Programming not only by example

Hila Peleg, Sharon Shoham, Eran Yahav

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Recent years have seen great progress in automated synthesis techniques that can automatically generate code based on some intent expressed by the programmer, but communicating this intent remains a major challenge. When the expressed intent is coarse-grained (for example, restriction on the expected type of an expression), the synthesizer often produces a long list of results for the programmer to choose from, shifting the heavy-lifting to the user. An alternative approach, successfully used in end-user synthesis, is programming by example (PBE), where the user leverages examples to interactively and iteratively refine the intent. However, using only examples is not expressive enough for programmers, who can observe the generated program and refine the intent by directly relating to parts of the generated program. We present a novel approach to interacting with a synthesizer using a granular interaction model. Our approach employs a rich interaction model where (i) the synthesizer decorates a candidate program with debug information that assists in understanding the program and identifying good or bad parts, and (ii) the user is allowed to provide feedback not only on the expected output of a program but also on the program itself. After identifying a program as (partially) correct or incorrect, the user can also explicitly indicate the good or bad parts, to allow the synthesizer to accept or discard parts of the program instead of discarding the program as a whole. We show the value of our approach in a controlled user study. Our study shows that participants have a strong preference for granular feedback instead of examples and can provide granular feedback much faster.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 40th International Conference on Software Engineering, ICSE 2018
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781450356381
StatePublished - 27 May 2018
Event40th International Conference on Software Engineering, ICSE 2018 - Gothenburg, Sweden
Duration: 27 May 20183 Jun 2018

Publication series

NameProceedings - International Conference on Software Engineering
ISSN (Print)0270-5257


Conference40th International Conference on Software Engineering, ICSE 2018


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