Benoit Verhaeghe Ph.D. thesis defense : “Incremental Approach for Application GUI Migration using Metamodel”

Thesis orals illustration.

We are glad to announce the Ph.D. thesis defense of Benoit Verhaeghe. Benoit mainly worked on method and tools to semi-automatically migrate front-end frameworks. His work particularly focused on the migration Google Web Toolkit to Angular environement. The defense will take place in Lille on October 21st, 2021.


Developers use GUI frameworks to design the graphical user interface of their applications. It allows them to reuse existing graphical components and build applications in a fast way. However, with the generalization of mobile devices and Web applications, GUI frameworks evolve at a fast pace: JavaFX replaced Java Swing, Angular 8 replaced Angular 1.4 which had replaced GWT (Google Web Toolkit). Moreover, former GUI frameworks are not supported anymore. This
situation forces organizations to migrate their applications to modern frameworks regularly to avoid becoming obsolete.

To ease the migration of applications, previous research designed automatic approaches dedicated to migration projects. Whereas they provide good results, they are hard to adapt to other contexts than their original one. For instance, at Berger-Levrault, our industrial partner, applications are written in generic programming languages (Java/GWT), proprietary “4th generation” languages (VisualBasic 6, PowerBuilder), or markup languages (Silverlight). Thus, there is a need for a language-agnostic migration approach allowing one to migrate various GUI frameworks to the latest technologies. Moreover, when performing automatic migration with these approaches, part of the migrated application still needs to be manually fixed. This problem is even more important for large applications where this last step can last months. Thus, companies need to migrate their application incrementally to ensure end-user continuous delivery throughout the process.

In this thesis, we propose a new incremental migration approach. It aims to allow the migration of large applications while ensuring end-user delivery. It consists of migrating pages using our automatic GUI migration tool, fixing them, and integrating them in a hybrid application. To create our GUI migration tool, we designed a pivot meta-model composed of several packages representing the visual and the behavioral aspects of any GUI. We detailed multiple implementations of our GUI migration tool that extract and generate GUI using different frameworks.

We successfully applied our migration approach to a real industrial application at Berger-Levrault. The migrated application is now in production. We also validated our automatic GUI migration tool on several migration projects, including applications developed with programming and markup languages. The company is currently using our approach for other migration projects.

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