Research at the intersection of machine learning, programming languages, and software engineering has recently taken important steps in proposing learnable probabilistic models of source code that exploit code's abundance of patterns. In this article, we survey this work. We contrast programming languages against natural languages and discuss how these similarities and differences drive the design of probabilistic models. We present a taxonomy based on the underlying design principles of each model and use it to navigate the literature. Then, we review how researchers have adapted these models to application areas and discuss crosscutting and application-specific challenges and opportunities.1 It may be worth pointing out that deep learning and probabilistic modeling are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, many of the currently most effective methods for language modeling, for example, are based on deep learning. of probabilistic source code models (Section 5). Finally, we mention a few overlapping research areas (Section 7), and we discuss challenges and interesting future directions (Section 6).Related Reviews and other Resources. There have been short reviews summarizing the progress and the vision of the research area, from both software engineering  and programming languages perspectives [28,195]. However, none of these articles can be considered extensive literature reviews, which is the purpose of this work. Ernst  discusses promising areas of applying natural language processing to software development, including error messages, variable names, code comments, and user questions. Some resources, datasets and code can be found at http://learnbigcode.github.io/. An online version of the work reviewed here -which we will keep up-to-date by accepting external contributions -can be found at https://ml4code.github.io. THE NATURALNESS HYPOTHESISMany aspects of code, such as names, formatting, the lexical order of methods, etc. have no impact on program semantics. This is precisely why we abstract them in most program analyses. But then, why should statistical properties of code matter at all? To explain this, we recently suggested a hypothesis, called the naturalness hypothesis. The inspiration for the naturalness hypothesis can be traced back to the "literate programming" concept of D. Knuth, which draws from the insight that programming is a form of human communication: "Let us change our traditional attitude to the construction of programs: Instead of imagining that our main task is to instruct a computer what to do, let us concentrate rather on explaining to human beings what we want a computer to do... "  The naturalness hypothesis, then, holds thatThe naturalness hypothesis. Software is a form of human communication; software corpora have similar statistical properties to natural language corpora; and these properties can be exploited to build better software engineering tools.The exploitation of the statistics of human communication is a mature and effective technology, with numerous applications ...
Testing involves examining the behaviour of a system in order to discover potential faults. Given an input for a system, the challenge of distinguishing the corresponding desired, correct behaviour from potentially incorrect behavior is called the "test oracle problem". Test oracle automation is important to remove a current bottleneck that inhibits greater overall test automation. Without test oracle automation, the human has to determine whether observed behaviour is correct. The literature on test oracles has introduced techniques for oracle automation, including modelling, specifications, contract-driven development and metamorphic testing. When none of these is completely adequate, the final source of test oracle information remains the human, who may be aware of informal specifications, expectations, norms and domain specific information that provide informal oracle guidance. All forms of test oracles, even the humble human, involve challenges of reducing cost and increasing benefit. This paper provides a comprehensive survey of current approaches to the test oracle problem and an analysis of trends in this important area of software testing research and practice.
Descriptive names are a vital part of readable, and hence maintainable, code. Recent progress on automatically suggesting names for local variables tantalizes with the prospect of replicating that success with method and class names. However, suggesting names for methods and classes is much more difficult. This is because good method and class names need to be functionally descriptive, but suggesting such names requires that the model goes beyond local context. We introduce a neural probabilistic language model for source code that is specifically designed for the method naming problem. Our model learns which names are semantically similar by assigning them to locations, called embeddings, in a high-dimensional continuous space, in such a way that names with similar embeddings tend to be used in similar contexts. These embeddings seem to contain semantic information about tokens, even though they are learned only from statistical co-occurrences of tokens. Furthermore, we introduce a variant of our model that is, to our knowledge, the first that can propose neologisms, names that have not appeared in the training corpus. We obtain state of the art results on the method, class, and even the simpler variable naming tasks. More broadly, the continuous embeddings that are learned by our model have the potential for wide application within software engineering.
Every programmer has a characteristic style, ranging from preferences about identifier naming to preferences about object relationships and design patterns. Coding conventions define a consistent syntactic style, fostering readability and hence maintainability. When collaborating, programmers strive to obey a project's coding conventions. However, one third of reviews of changes contain feedback about coding conventions, indicating that programmers do not always follow them and that project members care deeply about adherence. Unfortunately, programmers are often unaware of coding conventions because inferring them requires a global view, one that aggregates the many local decisions programmers make and identifies emergent consensus on style. We present NATURAL-IZE, a framework that learns the style of a codebase, and suggests revisions to improve stylistic consistency. NATURALIZE builds on recent work in applying statistical natural language processing to source code. We apply NATURALIZE to suggest natural identifier names and formatting conventions. We present four tools focused on ensuring natural code during development and release management, including code review. NATURALIZE achieves 94% accuracy in its top suggestions for identifier names and can even transfer knowledge about conventions across projects, leveraging a corpus of 10,968 open source projects. We used NATURALIZE to generate 18 patches for 5 open source projects: 14 were accepted.
Automated program repair has shown promise for reducing the significant manual effort debugging requires. This paper addresses a deficit of earlier evaluations of automated repair techniques caused by repairing programs and evaluating generated patches' correctness using the same set of tests. Since tests are an imperfect metric of program correctness, evaluations of this type do not discriminate between correct patches and patches that overfit the available tests and break untested but desired functionality. This paper evaluates two well-studied repair tools, GenProg and TrpAutoRepair, on a publicly available benchmark of 998 bugs, each with a human-written patch. By evaluating patches using tests independent from those used during repair, we find that the tools are unlikely to improve the proportion of independent tests passed, and that the quality of the patches is proportional to the coverage of the test suite used during repair. For programs that pass most tests, the tools are as likely to break tests as to fix them. However, novice developers also overfit, and automated repair performs no worse than these developers. In addition to overfitting, we measure the effects of test suite coverage, test suite provenance, and starting program quality, as well as the difference in quality between novice-developer-written and tool-generated patches when quality is assessed with a test suite independent from the one used for patch generation.
Natural languages like English are rich, complex, and powerful. The highly creative and graceful use of languages like English and Tamil, by masters like Shakespeare and Avvaiyar, can certainly delight and inspire. But in practice, given cognitive constraints and the exigencies of daily life, most human utterances are far simpler and much more repetitive and predictable. In fact, these utterances can be very usefully modeled using modern statistical methods. This fact has led to the phenomenal success of statistical approaches to speech recognition, natural language translation, question-answering, and text mining and comprehension. We begin with the conjecture that most software is also natural , in the sense that it is created by humans at work, with all the attendant constraints and limitations---and thus, like natural language, it is also likely to be repetitive and predictable. We then proceed to ask whether (a) code can be usefully modeled by statistical language models and (b) such models can be leveraged to support software engineers. Using the widely adopted n -gram model, we provide empirical evidence supportive of a positive answer to both these questions. We show that code is also very regular, and, in fact, even more so than natural languages. As an example use of the model, we have developed a simple code completion engine for Java that, despite its simplicity, already improves Eclipse's completion capability. We conclude the paper by laying out a vision for future research in this area.
Recent work on genetic-programming-based approaches to automatic program patching have relied on the insight that the content of new code can often be assembled out of fragments of code that already exist in the code base. This insight has been dubbed the plastic surgery hypothesis; successful, well-known automatic repair tools such as GenProg rest on this hypothesis, but it has never been validated. We formalize and validate the plastic surgery hypothesis and empirically measure the extent to which raw material for changes actually already exists in projects. In this paper, we mount a large-scale study of several large Java projects, and examine a history of 15,723 commits to determine the extent to which these commits are graftable, i.e., can be reconstituted from existing code, and find an encouraging degree of graftability, surprisingly independent of commit size and type of commit. For example, we find that changes are 43% graftable from the exact version of the software being changed. With a view to investigating the difficulty of finding these grafts, we study the abundance of such grafts in three possible sources: the immediately previous version, prior history, and other projects. We also examine the contiguity or chunking of these grafts, and the degree to which grafts can be found in the same file. Our results are quite promising and suggest an optimistic future for automatic program patching methods that search for raw material in already extant code in the project being patched.
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