Recently I had the need to ensure that an annotation was set on each classes of a project. The idea was to make the build fail if the annotation was missing on some types.

Let’s consider that we have a @Responsible annotation for that purpose

public @interface Responsible {
    String value();

that can be used like this

@Responsible("Matthieu Brouillard")
public class SomeService {

Now the question is: how to make the build fail?

When we talk about annotations and build phase, immediately we think about “java annotation processing”. It is very easy using the JDK provided API to parse elements that have some annotations, but how can we process elements that are NOT annotated.

Still the “java annotation processing” framework can be used using the universal processors feature:

If there are no annotation types present, annotation processing still occurs but only universal processors which support processing all annotation types, “*”, can claim the (empty) set of annotation types. [javadoc]

Knowing that it becomes easy to define a processor that will check all elements and retain only those that have no @Responsible

public class ResponsibleAnnotationProcessor extends AbstractProcessor {
    public boolean process(Set<? extends TypeElement> annotations, RoundEnvironment env) {
        List<ElementKind> typeKinds = Arrays.asList(ElementKind.ENUM, ElementKind.INTERFACE, ElementKind.CLASS);
        // let's gather all types we are interested in
        Set<String> allElements = env
                .filter(e -> typeKinds.contains(e.getKind())) // keep only interesting elements
                .map(e -> e.asType().toString()) // get their full name
                .collect(Collectors.toCollection(() -> new HashSet<>()));
        Set<String> typesWithResponsible = new HashSet<>();

        annotations.forEach(te -> {
            if (Responsible.class.getName().equals(te.asType().toString())) {
                // We collect elements with an already declared ownership
                env.getElementsAnnotatedWith(te).forEach(e -> typesWithResponsible.add(e.asType().toString()));

        allElements.forEach(cname -> processingEnv.getMessager().printMessage(
                cname + " must be annotated with @" + Responsible.class.getName() + " to declare a ownership")
        return false;

    public SourceVersion getSupportedSourceVersion() {
        return SourceVersion.latestSupported();

    public Set<String> getSupportedAnnotationTypes() {
        // We want to process all elements
        return Collections.singleton("*");

which when used can make the build fail with the following message:

[INFO] -------------------------------------------------------------
[ERROR] must be annotated with @fr.brouillard.oss.annotation.Responsible to declare a ownership
[INFO] 1 error

The full demo project is accessible on github: