Example-Centric Programming: Integrating Web Search into the Development Environment

Joel Brandt, Mira Dontcheva, Marcos Weskamp, Scott R. Klemmer
CHI: ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2010
The ready availability of online source-code examples has fundamentally changed programming practices. However, current search tools are not designed to assist with programming tasks and are wholly separate from editing tools. This paper proposes that embedding a task-specific search engine in the development environment can significantly reduce the cost of finding information and thus enable programmers to write better code more easily. This paper describes the design, implementation, and evaluation of Blueprint, a Web search interface integrated into the Adobe Flex Builder development environment that helps users locate example code. Blueprint automatically augments queries with code context, presents a code-centric view of search results, embeds the search experience into the editor, and retains a link between copied code and its source. A comparative laboratory study found that Blueprint enables participants to write significantly better code and find example code significantly faster than with a standard Web browser. Analysis of three months of usage logs with 2,024 users suggests that task-specific search interfaces can significantly change how and when people search the Web.