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Dirk DI, a light-weight DI framework which can have its dependencies changed at runtime

Dirk DI

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Dirk is a small, highly customizable, dynamic dependency injection framework.

Quick Start

Add a dependency to Dirk in your POM:


Assume there is a small class which depends on a String which Dirk should provide:

public class Greeter {
    @Inject private String greeting;

    public void greet() {

Create an injector:

Injector injector = Injectors.autoDiscovering();

Register a String and the Greeter class:

injector.registerInstance("Hello World");

Let the injector create an instance of Greeter, then call its greet method and observe that the injected greeting is printed to the console:

Greeter greeter = injector.getInstance(Greeter.class);

greeter.greet();  // prints "Hello World"


  • Dependency Injection
    • Constructor, Method and Field injection
    • Supports qualifiers, scopes, generics and lifecycle callbacks
  • Dynamic
    • Register and unregister types at any time
    • Ensures all dependencies are always resolvable and unambiguous
  • Highly Customizable
    • Choose what annotations and extensions Dirk should use
    • Built-in styles for Jakarta (CDI), JSR-330 and Dirk DI or create a new one
  • Extendable
    • Fully documented API and SPI
    • Common DI features are just extensions in Dirk
  • Small
    • Core jar and its dependencies are around 200 kB

Several well known features of DI systems are implemented as standard extensions to Dirk's core system. Included are extensions to support:

  • Producer methods and fields
  • Delayed lookup of dependencies (providers)
  • Assisted Injection
  • Proxy creation and injection
  • List, Set and Optional injection

Available Dependency Injection Styles

Dirk CDI Jakarta JSR-330
Artifact dirk-di dirk-cdi dirk-jakarta dirk-jsr330
Standard Annotations jakarta.inject jakarta.inject jakarta.inject javax.inject
Additional Annotations org.int4.dirk.annotations jakarta.enterprise.inject org.int4.dirk.annotations org.int4.dirk.annotations
Default Annotation @Default @Default - -
Any Annotation @Any @Any - -
Optional Injection @Opt - @Opt @Opt
Producer Support @Produces @Produces @Produces @Produces
Assisted Injection @Assisted & @Argument1 - @Assisted & @Argument1 @Assisted & @Argument1
Indirect Injection Provider Provider & Instance Provider Provider
Collection Injection List & Set - List & Set List & Set
Proxy Support Yes2 Yes2 Yes2 Yes2

1 When detected on classpath by including org.int4.dirk.extensions:extensions-assisted
2 When detected on classpath by including org.int4.dirk.extensions:extensions-proxy



Term Explanation
Candidate A qualified type that could be used to satisfy a dependency
Dependency A qualified type required by an inject annotated constructor, method or field

Dependency Injection

Dependencies are other classes or types that are required for the correct functioning of a class. A dependency can be a class, an interface, a generic type or a primitive type. Dependency injection supplies these required values automatically. Dependencies can be supplied through constructor or method parameters or by setting fields directly.

Constructor injection:

public class Greeter {
    public Greeter(String greeting) { ... }

Method injection:

public class Greeter {
    void setGreeting(String greeting) { ... }

Field injection:

public class Greeter {
    private String greeting;

Any of the above forms can have a String dependency injected. Note that when using method or field injection the values are set after the constructor is called. Referring to these values in the constructor therefore could result in an error, instead consider implementing this logic in an initializer method that can be called after injection completes. See Lifecycle Callbacks for more information.

Type Resolution

When considering the type to inject for a dependency, the system follows standard Java rules when doing type conversions. Any type conversion which does not require a cast is allowed, except primitive widening conversions. This includes boxing and unboxing conversions and compatible generic conversions.

When a class is registered with an injector it can satisfy one or more types. The types that can be satisfied are all implemented interfaces, its super classes and any interfaces and super classes these implement or extend in turn. The Greeter class for example could be a candidate for dependencies of type Greeter and Object.

The framework also does automatic boxing and unboxing conversion. For primitive types and their boxed types this adds another possible type they can supply. An Integer can be used to inject an int or vice versa. Other types the Integer class could satisfy are Number (its super class), Object (Number's super class), Comparable<Integer> (implemented interface) and Serializable (interface implemented by Number).


injector.registerInstance(42);  // register an int with value 42

Would satisfy all the following dependencies:

@Inject int i;
@Inject Integer integer;
@Inject Number number;
@Inject Object object;
@Inject Comparable<Integer> integerComparable;
@Inject Comparable<? extends Number> numberComparable;

... but would not satisfy:

@Inject long l;  // Primitive widening conversion not allowed
@Inject Long longValue;  // Integer cannot be cast to Long
@Inject Comparable<Number> comparable;  // Incompatible generic type


Types registered with the injector can be annotated with qualifier annotations. These annotations provide another way to distinguish candidates besides their types. This makes it possible to distinguish between multiple candidates that may all match a dependency where exactly one dependency is required. Qualifiers can be placed on candidates and on dependencies. In order for a candidate to match, it must have all the qualifiers specified on the dependency.

A dependency with an @English qualifier annotation:

@Inject @English private String greeting;

Or as a constructor or method parameter:

public Greeter(@English String greeting) { ... }
public void setGreeting(@English String greeting) { ... }

Candidates can be annotated directly with qualifiers, or they can be specified during registration (for instances).

A Greeter candidate with an @English qualifier annotation:

public class Greeter { ... }

Registering String candidate instances with different qualifiers:

injector.registerInstance("Hello World", English.class);
injector.registerInstance("Hallo Wereld", Dutch.class);

As an example, given two String candidates, one annotated with @Greeting and @English, the other annotated with @Greeting and @Dutch:

injector.registerInstance("Hello World", English.class, Greeting.class);
injector.registerInstance("Hallo Wereld", Dutch.class, Greeting.class);

Then the following dependencies could be satisfied:

@Greeting @English String s;  // an English greeting
@Greeting @Dutch String s;    // a Dutch greeting
@English String s;            // any English String
@Dutch String s;              // any Dutch String

The following dependencies will not be satisfied:

@Greeting String s;          // ambiguous, English or Dutch greeting?
String s;                    // ambiguous, there are two String candidates
@Greeting @French String s;  // unsatisfiable, no French greeting was registered
@English int englishNumber;  // unsatisfiable, no int was registered


Scopes are used to control the lifecycle of candidates, and which instance of a candidate is used to satisfy a dependency. The injector supports two types of scopes, pseudo-scopes and normal scopes. Candidates which have a pseudo-scope are never wrapped in a proxy, and do not need to use indirection to resolve scope conflicts. Candidates with a normal scope will require a proxy (or indirection via a provider) when injected into other candidates with a different scope.

Which scopes are considered pseudo-scopes and which scopes provide the mandatory singleton and unscoped scopes is determined by the used ScopeStrategy. The actual implementation of each scope is provided by a corresponding ScopeResolver when creating the injector.


When the injector is configured to do lifecycle callbacks (for example, calling @PostConstruct or @PreDestroy annotated methods), the injector will call these, respectively, after injection completes and just before the candidate is removed.

Dependency validation during registration

When adding or removing candidates from the injector, the injector ensures that all (remaining) registered candidates can have their dependencies satisfied. If the addition or removal would result in unsatisfied or ambiguous dependencies then an exception is thrown explaining the problem and the addition or removal is rolled back to the previous consistent state.

The injector can throw the following exceptions to indicate a problem during addition or removal:

  • AmbiguousDependencyException when a new candidate was added which requires a single candidate for a dependency but multiple candidates are available
  • UnsatisfiedDependencyException when a new candidate was added which requires a single candidate for a dependency but no candidates were available
  • AmbiguousRequiredDependencyException when the addition or removal of a candidate would cause another dependency in another candidate to become ambiguous, for example when a new candidate supplies another option for a dependency that was already satisfied
  • UnsatisfiedRequiredDependencyException when the addition or removal of a candidate would cause another dependency in another candidate to become unsatisfied, for example when a removed candidate was the only supplier of a dependency
  • CyclicDependencyException when a dependency cycle was detected amongst two or more candidates that was not broken by making use of a provider
  • ScopeConflictException when a scoped dependency depends directly on another scoped dependency, and the conflict could not be resolved automatically by means of a proxy

Registration of Candidates at runtime

Dirk allows addition and removal of new candidates at any time, assuming the change won't leave the injector in an inconsistent state where it can't satisfy all its existing dependencies.

Let's assume there is a class which requires a list of books:

class BookShop {
    @Inject List<Book> availableBooks;

    List<Book> getBooks() { return availableBooks; }

The class is registered, and an instance is obtained:


BookShop bookShop = injector.getInstance(BookShop.class);

When calling getBooks the list will be empty as no candidates were registered that supply a type Book:

assertThat(bookShop.getBooks()).isEmpty();  // passes

This can be resolved by registering a Book and obtaining a new BookShop instance:

injector.registerInstance(new Book("Dune"));

BookShop bookShop2 = injector.getInstance(BookShop.class);

assertThat(bookShop2.getBooks()).hasSize(1);  // passes

Creating a new BookShop every time the list of available books changes is a bit cumbersome, so it is possible to use indirection to obtain the latest available books by means of a provider. Redefine the BookShop class:

class ModifiedBookShop {
    @Inject Provider<List<Book>> availableBooks;

    List<Book> getBooks() { return availableBooks.get(); }

An instance of this class will now immediately respond to a change in the books available:


ModifiedBookShop modifiedBookShop = injector.getInstance(ModifiedBookShop.class);

assertThat(modifiedBookShop.getBooks()).isEmpty();  // passes

injector.registerInstance(new Book("Dune"));

assertThat(modifiedBookShop.getBooks()).hasSize(1);  // passes

In more complex scenario's it is sometimes necessary to register multiple candidates simultaneously to avoid a chicken/egg type problem. Given two classes:

class A {
    @Inject B b;  // depends on B

class B {
    @Inject Provider<A> a;  // indirectly depends on A

Registering either of these two candidates separately is not allowed as not all dependencies could be satisfied:

injector.register(A.class);  // --> UnsatisfiedDependencyException, requires B
injector.register(B.class);  // --> UnsatisfiedDependencyException, requires A

However, registering both at the same time works as expected:

injector.register(List.of(A.class, B.class));  // works!

Auto Discovery

When auto discovery is enabled, Dirk will attempt to automatically register candidates referred to in dependencies that are not yet registered, assuming it can find a way to construct them. Given two classes:

class BookShop {
    @Inject CreditCardPaymentProcessor paymentProcessor;

public class CreditCardPaymentProcessor {

In order to create a BookShop instance, normally a CreditCardPaymentProcessor must be registered first (or simultaneously):

Injector injector = Injectors.manual();


BookShop bookShop = injector.getInstance(BookShop.class);

Since CreditCardPaymentProcessor has an empty public constructor, the candidate could be automatically discovered when Dirk encounters the missing dependency in BookShop:

Injector injector = Injectors.autoDiscovering();

injector.register(BookShop.class);  // registers BookShop and the discovered type CreditCardPaymentProcessor

BookShop bookShop = injector.getInstance(BookShop.class);

This automatic discovery works recursively and so large graphs of dependent candidates can all be discovered by registering only a few root candidates.

Optional Injection

Dirk allows dependencies to be optional if configured as such. When a dependency is optional, and no suitable candidate is available, Dirk will either inject null (for constructor and method parameters) or skip injection completely (for field injection). For example:

class Greeter {
    @Inject @Opt private String greeting = "Hello World";

When no String candidate is available, this version of the Greeter class will fall back to a default greeting. Using constructor injection the same can be achieved as follows:

class Greeter {
    final String greeting;

    Greeter(@Opt String greeting) {
        this.greeting = greeting == null ? "Hello World" : greeting;    

This allows a convenient way to have default values for, for example, configuration settings:

class TimeProvider {
    @Inject @Opt @Named("server.ntp.url") String url = "pool.ntp.org";
    @Inject @Opt @Named("server.sync.interval") int interval = 3600;  // every hour

Customizing Injectors

The injector can be customized in several ways:

  • The InjectorStrategy allows for detailed customization of how the injector works:
    • AnnotationStrategy is responsible for detecting injectable members and their qualifiers
    • ScopeStrategy is responsible for detecting scope annotations, and configuring default scope annotations
    • ProxyStrategy is responsible for creating proxies
    • LifeCycleCallbacksFactory controls which and in what order lifecycle methods are to be called
  • Using InjectionTargetExtensions
    • Allows customizing injection targets of a specific generic interface type
      • Inject lists of instances using the ListInjectionTargetExtension
      • Inject sets of instances using the SetInjectionTargetExtension
      • Inject providers to allow runtime creation of instances using the ProviderInjectionTargetExtension
      • Inject CDI Instance types using the InstanceInjectionTargetExtension
  • Using TypeRegistrationExtensions
    • Allows detecting additional candidates when a type is registered
      • Add additional candidates for each @Produces annotation using the ProducesTypeRegistrationExtension
      • Add a candidate when types implement the Provider interface
      • Assisted injection: When registering a SAM type (a class or interface with a single abstract method) automatically generate an implementation of this method which produces a new candidate, see AssistedTypeRegistrationExtension
  • Using ScopeResolvers
    • Allows creating resolvers for custom scope annotations
  • The injector can be configured to only provide candidates explicitly registered with it or also allow auto discovery of additional candidates through their dependencies


Type Registration Extensions

A TypeRegistrationExtension is called whenever a new type is encountered by the injector during registration. The extension is given the opportunity to register additional types that it can derive from the new type. Usually, additional types are derived by inspecting the given type for annotations or interfaces it implements.

Injection Target Extension

An InjectionTargetExtension allows creating instances of a specific generic interface prior to injection. The interface must have at least one type variable which the extension must expose to the injector as its element type. The element type, together with any qualifiers on the injection target, determines which candidates can be used by the extension to provide the interface implementation. The extension is allowed to delay the lookup or perform it immediately.

Interfaces which are extended by an injection target extension can no longer be directly injected, even if a candidate implements the interface.

Examples are the ListInjectionTargetExtension and the ProviderInjectionTargetExtension, which provide support for injecting lists of candidates or delayed lookup of candidates (through the List and Provider interfaces) respectively.

Extensions which do delayed lookup are allowed to wrap any other extended type, but in all other cases extensions cannot be nested.

The Core Library

Dirk's library and extension modules provide several standard extensions, strategies and scope resolvers that are normally integrated directly in most dependency injection frameworks. These are maintained as part of the project and can be used as desired, or serve as a starting point for 3rd party customizations.

Injection Target Extensions

  • ListInjectionTargetExtension supports injecting multiple matching candidates as instances in a List.
  • SetInjectionTargetExtension supports injecting multiple matching candidates as instances in a Set.
  • ProviderInjectionTargetExtension supports indirect access to candidate instances using a configurable interface (often the Provider interface)

Type Registration Extensions


Allows fields and methods to act as factories for additional candidates using a configurable producer annotation. Producer methods with parameters are considered to offer candidates with dependencies which are to be provided when the method is called.

The following examples assume the annotation @Produces is configured to mark producer fields and methods:

A field which produces a String:

@Produces String greeting = "Hello World";

A method which produces a Connection given a URI:

@Produces Connection createConnection(URI uri) { ... }

Producers can be static or non-static. Static producers can be called at any time and have no access to any dependencies injected in their owner instance. Non-static producers can either have dependencies provided as parameters (in the case of a producer method) or by accessing fields in their owner instance.


Allows a type to act as a factory for an additional candidate when it implements a configurable interface (typically, the Provider interface).

Below an example of a class that implements the Provider interface and provides an additional candidate Connection:

class ConnectionProvider implements Provider<Connection> {
    @Inject URI uri;

    public Connection get() { ... }


Allows a type which has a single abstract method (a SAM type) with a non-void return type to act as a factory for the returned type; any dependencies the produced type may have are injected by the injector, including the arguments supplied to the factory method; this is otherwise known as assisted injection.

Assume we have a candidate that requires an additional parameter at runtime before it can be constructed, but also has a required dependency:

class Greeter {
    @Inject String greeting;  // a normal dependency
    @Inject @Argument LocalTime timeOfDay;

    void greet() { ... }

With this extension we can have Dirk generate a factory that can be injected, and which takes the additional argument as a parameter:

@Inject Function<LocalTime, Greeter> greeterFactory;

The factory can be called as a normal Function:

Greeter greeter = greeterFactory.apply(LocalTime.now());


Any SAM type can be used, as long as the arguments its method accepts can be matched up with the arguments in the produced type. The following two examples would also allow constructing the Greeter type:

interface GreeterFactory {
    Greeter createGreeter(LocalTime timeOfDay);

... and:

abstract class GreeterFactory {
    Greeter createGreeter(LocalTime timeOfDay);

Important note: in order for Dirk to match up the argument names, classes should be compiled with parameter name information (use the -parameters flag for javac). Alternatively, the names can be explicitly specified with the @Argument annotation:

abstract class GreeterFactory {
    Greeter createGreeter(@Argument("timeOfDay") LocalTime timeOfDay);

BSD License

Copyright (c) 2013-2022, John Hendrikx All rights reserved.

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer. Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.


Dependencies and Acknowledgments


License: WTFPL (http://www.wtfpl.net/)

Linking: Maven Dependency

Used for:

  • Scanning classpath for annotations


License: Apache 2.0 (http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0)

Linking: Maven Dependency

Used for:

  • Implementation of Annotation interface

Apache Commons Lang

License: Apache 2.0 (http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0)

Linking: Embedded (minimal required code directly included)

Used for:

  • TypeUtils for dealing with generic types and type variables

Byte Buddy

License: Apache 2.0 (http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0)

Linking: Maven Dependency (optional)

Used for:

  • Generating factories for Assisted Injection
  • Generating proxies