/

The factory methods and parser model classes can then be used in {Schema, Proof}JavaParser.jj.

New Meta Constructs / Transformers

Meta constructs give additional powers to taclets. By them, it is even possible to create taclets which are actually built-in rules since all the work (maybe except for some matcher preprocessing) is deferred to a powerful transformer. Note that we discourage from using that style; meta constructs should be used at a very small scope. If that's not possible, directly using built-in rules is a more "honest" and better maintainable approach.

Our running example here is the #for-to-while construct (actually an example for the bad style of delegating everything to a transformer). For adding transformers this to the system, follow these steps:

  1. Add a model class to the directory src/de/uka/ilkd/key/rule/metaconstruct/ (see e.g. The class should extendProgramTransformer` and pass the keyword to be used to the super class, here "#for-to-while".
  2. Extend the class src/de/uka/ilkd/key/java/SchemaRecoder2KeYConverter to return the new class when appropriate. Look for convert(RKeYMetaConstruct) to see what's done for #for-to-while.
  3. Add the construct to the parser (SchemaJavaParser.jj).


Sometimes the input to a taclet depends on other information than that available from a current proof situation (i.e., a sequent). In that case, the rule has to be completed before it is applied. A good example is the rule "cut" (resources/de/uka/ilkd/key/proof/rules/propRule.key) defined as follows:

\schemaVariables {
  \formula cutFormula;
cut { "CUT: #cutFormula TRUE":\add (cutFormula ==>);
      "CUT: #cutFormula FALSE":\add (==> cutFormula)
      \heuristics(cut) };

The formula cutFormula is not obtained from the sequent, it's left as a "hole" in the definition. When applying the rule in KeY, a standard dialog will pop up asking for an instantiation of "curFormula".

For certain situations, special completions are required. A classic example are rules depending on specification, like loop invariant or method contract rule applications. To this end, custom completions implementing /key.ui/src/de/uka/ilkd/key/gui/ (note: this class is the first not residing in the key.core project) can be added and registered in /key.ui/src/de/uka/ilkd/key/gui/


Obviously, interactive rule application completions are currently only designed to handle BuiltInRules. So for taclets, this will have to be adapted!

Alternatively to the implementation of an interactive completion, additional information, like for instance a specification, could be retrieved by special meta constructs. Specifications are stored in de.uka.ilkd.key.proof.mgt.SpecificationRepository and can be retrieved via a call like services.getSpecificationRepository().getLoopSpec(loop). If the specification repository already contains the means to store that specification, this should be quite straightforward to accomplish.

  1. Built-in rules reside in the directory src/de/uka/ilkd/key/rule/ and implement the interface BuiltInRule. This simple interface defines three methods only; however, when implementing built-in rules, there are quite some things to consider, which are not in the scope of this article. New BuiltInRules have to be registered in the Profile they belong to, see src/de/uka/ilkd/key/proof/init/, method initBuiltInRules() for the place where BuiltInRules are registered in the default Java profile.