CodeMatcher performs fuzzy search

Title: CodeMatcher, Searching Code Based on Sequential Semantics of Important Query Words
Authors: Chao Liu - Xin Xia - David Lo - Zhiwe Liu - Ahmed E. Hassan - Shanping Li

Abstract: To accelerate software development, developers frequently search and reuse existing code snippets from a large-scale codebase, e.g., GitHub. Over the years, researchers proposed many information retrieval (IR)-based models for code search, but they fail to connect the semantic gap between query and code. An early successful deep learning (DL)-based model DeepCS solved this issue by learning the relationship between pairs of code methods and corresponding natural language descriptions. 

Two major advantages of DeepCS are the capability of understanding irrelevant/noisy keywords and capturing sequential relationships between words in query and code. In this article, we proposed an IR-based model CodeMatcher that inherits the advantages of DeepCS (i.e., the capability of understanding the sequential semantics in important query words), while it can leverage the indexing technique in the IR-based model to accelerate the search response time substantially. 

CodeMatcher first collects metadata for query words to identify irrelevant/noisy ones, then iteratively performs fuzzy search with important query words on the codebase that is indexed by the Elasticsearch tool and finally reranks a set of returned candidate code according to how the tokens in the candidate code snippet sequentially matched the important words in a query. We verified its effectiveness on a large-scale codebase with 41K repositories. 

Experimental results showed that CodeMatcher achieves an MRR (a widely used accuracy measure for code search) of 0.60, outperforming DeepCS, CodeHow, and UNIF by 82%, 62%, and 46%, respectively. Our proposed model is over 1.2K times faster than DeepCS. Moreover, CodeMatcher outperforms two existing online search engines (GitHub and Google search) by 46% and 33%, respectively, in terms of MRR. We also observed that: fusing the advantages of IR-based and DL-based models is promising; improving the quality of method naming helps code search, since method name plays an important role in connecting query and code.

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