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A fundamental problem of finding software applications that are highly relevant to development tasks is the mismatch between the high-level intent reflected in the descriptions of these tasks and low-level implementation details of applications. To reduce this mismatch we created an approach called EXEcutable exaMPLes ARchive (Exemplar) for finding highly relevant software projects from large archives of applications. After a programmer enters a natural-language query that contains high-level concepts (e.g., MIME, datasets), Exemplar retrieves applications that implement these concepts. Exemplar ranks applications in three ways. First, we consider the descriptions of applications. Second, we examine the Application Programming Interface (API) calls used by applications. Third, we analyze the dataflow among those API calls. We performed two case studies (with professional and student developers) to evaluate how these three rankings contribute to the quality of the search results from Exemplar. The results of our studies show that the combined ranking of application descriptions and API documents yields the most-relevant search results. We released Exemplar and our case study data to the public.
Date of Publication: Sept.-Oct. 2012