The innovative aspect of the proposed technology is to allow the users to focus on their data objects, not on the specific workflows of the applications: this is known as the document-centered approach, in contrast with the application-centered approach.
Other technologies addressed the document-centered approach in the past, such as the Carnegie Mellon University's Andrew toolkit (1985), the Dr. Ken Sakamura's BTRON system (1985), the Hewlett-Packard's NewWave framework (1987), the Microsoft's OLE and ActiveX technologies (1992) and the Apple and IBM's OpenDoc architecture (1994). However, all of them are based on file systems to store the information, and some of them still use classical computer applications as the native user interface for its document-oriented workflow (i.e. OLE/ActiveX).
The main new aspects of the proposed technology are the integration of all information into a single object-oriented database, the object hierarchy management to build more complex objects, the zoomable user interface to edit/view each object in a hierarchical fashion, and the organization of the information objects into projects, sets and subsets (see the specifications for more details).
Description of the technology
The proposed technology enables the user to manage all kinds of information (text, images, tables, plots, graphics, presentations, mails, blogs, web pages, videos, sounds, etc.) within a common framework, i.e. a single computer program and a single object-oriented database, though it works in a graphical interface, so that there is no need to learn a database management language. Each piece of information is called an “object”, and every object is of a specific type, so the system can offer a set of tools to manage every object according to its type. Therefore, there is no need to have a specific computer program for each type of data the user aims to deal with.
The user information is organized into objects of different types. The system allows to add new types, in a dynamic manner, as well as to add (or remove) the tools for managing each type of information, by adding (or removing) small pieces of compatible software, known as “software components”. The user will create, edit or delete the objects in a hierarchic fashion (objects inside of other objects), so that complex documents can be built with a specific structure. For example, a report can be written with text objects, image objects, table objects, etc., and a table can include images within its cell, an image can include texts on top of it, and so on. These are known as “compound documents”. When the user edits such a complex document, the system will allow him/her to select the inner objects, zooming them in and showing the proper tools for the type of the object in focus. This is known as a “zoomable user interface”. Moreover, the same object shall be included into several parent objects, thus promoting the referential integrity of the whole database. For example, if there is an object containing the telephone number of a person, that object may be inserted in a list (a table) of people, a report about that person, or a contact phone in a web-page. Imagine that the person changes his/her phone number. Then, the user of the database only has to change the number once, and it will be updated automatically in every place the number is referred. This is a typical feature of databases, but one must learn a rather complex computer language to deal with common databases. The proposed technology stores (and retrieves) the information via “sets” of objects of the same type. Hence, the user can only search an image in a set of images, of course. The user may also want to group some of the objects that are related to a concept, using “subsets”. Furthermore, the user may want to group objects of different types related to a specific topic. In this case, it is possible to define a “project”, which will contain the sets and subsets for the types of objects included in the project. Many other new ideas has been developed for this technology to allow a comprehensive integration of all the modern user needs in terms of digital content management.
Main advantages of its use
- Moreover, all information will be stored in a coherent manner, since referential integrity is fostered.
- The main advantage of this technology is that the user will be able to deal with all his/her information with a single computer application, so it will not be necessary to learn lots of computer applications to deal with each kind of document.
- Therefore, it is expected that the system will ease the job of computer users, letting them concentrate more in their information and less in the computer application specificities.
- By extending this idea, general databases could be made public through Internet so that interested users may integrate accessible data to their objects of information, or, on the reverse situation, private users could share their objects with other users of the proposed system.
- Further, business and other organizations may also benefit from this technology by integrating all the information processed by their members into a common network (distributed database).