Google Research

Discovering the Syntax and Strategies of Natural Language Programming with Generative Language Models

CHI (2022)


In this paper, we present a natural language code synthesis tool, GenLine, backed by a large generative language model and a set of task-specific prompts. To understand the user experience of natural language code synthesis with these types of models, we conducted a user study in which participants applied GenLine to two programming tasks. Our results indicate that while natural language code synthesis can sometimes provide a magical experience, participants still faced challenges. In particular, participants felt that they needed to learn the model’s "syntax,'' despite their input being natural language. Participants also faced challenges in debugging model input, and demonstrated a wide range of variability in the scope and specificity of their requests. From these findings, we discuss design implications for future natural language code synthesis tools built using generating language models.

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