Current user interfaces fail to support some work habits that people
naturally adopt when interacting with general-purpose computer environments.
In particular, users frequently and persistently repeat their activities
(e.g. command line entries, menu selections, navigating paths), but computers
do little to help them to review and re-execute earlier ones. At most,
systems provide ad hoc history mechanisms founded on the premise that
the last few inputs form a reasonable selection of candidates for re-use.
This paper provides theoretical and empirical foundations for the design of
a reuse facility that helps people to recall, modify and re-submit their
previous activities to computers. It abstracts several striking
characteristics of repetitious behaviour by studying traces of user
activities. It presents a general model of interaction called "recurrent
systems". Particular attention is paid to the repetition of command lines
given a sequential history list of previous ones, and this distribution can
be conditioned in several ways to enhance predictive power. Reformulated
as empirically-based general principles, the model provides design guidelines
for history systems specifically and modern user interfaces generally.
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