Automatic Construction of Explanation Networks for a Cooperative User Interface
CARNEGIE-MELLON UNIV PITTSBURGH PA DEPT OF COMPUTER SCIENCE
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This paper is concerned with providing automatically generated on- line explanations to the user of a functional computer subsystem or tool about what the tool can and cannot do, what parameters and options are available or required with a given command, etc.. The explanations are given through the COUSIN interface system which provides a cooperative tool-independent user interface for tools whose objects, operations, input syntax, display formats, etc. are declaratively represented in a tool description data base. The explanations are produced automatically from this data base, with no incremental effort on the part of the tool designer, and in a single uniform style for any tool that uses COUSIN as its interface. The explanation facility takes the form of a fine-grained, tightly linked network of text frames supported by the ZOG menu-selection system. Exactly what information the net building program, NB, extracts from a tool description, and the way in which this information is formatted in the text frames is controlled by a second declarative data base called the aspect description. The declarative nature of the aspect description makes it easy to adapt NB to changes in and extensions to the tool description formalism, and to experiment with the structure of the explanation network. We also describe how the appropriate network frame can be found and displayed in response to specific explanation requests from the user.
- Computer Systems