Reflections on the Birth of Spoofax

Author Karl Trygve Kalleberg

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Karl Trygve Kalleberg
  • KolibriFX AS, Oslo, Norway


I would like to thank Lennart Kats for feedback on the various versions of this manuscript.

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Karl Trygve Kalleberg. Reflections on the Birth of Spoofax. In Eelco Visser Commemorative Symposium (EVCS 2023). Open Access Series in Informatics (OASIcs), Volume 109, pp. 14:1-14:4, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2023)


The Spoofax Language Workbench is one of the many successful research projects to come out of Eelco’s tremendously productive career, as evidenced by the Most Influential Paper designation awarded at OOPSLA 2020 to the famous 2010 paper by Lennart and Eelco [Lennart C. L. Kats and Eelco Visser, 2010]. In connection with the award, Eelco wrote an excellent retrospective [Eelco Visser, 2021]. Here, I will reflect briefly on the birth of the Spoofax, subject to omissions and inaccuracies, as the topic may be of interest to hardcore fans. Eelco was my PhD co-supervisor, and I was fortunate to be part of his group during the inception of the project.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Software and its engineering → Domain specific languages
  • Software and its engineering → Compilers
  • Software and its engineering → Interpreters
  • Spoofax
  • Language Workbench
  • Program Transformation


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  1. Martin Bravenboer, Karl Trygve Kalleberg, Rob Vermaas, and Eelco Visser. Stratego/XT 0.17. A language and toolset for program transformation. Science of Computer Programming, 72(1-2):52-70, 2008. URL:
  2. Maartje de Jonge, Lennart C. L. Kats, Eelco Visser, and Emma Söderberg. Natural and flexible error recovery for generated modular language environments. ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems, 34(4):15, 2012. URL:
  3. Karl Trygve Kalleberg. Abstractions for Language-Independent Program Transformations. PhD thesis, University of Bergen, 2007. Google Scholar
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  5. Lennart C. L. Kats, Karl Trygve Kalleberg, and Eelco Visser. Generating editors for embedded languages. integrating sglr into imp. In Jurgen J. Vinju and Adrian Johnstone, editors, Proceedings of the Eight Workshop on Language Descriptions, Tools, and Applications, volume 238(5) of Electronic Notes in Theoretical Computer Science. Elsevier, April 2008. Google Scholar
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