Accurate Method and
Class Names
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A Neural Network for Source Code

A neural log-bilinear context model to predict identifier names based on local and global context.

Probabilistic Context Model

of Source Code

A neural context model to the method naming problem, considering both local and global information.

State of the Art Performance

Our models accurately suggest names: for the variable naming problem, they improve on the state of the art, and for class and method naming, they achieve F1 scores of 60% on method names and 55% on class names, when required to predict names for 20% of method and class declarations.


Descriptive names are a vital part of readable, and hence maintainable, code. Recent progress on automatically suggesting names for local variables tantalizes with the prospect of replicating that success with method and class names. However, suggesting names for methods and classes is much more difficult. This is because good method and class names need to be functionally descriptive, but suggesting such names requires that the model goes beyond local context. We introduce a neural probabilistic language model for source code that is specifically designed for the method naming problem. Our model learns which names are semantically similar by assigning them to locations, called embeddings, in a high-dimensional continuous space, in such a way that names with similar embeddings tend to be used in similar contexts. These embeddings seem to contain semantic information about tokens, even though they are learned only from statistical co-occurrences of tokens. Furthermore, we introduce a variant of our model that is, to our knowledge, the first that can propose neologisms, names that have not appeared in the training corpus. We obtain state of the art results on the method, class, and even the simpler variable naming tasks. More broadly, the continuous embeddings that are learned by our model have the potential for wide application within software engineering.

Evaluation Data

We picked the top active Java GitHub projects on January 22nd 2015. We obtained the most popular projects by taking the sum of the z-scores of the number of watchers and forks of each project, using the GitHub Archive. Starting from the top project, we selected the top 20 projects excluding any projects that were in a domain that was previously selected. We also included only projects with more than 50 collaborators and more than 500 commits. The projects along with short descriptions are shown in Table 1 of the paper. We used this procedure to select a mature, active, and diverse corpus with large development teams. Finally, we split the files uniformly into a training (70%) and a test (30%) set.

Identifier Embeddings

Our neural network produces distributed representations of the identifiers, placing closely related identifiers close in a D-dimensional space. Visualize or download the embeddings that we produced in this work.

About us

Miltos Allamanis

PhD Student, University of Edinburgh

Earl T. Barr

Lecturer (Assistant Professor), UCL

Christian Bird

Researcher, Microsoft Research

Charles Sutton

Reader (Associate Professor), University of Edinburgh

This work was supported by Microsoft Research through its PhD Scholarship Programme. Charles Sutton was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council [grant number EP/K024043/1].