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Multiple-Column Sorting Controls Disclosure Number: IPCOM000013937D
Original Publication Date: 2001-Feb-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2003-Jun-19
Document File: 5 page(s) / 82K

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Multiple-Column Sorting Controls

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Multiple-Column Sorting Controls

Multiple-Column Sorting Controls

When sorting data in a table (also called a spreadsheet or grid) in a user interface, it is useful to let the user control the sequence of columns, called a "sorting sequence," that can be used to sort the rows. When equal values are found in the first column in the sorting sequence, the corresponding values in the next column in the sorting sequence are tested. If they are also equal, the next column in the sorting sequence is tested, and so forth, until the end of the sorting sequence is reached or unequal values are found that are compared to order the rows.

In addition, each column in the sorting sequence may be designated as ascending or descending. This is called the direction designation. When unequal values are found, an ascending designation orders the lesser value first, and a descending designation orders the lesser value second.

This situation in a user interface corresponds to the ORDER BY clause in an SQL query, where multiple columns can be specified as ASC or DESC, such as "ORDER BY Dept ASC, Salary DESC." Especially for viewing the results of large SQL queries, users expect the same kind of flexible multiple-column sorting that SQL provides.

The IBM DB2 UDB Control Center, an administration tool for IBM's relational database, provides a secondary modal dialog for selecting the sorting sequence and direction designations of each column in the sorting sequence:

Here, the Name, Schema, and Type columns are in the sorting sequence. Name and Type are designated ascending and Schema is designated descending.

The present invention provides methods of selecting the sorting sequence, with direction designations for each column in the sorting sequence, for which the user employs a keyboard or mouse, to be used instead of or in addition to a secondary dialog such as the Sort dialog for the Control Center. In this invention, numbers and symbols appear in the table's column headers to indicate the ordinal position in the sorting sequence and the direction designations.

The symbols for direction designations are used in other user interfaces, such as in the Lotus Notes mail database:


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Here, the Who column can be unsorted or sorted ascending, and is currently sorted ascending, as shown by the cyan arrowhead. The Date column can be unsorted or sorted ascending or descending and is currently unsorted. The Subject column can be unsorted or sorted ascending, like the Who column. In Notes, only one column displays the cyan direction designation; it reflects the sorted direction of the column that is currently sorted.

The same symbols are used for tables in the present invention:

Here, the Row column is sorted ascending, the T/F column may be sorted only ascending, the Demos column may be sorted only descending, and the Components column may not be sorted.

The present invention adds two new features...