psc2code: denoising code extraction from programming screencasts

Lingfeng Bao, Zhenchang Xing, Xin Xia, David Lo, Minghui Wu, Xiaohu Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Programming screencasts have become a pervasive resource on the Internet, which help developers learn new programming technologies or skills. The source code in programming screencasts is an important and valuable information for developers. But the streaming nature of programming screencasts (i.e., a sequence of screen-captured images) limits the ways that developers can interact with the source code in the screencasts. Many studies use the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technique to convert screen images (also referred to as video frames) into textual content, which can then be indexed and searched easily. However, noisy screen images significantly affect the quality of source code extracted by OCR, for example, no-code frames (e.g., PowerPoint slides, web pages of API specification), non-code regions (e.g., Package Explorer view, Console view), and noisy code regions with code in completion suggestion popups. Furthermore, due to the code characteristics (e.g., long compound identifiers like ItemListener), even professional OCR tools cannot extract source code without errors from screen images. The noisy OCRed source code will negatively affect the downstream applications, such as the effective search and navigation of the source code content in programming screencasts. In this article, we propose an approach named psc2code to denoise the process of extracting source code from programming screencasts. First, psc2code leverages the Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) based image classification to remove non-code and noisy-code frames. Then, psc2code performs edge detection and clustering-based image segmentation to detect sub-windows in a code frame, and based on the detected sub-windows, it identifies and crops the screen region that is most likely to be a code editor. Finally, psc2code calls the API of a professional OCR tool to extract source code from the cropped code regions and leverages the OCRed cross-frame information in the programming screencast and the statistical language model of a large corpus of source code to correct errors in the OCRed source code. We conduct an experiment on 1,142 programming screencasts from YouTube. We find that our CNN-based image classification technique can effectively remove the non-code and noisy-code frames, which achieves an F1-score of 0.95 on the valid code frames. We also find that psc2code can significantly improve the quality of the OCRed source code by truly correcting about half of incorrectly OCRed words. Based on the source code denoised by psc2code, we implement two applications: (1) a programming screencast search engine; (2) an interaction-enhanced programming screencast watching tool. Based on the source code extracted from the 1,142 collected programming screencasts, our experiments show that our programming screencast search engine achieves the precision@5, 10, and 20 of 0.93, 0.81, and 0.63, respectively. We also conduct a user study of our interaction-enhanced programming screencast watching tool with 10 participants. This user study shows that our interaction-enhanced watching tool can help participants learn the knowledge in the programming video more efficiently and effectively.

Original languageEnglish
Article number21
Number of pages38
JournalACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • code search
  • deep learning
  • Programming videos

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