Date of Award

Winter 2009

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Computer and Information Science

First Advisor

Benjamin C. Pierce


The need to edit source data through a view arises in a host of applications across many different areas of computing. Unfortunately, few existing systems provide support for updatable views. In practice, when they are needed, updatable views are usually implemented using two separate programs: one that computes the view from the source and another that handles updates. This rudimentary design is tedious for programmers, difficult to reason about, and a nightmare to maintain.

This dissertation presents bidirectional programming languages, which provide an elegant and effective mechanism for describing updatable views. Unlike programs written in an ordinary language, which only work in one direction, programs in a bidirectional language can be run both forwards and backwards: from left to right, they describe functions that map sources to views, and from right to left, they describe functions that map updated views back to updated sources. Besides eliminating redundancy, these languages can be designed to ensure correctness, guaranteeing by construction that the two functions work well together.

Starting from the foundations, we define a general semantic space of well-behaved bidirectional transformations called lenses. Then, building on this foundation, we describe a particular language for defining lenses on strings with syntax based on the familiar regular operators (union, concatenation, and Kleene star). We present extensions to the basic framework that address the subtle complications that arise when lenses are used to manipulate, data containing unimportant details, ordered data, and confidential data.