Producing a program using a program synthesis system involves a series of interactions between the user and the system. These interactions take the general form of the user providing information about the task followed by reviewing the synthesized program to determine what, if any, additional information they need to provide to accomplish their intended goal. More concretely, a user might provide an example for one input and manually inspect the output of the synthesized program on other inputs, looking for an input with an incorrect output to give a second example on. By seeking to capture that entire process instead of just the step where a program is learned from examples, PROSE's Session API is a useful model for real scenarios.

PROSE's Session provides a stateful API for program synthesis to support interactive workflows. A Session represents a user's efforts to synthesize a program for a single task. To begin a task, a new Session object is constructed and maintained until the user is satisfied with the final synthesized program (and possibly serialized for future refinements to that program). In addition to keeping track of the inputs and constraints to be fed to the synthesizer, the Session keeps track of programs which have been learned and provides APIs for helping the user select new inputs and outputs.

Each DSL exposes a Session subclass as the entrypoint to its learning API (e.g. Transformation.Text.Session). To implement a Session for your own DSL, extend Wrangling.NonInteractiveSession (or the base class Wrangling.Session if you want more control).

using Microsoft.ProgramSynthesis.Transformation.Text;
// construct a session
var session = new Session();


The collection of all known inputs the program is expected to be run on should be provided using .AddInputs(). If that set is large, then providing all of them may not be worthwhile (as the algorithms will only have time to consider a subset anyway). If selecting a subset of inputs to provide, they should be representative of the inputs the program will be run on. The inputs provided can accessed using .Inputs and removed using .RemoveInputs() or .RemoveAllInputs().

The inputs are used when learning and ranking programs (unless .UseInputsInLearn is set to false), as well as for suggesting inputs that more information is likely needed for.

// provide some inputs
session.AddInputs(new InputRow("Greta", "Hermansson"),
                  new InputRow("Kettil", "Hansson"),
                  new InputRow("Etelka", "bala"));


Constraints are any information that describe the program to be synthesized. The most common kind of constraint is an example, but DSLs may support many kinds of constraints including negative examples, types for the output, programs the synthesized program should similar to, or any constraint the author of the synthesizer wishes to define.

The base type for constraints is Constraint<TInput, TOutput> where TInput and TOutput are the input and output types of programs in the DSL being synthesized. For example, for Transformation.Text, the type of constraints is Constraint<IRow, object>.

In order to provide constraints to a Session, use .AddConstraints(). The constraints provided can accessed using .Constraints and removed using .RemoveConstraints() or .RemoveAllConstraints().

// give an example
session.AddConstraints(new Example(new InputRow("Greta", "Hermansson"), "Hermansson, G."))

Synthesizing programs

Once a Session has some inputs and constraints, a program can be synthesized. Programs are generated using the various .Learn*() methods, which use the information in .Inputs and .Constraints to learn a program. They, like all Session methods that do any significant amount of computation, have Async variants which do the computation on a separate thread to make it easier to attach a Session to a GUI.

var program = session.Learn();


In order to decide if the synthesized program is satisfactory, the user has to comprehend what has been learned. As we assume that, in general, the user is not a programmer, simply showing the code to the user is a poor way to explain the what the program is doing. Even experienced programmers can have difficulty reading programs, especially ones in DSLs designed to be easy for a computer to synthesize programs in as opposed to being easy for a human to read.

Running the program

The most straightforward way to explain the program is to run it. To run a Program, use its Run() method:

foreach(var input in session.Inputs)
Input1 Input2 Program output
Greta Hermansson Hermansson, G.
Kettil Hansson Hansson, K.
Etelka bala bala, E.


Simply running the program, doesn't explain why the results were what they were and could be misleading in some cases. While we do not expect the user to understand code, they may be able to follow a natural language description of the program genererated by PROSE's paraphrasing support. Given language files written for each pair of DSL and natural language, PROSE can translate a program like the running example into a string like “Concatenate [Input2], the constant string ‘, ’, the first letter of [Input1], and the constant string ‘.’.”. Since more than one program can be synthesized, that paraphrasing can actually be made interactive. For example, “letter” could be a drop-down menu allowing the user to change it to “captial letter” or “character”, corresponding to other programs synthesized when learning more than just the top program. See Playground for a demo of interactive paraphasing for text/web extraction.


Other explanations might be DSL-specific. For instance, Transformation.Text offers a feature called “output provenance” which pairs up substrings of the output with the substrings in the input they were selected from:

foreach(var input in session.Inputs)

Shown with italic and bold substrings corresponding to each other between the input and the output:

Input1 Input2 Program output
Greta Hermansson Hermansson, G.
Kettil Hansson Hansson, K.
Etelka bala bala, E.

An interactive variant of this could allow the user to select where in the input a specific part of the output should come from, although the current implementation of Transformation.Text does not support such a constraint.

Significant Inputs

While explanations help the user understand how the program works on inputs they are looking at, if the input set is large, it is likely some problems occur only on inputs the user is not looking at. .GetSignificantInputClustersAsync() can suggest inputs that the user should take a look at. The default algorithm works for any DSL that supports learning multiple programs: it looks for inputs where the top program disagrees with other highly ranked programs. The return value is a set of clusters instead of single inputs because sets of inputs the algorithm cannot distinguish are returned together, so, for example, the UI could give preference to inputs that are currently on screen.

When presenting a significant input to the user, possible alternative outputs can be suggested using .ComputeTopKOutputsAsync():

foreach(SignificantInput<IRow> sigInput in await session.GetSignificantInputsAsync())
    Console.Out.WriteLine("Input[Confidence=" + sigInput.Confidence + "]: " + sigInput.Input);
    foreach(object output in await session.ComputeTopKOutputsAsync(sigInput.Input, 5))
        Console.Out.WriteLine("Possible output: " + output);

If the significant inputs algorithm returns nothing at all, that indicates an assertion that the user has given sufficiently specific constraints to define the program to synthesize (modulo the inputs provided), which should give the user confidence that the synthesized program is correct.


PROSE's Session API provides a mechanism for supporting an interactive synthesis task. After loading in the data to work with, the user can switch between providing constraints, generating programs interacting with their explanations, and requesting pointers to significant inputs. This rich vocabularly allows a user to interact with the program synthesis in a way such that they can have confidence that the program they generate will generalize as desired.