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Self-Completing Programs

By MIT News

February 26, 2014

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Armando Solar-Lezama is constantly refining his Sketch programming language, which enables programmers to leave out some coding details, with Sketch filling in the blanks.

Solar-Lezama and a group of his students this year described a way to enable Sketch to handle complex synthesis tasks much more efficiently. In tests on an automated student code grading system, the new version of Sketch was able to correct code in milliseconds in situations in which the previous version would time out. The new version is able to handle significantly more complex problems because it requires programmers to specify that only certain properties are required.

The researchers tested Sketch with MIT undergraduates with only a semester's worth of programming experience, and the students were able to generate working code. However, the missing code sometimes required an unacceptably long time to synthesize due to student inexperience in describing problems. Solar-Lezama says Sketch requires further refinement before it is useful to commercial software developers.

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