Sign In

Communications of the ACM

Review articles

Search-based Program Synthesis

Search-based Program Synthesis, illustration


Writing programs that are both correct and efficient is challenging. A potential solution lies in program synthesis aimed at automatic derivation of an executable implementation (the "how") from a high-level logical specification of the desired input-to-output behavior (the "what"). A mature synthesis technology can have a transformative impact on programmer productivity by liberating the programmer from low-level coding details. For instance, for the classical computational problem of sorting a list of numbers, the programmer has to simply specify that given an input array A of n numbers, compute an output array B consisting of exactly the same numbers as A such that B[i] ≤ B[i + 1] for 1 ≤ i < n, leaving it to the synthesizer to figure out the sequence of steps needed for the desired computation.

Back to Top

Key Insights


Traditionally, program synthesis is formalized as a problem in deductive theorem proving:17 A program is derived from the constructive proof of the theorem that states that for all inputs, there exists an output, such that the desired correctness specification holds. Building automated and scalable tools to solve this problem has proved to be difficult. A recent alternative to formalizing synthesis allows the programmer to supplement the logical specification with a syntactic template that constrains the space of allowed implementations and the solution strategies focus on search algorithms for efficiently exploring this space. The resulting search-based program synthesis paradigm is emerging as an enabling technology for both designing more intuitive programming notations and aggressive program optimizations.


No entries found

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.
Sign In for Full Access
» Forgot Password? » Create an ACM Web Account