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An Assessment of a Speech-Based Programming Environment

Andrew Begel and Susan L. Graham


Programmers who suffer from repetitive stress injuries find it difficult to program by typing. Speech interfaces can reduce the amount of typing, but existing programming-by-voice tools make it awkward for programmers to enter and edit program text. We used a human-centric approach to address these problems. We first studied how programmers verbalize code, and found that spoken programs contain lexical, syntactic and semantic ambiguities that do not appear in written programs. Using the results from this study, we designed Spoken Java, a syntactically similar, yet semantically identical variant of Java that is easier to speak. We built an Eclipse IDE plugin called SPEED (for SPEech EDitor) to support the combination of Spoken Java and an associated command language. In this paper, we report the results of the first study ever of any working programming-by-voice system. Our evaluation with expert Java developers showed that most developers had little trouble learning to use the system via spoken commands, but were reluctant to speak literal code out loud. As expected, programmers found programming by voice to be slower than typing.


Publication typeInproceedings
Published inProceedings of the Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing
AddressWashington, DC, USA
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
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