Abstract

99% of computer end users do not know programming, and struggle with repetitive tasks. Programming by Examples (PBE) can revolutionize this landscape by enabling users to synthesize intended programs from example based specifications.

A key technical challenge in PBE is to search for programs that are consistent with the examples provided by the user. Our efficient search methodology is based on two key ideas: (i) Restriction of the search space to an appropriate domain-specific language that offers balanced expressivity and readability.  (ii) A divide-and-conquer based deductive search paradigm that inductively reduces the problem of synthesizing a program of a certain kind that satisfies a given specification into sub-problems that refer to sub-programs or sub-specifications.

Another challenge in PBE is to resolve the ambiguity in the example based specification. We will discuss two complementary approaches: (a) machine learning based ranking techniques that can pick an intended program from among those that satisfy the specification, and (b) active-learning based user interaction models.

The above concepts will be illustrated using FlashFill, FlashExtract, and FlashRelate—PBE technologies for data manipulation domains. These technologies, which have been released inside various Microsoft products, are useful for data scientists who spend 80% of their time wrangling with data. The Microsoft PROSE SDK allows easy construction of such technologies.