Conventional command-language interfaces to interactive computer
systems do not support the problem-solving behaviour of users in
a natural way. They supply a single view into a sequential stream
of actions, whereas people normally juggle many activities
concurrently, switching rapidly from one to another. They provide
a wide and flat command structure which is fixed and insensitive
to the context of the dialogue. They offer little opportunity for
personalization, while people differ radically in what they do and how
they prefer to do it.
This paper describes an experimental interface which supports parallel
activity through user-defined extensions to a basic command interface.
Windows provide multiple independent views into the system. Workbenches
supplant the flat command structure. A specialized direct-manipulation
editor allows easy creation and maintenance of workbenches by novice and
expert alike. Users are encouraged to create their own informational
support environments and to alter them as their activity dictates. The
scheme complements the normal command interface and utilities can be
invoked in whichever way seems most natural.
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