n South African Computer Journal - Syntax assisted word prediction in a programming environment : research article

Volume 2004, Issue 33
  • ISSN : 1015-7999
  • E-ISSN: 2313-7835



Input via the keyboard can be slow and tedious for many computer users, but the problem is particularly severe for those with motor disabilities. Strategies that reduce the number of keystrokes required can help limit the problems these users face. In a programming environment, word prediction is a highly successful strategy for saving keystrokes. The use of measures such as the recency and repetitiveness of words can be used to guide the prediction process to a 40% keystroke saving. However, these measures ignore information about the program structure. The goal of this study was to test whether making use of knowledge of the syntax of a programming language can effectively assist these statistical prediction strategies. The study was conducted by inputting Pascal program code into two simulated predictive program editors. One simulator used only statistical prediction, whereas the other included the syntactical approach. The average savings were compared by performing a paired sample means t-test. The results show that inclusion of syntactic information of the Pascal programming language can account for a further 3% increase in the number of keystrokes saved and a further 9% increase in the accuracy of predictions.

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