Representation of Task-Specific Knowledge in a Gracefully Interacting User Interface

Eugene Ball, Phil Hayes

Command interfaces to current interactive systems often appear inflexible and unfriendly to casual and expert users alike. We are constructing an interface that will behave more cooperatively (by correcting spelling and grammatical errors, asking the user to resolve ambiguities in subparts of commands, etc.). Given that present-day interfaces often absorb a major portion of implementation effort, such a gracefully interacting interface can only be practical if it is independent of the specific tool or functional subsystem with which it is used. Our interface is tool-independent in the sense that all its information about a particular tool is expressed in a declarative tool description. This tool description contains schemas for each operation that the tool can perform, and for each kind of object known to the system. The operation schemas describe tne relevant parameters, their types and defaults, and the object schemas give corresponding structural descriptions in terms of defining and derived subcomponents. The schemas also include input syntax, display formats, and explanatory text. We discuss how these schemas can be used by the tool-independent interface to provide a graceful interface to the tool they describe.

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