An Evaluation of Current Java Bytecode Decompilers

August 10, 2010 - 22:42

Decompilation of Java bytecode is the act of transforming Java bytecode to Java source code. Although easier than that of decompilation of machine code, problems still arise in Java bytecode decompilation. These include type inference of local variables and exception-handling.

Since the last such evaluation (2003) several new commercial, free and open-source Java decompilers have appeared and some of the older ones have been updated.

In this paper, we evaluate the currently available Java bytecode decompilers using an extension of the criteria that were used in the original study. Although there has been a slight improvement since this study, it was found that none passed all of the tests, each of which were designed to target different problem areas. We give reasons for this lack of success and suggest methods by which future Java bytecode decompilers could be improved.

Presented at the Ninth IEEE International Working Conference on Source Code Analysis and Manipulation (SCAM 2009). DOI: 10.1109/SCAM.2009.24.

The extended version is a revised, updated and extended version of the SCAM2009 paper which summarised our results. The extended paper provides a more in-depth analysis of the results of our tests and encourages the reader to study the quality of output from the latest versions of various decompilers available. It is updated for decompiler versions in 2010.