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Dynamically Configurable User Interface for the Manipulation of Data Objects

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000111537D
Original Publication Date: 1994-Mar-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Mar-26
Document File: 8 page(s) / 355K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Related People

Post, LL: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

User interfaces are used in many forms to allow the manipulation of data objects. Data objects are groupings of data items which we call attributes. Each attribute corresponds to a specified data type from a predefined set of supported data types. Thus, a data object can be defined as a set of attributes whose values together make up an instance of the data object. Some examples of data objects are tables in a database (where columns are attributes and rows are instances) and object-oriented data such as the data portion of Managed Objects that are used in OSI Network Management.

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Dynamically Configurable User Interface for the Manipulation of Data
Objects

      User interfaces are used in many forms to allow the
manipulation of data objects.  Data objects are groupings of data
items which we call attributes.  Each attribute corresponds to a
specified data type from a predefined set of supported data types.
Thus, a data object can be defined as a set of attributes whose
values together make up an instance of the data object.  Some
examples of data objects are tables in a database (where columns are
attributes and rows are instances) and object-oriented data such as
the data portion of Managed Objects that are used in OSI Network
Management.

      Some of the basic manipulations that user interfaces allow are
the creation, deletion, display and changing attribute values of
object instances.

      Traditionally, the set of data objects that the user can
manipulate through a user interface is hard-coded in the
user-interface application.  The windows through which the user
performs operations against the objects and the code that supports
these windows are coded separately for each supported data object.
That is, for each data object that the user interface supports, there
is a set of windows and code to support them for the create, delete,
change and display operations.

      This traditional approach has two major limitations.  First,
the addition of new data objects to the set of objects supported by
the user interface requires the writing of new code.  This is a major
problem in environments where data objects are defined dynamically,
or at least more frequently than the shipping of new releases of the
user interface.  The second problem that plagues this static approach
is the size of the user interface when the number of data objects
that it is to manipulate is large.  Since every window for every
operation against every object type is coded separately, the size of
the user interface is directly related to the number of objects that
it can support.

      This disclosure proposes a user-interface design methodology
that solves these two problems.  The user interface that we propose
is dynamically configurable in that the user can define the data
objects which the user interface is to manipulate.  It handles
objects in a generic manner by handling each of their attributes
based on its data type.  The interface takes as input, descriptions
of the objects in terms of their attributes and builds and
manipulates a set of user-interface windows based on the values and
parameters contained in each attribute.

      This solves the problem of not being able to support new
objects without code changes by removing the specific data object
information from the code of the user interface and placing it in the
object description (data).  Object descriptions for new objects can
be provided to the user interface at any time without the writing of
new code or recompiling existing code.

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