Mapping the Design-Space of Textual Variability Modeling Languages: A Refined Analysis

, and . International Journal of Software Tools for Technology Transfer 17 (5): 559-584 (October 2015)Further publication data will follow upon completed publication (in press, published online at Springer).


Variability modeling is a major part of modern product line engineering. Graphical or table-based approaches to variability modeling are focused around abstract models and specialized tools to interact with these models. However, more recently textual variability modeling languages, comparable to some extent to programming languages, were introduced. We consider the recent trend in product line engineering towards textual variability modeling languages as a phenomenon, which deserves deeper analysis. In this article, we report on the results and approach of a literature survey combined with an expert study. In the literature survey, we identified 11 languages, which enable the textual specification of product line variability and which are sufficiently described for an in-depth analysis. We provide a classification scheme, useful to describe the range of capabilities of such languages. Initially, we identified the relevant capabilities of these languages from a literature survey. The result of this has been refined, validated and partially improved by the expert survey. A second recent phenomenon in product line variability modeling is the increasing scale of variability models. Some authors of textual variability modeling languages argue that these languages are more appropriate for large-scale models. As a consequence, we would expect specific capabilities addressing scalability in the languages. Thus, we compare the capabilities of textual variability modeling techniques, if compared to graphical variability modeling approaches and in particular to analyze their specialized capabilities for large-scale models.

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