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General Method for Defining Computer/User Dialogs without Code

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000113352D
Original Publication Date: 1994-Aug-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Mar-27
Document File: 4 page(s) / 141K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Related People

Little, AD: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Computer/human interaction can be typified as a "dialog" of questions and answers between the human and computer which, when complete, cause the computer to perform some specified action. Usually, the program to be interacted with has code written to provide the user with the appropriate questions and code to process the answers provided. This can be unacceptable when providing an interface (the "dialog") to another product entirely. All information about this dialog and how to process its results can be made to be retrievable from a database and processed by some generic (not product specific) code.

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This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 37% of the total text.

General Method for Defining Computer/User Dialogs without Code

      Computer/human interaction can be typified as a "dialog" of
questions and answers between the human and computer which, when
complete, cause the computer to perform some specified action.
Usually, the program to be interacted with has code written to
provide the user with the appropriate questions and code to process
the answers provided.  This can be unacceptable when providing an
interface (the "dialog") to another product entirely.  All
information about this dialog and how to process its results can be
made to be retrievable from a database and processed by some generic
(not product specific) code.

Placing this information in a textual database also solves several
other problems.

o   Text translation can be performed on the data base with no
    re-compile or rewrite of any code.

o   The database is platform independent - any operating system could
    be used to "run" the interactions specified.

o   Changes/additions to the dialogs (database) can be made, tested,
    and debugged "live" with no delay for re-compile.

o   This method can provide an easily modifiable "front-end" to
    existing applications.

o   Enhancements/changes to the interface (on the screen) can be made
    without modification to the contents of the database (e.g.,
    inputting a number from the user could be done by letting them
    type it in, using a "slider" or any other interface method with
    no change to the database, see "platform independence").

      The database format consists simply of a standard method for
recording details of the computer/user interaction.  Codes indicate
groupings of items (and some descriptive text about the group) and
types of items.  Within a group, there are four basic types of items.

Required user string data                  (Entry field)

Optional user string data                  (Entry field)

Mutually exclusive enumerated choices      (Radio buttons)

Non-mutually exclusive choices             (Check-boxes)

      In addition, the database contains information like default
values (is the item selected or not, what is the value in the string
field) and text length limits.  Although not implemented, this method
is expandable to include ranges (for integers) or permissible formats
(disallowed characters, etc.).  This information is all that is
required to manage the computer/human dialog -- getting answers, then
processing them.

      The other part of the disclosure is the code to display and
then interpret the dialogs defined in the database.  This code is
very compact and should be easily portable to other graphical user
interface languages or even full-screen user interfaces.  The display
code simply reads the lines form the dialog definition file and
creates the corresponding items in a "blank" window created in the
user interface.  At the sam...