HP Labs Technical Reports

ACE: A New Approach to Building Interactive Graphical Applications

Johnson, Jeff A.; Nardi, Bonnie A.; Zarmer, Craig L.; Miller, James R.



Abstract: User interface development tools do not adequately facilitate the development of interactive applications. Although building applications with UIMSs and interactive UI builders is easier than building without them, it isn't easy enough. An alternative approach to application development is represented by spreadsheets. Spreadsheets provide an application framework, including a great deal of built-in functionality that supports user' tasks, as well as providing a ready- made user interface. Spreadsheets are, however, restricted in the sorts of applications they support. This paper describes ACE, an "Application Construction Environment" that offers the advantages of both toolkits and spreadsheets. Each ACE application is based upon a framework that provides much of the application semantics and user interface pre-built. Applications remain modifiable and specializable after they are in use. Unlike spreadsheets, ACE provides frameworks other than tables, e.g., graphs, plots, panels, maps, and outlines. ACE is also a set of class libraries, so it has much more generality and extensibility than do spreadsheets. We believe that ACE represents a new way of building applications.

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