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MPS Project Structure


When designing languages and writing code, good structure helps you navigate around and combine the pieces together. MPS is similar to other IDEs in this regard.


Project is the main organizational unit in MPS. Projects consist of one or more modules, which themselves consist of models. Model is the smallest unit for generation/compilation. We describe these concepts in detail right below.


Here's a major difference that MPS brings along - programs are not in text form. Ever.
You might be used to the fact that any programming is done in text. You edit text. The text is than parsed by a parser to build an AST. Grammars are typically used to define parsers. AST is then used as the core data structure to work with your program further, either by the compiler to generate runnable code or by an IDE to give you clever code assistance, refactorings and static code analysis.
Now, seeing that AST is such a useful, flexible and powerful data structure, how would it help if we could work with AST from the very beginning, avoiding text, grammar and parsers altogether? Well, this is exactly what MPS does.

To give your code some structure, programs in MPS are organized into models. Think of models as somewhat similar to compilation units in text based languages. To give you an example, BaseLanguage, the bottom-line language in MPS, which builds on Java and extends it in many ways, uses models so that each model represents a Java package. Models typically consist of root nodes, which represent top level declarations, and non-root nodes. For example, in BaseLanguage classes, interfaces, and enums are root nodes. (You can read more about nodes here ).

Models need to hold their meta information:

  • models they use (imported models)
  • languages they are written in (in used languages section)
  • devkits they use (devkits section)

This meta information can be altered in Model Properties of the model's pop-up menu or using Alt + Enter when positioned on the model.


Models themselves are the most fine-grained grouping elements. Modules organize models into higher level entities. A module typically consists of several models acompanied with meta information describing module's properties and dependencies. MPS distinguishes several types of modules: solutions, languages, devkits, and generators.
We'll now talk about the meta-information structure as well as the individual module types in detail.

Module meta information

Now when we have stuff organized into modules, we need a way to combine the modules together for better good. Relationships between modules are described through meta information they hold. The possible relationships among modules can be categorized into several groups:

  • Dependency - if one module depends on another, and so models inside the former can import models from the latter. The reexport property of the dependency relationship indicates whenther the dependency is transitive or not. If module A depends on module B with the reexport property set to true, every other module that declares depency on A automatically depends on B as well.
  • Used language - if module A uses language L, then models inside A can use language L.
  • Used devkit - if module A uses devkit D, then models inside A can use devkit D.
  • Extended language - if language L extends language M, then every concept from M can be used inside L as a target of a role or an extended concept. Also, all the aspects from language M are available for use and extension in the corresponding aspects of language L.
  • Generator output path - generator output path is a folder where all newly generated files will be placed. This is the place you can look for the stuff MPS generates for you.

Now we'll look at the different types of modules you can find in MPS.


Solution is the simplest possible kind of module in MPS. It is just a set of models unified under a common name.


Language is a module that is more complex than a solution and represents a reusable language. It consists of several models, each defining a certain aspect of the language: structure, editor, actions, typesystem, etc.
Languages can extend other languages. An extending language can then use all concepts from the extended language - derive its own concepts, use inherited concepts as targets for references and also place inherited concepts directly as children inside its own concepts.

Since usually we generate language in some code and this code requires some support classes, languages can have runtime classpath and runtime solutions. Runtime classpath just makes available classes from it as java_stub to language's generators. Runtime solutions' models are visible to models inside the generator. Using runtime classpath is recommended when your runtime is written in java and is quite simple. In more complex situations, it is recommended to create a runtime solution.

Language aspects

Language aspects describe different facets of a language. The only mandatory aspect is structure. Without it language is meaningless. Here are the available aspects:

  • structure - describes the language AST
  • editor - describes how a language will be presented in editor
  • actions - describes the completion menu customizations specific to a language
  • constraints - describes the constraints on AST: where a node is applicable, which property and reference are allowed to it etc.
  • behavior - describes the behavioral aspect of AST, i.e. AST methods
  • typesystem - describes the rules for calculating types in a language
  • intentions - describes intentions (context dependent actions available when light bulb pops up)
  • plugin - allows a language to integrate into MPS IDE
  • data flow - describes data flow aspect of a language. It allows you to find unreachable statements, uninitialized reads etc.
  • scripts - ???

You can read more about each aspect in the corresponding section of this guide.


Generators describe transformations of a language. They can depend on other generators and have generator constraints which describe in which order transformations should be applied. You can read more about generation in the corresponding section.


When you have a large set of interconnected languages, you want a way to import them without listing all of these languages in the used languages section of a model. Devkits make this possible. In devkit, you list languages which will be automatically imported on devkit addition. Devkits can extend other devkits, in which case all languages from these devkits will be available in models used by extended devkit.


Project is just a set of modules with which you work.

Java compilation

Since we often generate MPS models to java files, we have to compile them. There are two options for this task: compiling classes in MPS (recommended) or compiling them in IntelliJ IDEA (requires IntelliJ IDEA). When you compile your classes in MPS, you have to set the module's source path. These source files will be compiled on module generation, or when you invoke compilation manually with make or rebuild action.

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