Folder solvers

Romain Brenguier, Kareem Khazem, Martin Brain


This directory contains most of the decision procedure code in CPROVER. A decision procedure is an algorithm which can check if a set of logical statements is satisfiable, i.e. if there is a value for each variable which makes all of them true at the same time. Formally all that is needed is determining if they are satisfiable, in practice it is often very valuable to know the assignments of the variables. Tools (and components) that implement decision procedures are often called solvers. For example a SAT solver is a tool that implements a decision procedure for checking the satisfiability of formulae (often in CNF) over Boolean variables. An SMT solver is a tool that implements decision procedures for the Satisfiability Modulo Theories class of problems. CPROVER includes its own SMT solver, built on top of a SAT solver but can also interface to external solvers.

CBMC and JBMC create formulae which describe some of the execution of parts of a program (see goto-symex for how this is done) and then use a solver to see if there are any executions which break an assertion. If the formula describing the execution and the formula describing the assertion are satisfiable then it is possible for the assertion to fail and the assignment of the variables can be used to build an error trace (see goto_tracet). Thus the performance and capability of the solver used is crucial to the utility of CBMC and JBMC. Other tools make use of solvers in other ways to handle other problems. It is important to distinguish between goto-models, goto-programs, etc. which describe programs and have a semantics in terms of execution and formula that have a semantics in terms of logic. Solvers work with formulae and so have no notion of execution order, assignment, "before", branching, loops, exceptions, side-effects, function calls, etc. All of these have to be described in the formula presented to the decision procedure if you want to reason about them.

Other tools use solvers in different ways but the basic interface and ideas remain the same.

Key Interfaces

The most basic interface is decision_proceduret. It gives the interface of all decision procedures. You call set_to_true and set_to_false to give the formulae and then dec_solve to check if they are satisfiable. If they are, it returns D_SATISFIABLE and you can use get to find the values in the satisfying assignment (if the underlying decision procedure supports this). If you are implementing a solver, then this is the most basic interface you have to support, if you are using the solver, this is the best interface to use as it does not commit you to any particular kind of solver. Looking at the inheritance diagram from decision_proceduret is a good way of getting an over-view of the solvers currently supported.

Many (but not all) decision procedures have a notion of logical expression and can provide information about logical expressions within the solver. prop_convt expands on the interface of decision_proceduret to add a data-type (literalt) and interfaces for manipulating logical expressions within the solver.

Within decision procedures it is common to reduce the logical expressions to equivalent expressions in a simpler language. This is similar to what a compiler will do in reducing higher-level language constructs to simple, assembler like instructions. This, of course, relies on having a decision procedure for the simpler language, just as a compiler relies on you having a processor that can handle the assembler. One of the popular choices of "processor" for decision procedures are SAT solvers. These handle a very restricted language in which all variables are simple Booleans and all formulae are just made of logical gates. By keeping their input simple, they can be made very fast and efficient; kind of like RISC processors. Like processors, creating a good SAT solver is a very specialised skill, so CPROVER uses third-party SAT solvers. By default this is MiniSAT, but others are supported (see the sat/ directory). To do this it needs a software interface to a SAT solver : this is propt. It uses the same literalt to refer to Boolean variables, just as prop_convt uses them to refer to logical expressions. land, lor, lxor and so on allow gates to be constructed to express the formulae to be solved. If cnf_handled_well is true then you may also use lcnf to build formulae. Finally, prop_solve will run the decision procedure.

As previously mentioned, many decision procedures reduce formulae to CNF and solve with a SAT solver. prop_conv_solvert contains the foundations of this conversion. It implements the prop_convt by having an instance of propt (a SAT solver) and reducing the expressions that are input into CNF. The key entry point to this procedure is prop_conv_solvert::convert which then splits into prop_conv_solvert::convert_boolean (which uses propt::land and so on to convert Boolean expressions) and prop_conv_solvert::convert_rest which gives an error to start with. Various solvers inherit from prop_conv_solvert adding to convert and convert_rest to increase the language of expressions that can be converted. equalityt adds handling of equality between variables, arrayst then builds on that to add support for arrays, boolbvt adds bit-vector operations (plus, negate, multiply, shift, etc.) and finally bv_pointers adds pointers. This layering simplifies the conversion to CNF and allows parts of it to be over-ridden and modified (as bv_refinementt and string_refinementt do).



Key classes:

The main class in this folder is boolbvt which wraps a variety of helper methods and classes (including inherited ones) and acts as an interface for transforming exprt into boolean formula and then solving it.

Many of its methods are focused around transforming a particular exprt into a vector of literalt and then passing them to a propt for formula building / solving.

The primary methods are:

Note: bvt mentioned below is an alias to a vector of literalt.

bvt boolbvt::convert_bitvector(const exprt &expr)

Which takes an exprt then calls the associated transformation functions to generate the literalt vector to then pass to the internal propt instance.

const bvt & boolbvt::convert_bv(const exprt &expr, optionalt<std::size_t> expected_width)

Similar to convert_bitvector except it also provides basic caching and freezing results for incremental solving. It calls convert_bitvector internally.

literalt boolbvt::convert_rest(const exprt &expr)

(Note: I'm not sure why this is split from the normal convert_bitvector, but it's probably worth mentioning)

void post_process()

Performs any post-processing, which is normally adding constraints that require some global knowledge of the formula, ex. for encoding arrays into uninterpreted functions.

Some key classes:

propt is instance of whichever solver is currently being used. This inherits from decision_proceduret whose interface has a fuller explanation in the "General Interfaces" subsection.

bv_utilst holds a set of utility functions for bit manipulation that work upon literals (or vectors of them). Holds a reference to the propt that its parent uses.

functionst Helper class that keeps a list of uninterpreted functions which then gets used to add function constraints when post_process is called.

boolbv_mapt Helper class that maps an irep_idt (and a type) to a vector of literals.

arrayst Base class of boolbvt. Adds additional array constraints when post_process is called.

equalityt Base class of boolbvt. Adds equality constraints between bitvectors when post_process is called.

Solver APIs

SMT solving API

To be documented.

SAT solving API

The basic SAT solver interface is in cnf. This inherits from the propositional logic decision procedure wrapper.

The interface supports the following operations by default:

  1. Boolean operations on literals (like and, or, xor), etc. These take as input two literals and return as output another literal, applying Tseitin's transformation on them. Tseitin's transformation converts a propositional formula F into an equisatisfiable CNF formula that is linear in the size of F. For more information look at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tseytin_transformation
  2. Generating new literals and adding their variables to the formula and returning the number of variables or clauses the solver is operating with (with no_variables).

This interface is then extended by the various solver interfaces which implement the interface by hooking into the solver related functions that implement the operations that they abstract. Solvers for which drivers exist include Minisat, Minisat2, Chaff, Picosat, Glucose, Cadical, Booleforce and Lingeling.

For example, the Minisat 2 interface (in satcheck_minisat2.h) implements a method prop_solve() that hooks into Minisat 2's interface by initialising the variable list Minisat 2 will use, and then invoking the actual solver on the formula and checking whether the solver could manage find a satisfying assignment or not.

For more details on how the particular drivers work, refer to them in their interface and implementation files, which follow the naming pattern satcheck_x, where x is the name of the solver.

We also support any solver that can hook into ipasir. This is a generic incremental SAT solver API. This is handled by the satcheck_ipasir.h interface abstracts over ipasir with our own generic interface. For a description of the ipasir interface take a look at the following file: ipasir.h

SAT/SMT Encoding

In the solvers directory.

Key classes:

Decision Procedure

In the solvers directory.

Key classes:

String Solver Interface

The string solver is particularly aimed at string logic, but since it inherits from bv_refinementt it is also capable of handling arithmetic, array logic, floating point operations etc. The backend uses the flattening of boolbvt to convert expressions to boolean formula.

An example of a problem given to string solver could look like this:

return_code == cprover_string_concat_func(
length1, array1,
{ .length=length2, .content=content2 },
{ .length=length3, .content=content3 })
length3 == length2
content3 == content2
is_equal == cprover_string_equals_func(length1, array1, 2, {'a', 'a'})
is_equal == 1

Details about the meaning of the primitives cprover_string_concat_func and cprover_string_equals_func are given in section String Primitives.

The first equality means that the string represented by {length1, array1} is the concatanation of the string represented by {length2, array2} and {length3, array3}. The second and third mean that {length2, array2} and {length3, array3} represent the same string. The fourth means that is_equal is 1 if and only if {length1, array1} is the string "aa". The last equation ensures that is_equal has to be equal to 1 in the solution.

For this system of equations the string solver should answer that it is satisfiable. It is then possible to recover which assignments make all equation true, in that case length2 = length3 = 1 and ‘content2 = content3 = {'a’}`.

General interface

The common interface for solvers in CProver is inherited from decision_proceduret and is the common interface for all solvers. It is essentially composed of these three functions:

For each goal given to CProver:

Specificity of the string solver

The specificity of the solver is in what kind of expressions set_to accepts and understands. string_refinementt::set_to accepts all constraints that are normally accepted by bv_refinementt.

string_refinementt::set_to also understands constraints of the form:

In the implementation, equations that are not of these forms are passed to an embedded bv_refinementt solver.

String representation in the solver

String primitives can have arguments which are pointers to characters. These pointers represent strings. To each of these pointers the string solver associate a char array which represents the content of the string. If the pointer is the address of an actual array in the program they should be linked by using the primitive cprover_string_associate_array_to_pointer. The length of the array can also be linked to a variable of the program using cprover_string_associate_length_to_array.

The solver assumes the memory pointed by the arguments is immutable which is not something that is true in general for C pointers for instance. Therefore for each transformation on a string, it is assumed the program allocates a new string before calling a primitive.

Builtin functions

String operations are handled as "builtin functions", which can operate in two modes:

  1. constraint generation
  2. model evaluation

This is described in more detail here.

String primitives

Basic access:




Deprecated primitives:

Decision algorithm

Looks for a valuation of variables compatible with the constraints that have been given to set_to so far.

The decision procedure initiated by string_refinementt::dec_solve is composed of several steps detailed below.

Symbol resolution

Pointer symbols which are set to be equal by constraints, are replaced by an single symbol in the solver. The symbol_solvert object used for this substitution is constructed by generate_symbol_resolution_from_equations(const std::vector<equal_exprt>&,const namespacet&,messaget::mstreamt&). All these symbols are then replaced using replace_symbols_in_equations(const union_find_replacet &, std::vector<equal_exprt> &).

Conversion to first order formulas:

Each string primitive is converted to a list of first order formulas by the function substitute_function_applications_in_equations(std::vector<equal_exprt>&,string_constraint_generatort&). These formulas should be unquantified or be either a string_constraintt or a string_not_contains_constraintt. The constraints corresponding to each primitive can be found by following the links in section String primitives.

Since only arrays appear in the string constraints, during the conversion to first order formulas, pointers are associated to arrays. The string_constraint_generatort object keeps track of this association. It can either be set manually using the primitives cprover_associate_array_to_pointer or a fresh array is created.

Refinement loop

We use super_dec_solve and super_get to denote the methods of the underlying solver (bv_refinementt by default). The refinement loop relies on functions string_refinementt::check_axioms which returns true when the set of quantified constraints q is satisfied by the valuation given bysuper_get and string_refinementt::instantiate which gives propositional formulas implied by a string constraint. If the following algorithm returns SAT or UNSAT, the given constraints are SAT or UNSAT respectively:

is_SAT(unquantified_constraints uq, quantified_constraints q)
cur <- uq;
while(limit--) > 0
if(check_axioms(q, super_get))
for(axiom in q)
return SAT;
return UNSAT;
return ERROR;
resultt::D_SATISFIABLE if the constraints are satisfiable, resultt::D_UNSATISFIABLE if they are unsatisfiable, resultt::D_ERROR if the limit of iteration was reached.


This is done by generate_instantiations(const index_set_pairt &index_set, const string_axiomst &axioms, const std::unordered_map<string_not_contains_constraintt, symbol_exprt> &not_contain_witnesses). The string refinement decision procedure works with two types of quantified axioms, which are of the form \(\forall x.\ P(x)\) (string_constraintt) or of the form \(\forall x. P(x) \Rightarrow \exists y .s_0[x+y] \ne s_1[y] \) (string_not_contains_constraintt). They are instantiated in a way which depends on their form:

For formulas of the form \(\forall x. P(x) \Rightarrow \exists y .s_0[x+y] \ne s_1[y]) \) we need to look at the index set of both s_0 and s_1. (See instantiate(const string_not_contains_constraintt&,const index_set_pairt&,const std::map<string_not_contains_constraintt, symbol_exprt>&) for details)

Axiom check

For each string_constraint a:

Floatbv Directory

This library contains the code that is used to convert floating point variables (floatbv) to bit vectors (bv). This is referred to as ‘bit-blasting’ and is called in the solver code during conversion to SAT or SMT. It also contains the abstraction code described in the FMCAD09 paper.