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A source code mutation/transformation framework

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A source code mutation/transformation framework.


HELIX defines three major primitives:


Core project layouts including templated boilerplate and methods for generating and building artifacts from a set of Components and Transforms.


Small, configurable pieces of source code that represent a specific implementation of a specific functionality along with associated metadata.


Modifications of either source code or a built artifact along with associated metadata.

Blueprints are configured with a collection of Components to include and Transforms to apply and then built to generate build artifacts.


Install HELIX from PyPI with pip, run:

pip install helix


Some Blueprints, Components, and Transforms include additional, non-python dependencies that must be installed separately. These can be installed automatically (if supported) with the install command. For example, to install dependencies for the upx Transform, run:

helix install transforms upx

To install all dependencies for all installed Blueprints, Components, and Transforms, run:

helix install

Note: some Blueprints, Components, and Transforms include dependencies which must be manually installed. Using the install command for these will instead list the dependencies that must be installed manually.


To list currently installed parts of HELIX:

helix list

To generate a single build, use the build command. For example, to generate a build using the cmake-cpp blueprint, with the configuration-example component (setting the second_word parameter to foo), and apply the strip transform (on supported platforms), writing output files to ./example:

helix build blueprint cmake-cpp ./example \
    -c configuration-example:second_word=foo \
    -t strip

The build command also supports loading a configuration from a JSON file and HELIX is fairly scriptable. See the examples/ directory or take a look at the full documentation for more.


HELIX is designed to be easily extensible via entry points. Blueprints, Components, and Transforms simply need to conform to their respective abstract base classes and be exposed under their respective entry point (see the Getting Started section of the documentation for more details and a tutorial). External Blueprints, Components, and Transforms that are correctly exposed are usable in all normal HELIX commands.


To set up a development environment, first clone this repo. Next, it is useful to install HELIX in editable mode with extras for development and testing:

pip install -e .[development,testing]

When developing new components it can be helpful to use HELIX's build command in verbose mode so that you can see compiler and linker output and correct any errors you may encounter:

helix build blueprint cmake-cpp novel-component -c novel-component -v


To build the full HELIX documentation, after installing HELIX with development extras enabled, from the docs/ directory, run:

make html

Or other supported Sphinx output formats.


You can expose tests for your Components and Transforms by adding a subclass of helix.tests.UnitTestCase to the entrypoint helix.tests. Some useful testing mixins are provided in helix/ and for some examples see the tests referenced in

To test the HELIX interfaces and utilities, run:

helix test system

To test Components, Blueprints, and Transforms, run:

helix test unit


DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT A. Approved for public release: distribution unlimited.

© 2021 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Subject to FAR 52.227-11 – Patent Rights – Ownership by the Contractor (May 2014)
  • SPDX-License-Identifier: MIT

This material is based upon work supported by the Department of Defense under Air Force Contract No. FA8721-05-C-0002 and/or FA8702-15-D-0001. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Defense.

MIT License

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