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The CASCADE Environment

The CASCADE system is designed to support research on augmenting authoring, editorial, and other document processes through agents using the information available from structured electronic documents. While CASCADE is designed primarily as a test bed for agent development, the basic framework provides some significant operational capabilitiesgif. CASCADE is directed toward three goals:

  1. to reduce the cognitive overhead in the authoring of structured documents by employing augmented functions and a variety of software agents,

  2. to reduce the complexity of document management by using an SQL-compliant DBMS as a repository for work group and document hypertext information based upon structured document data,

  3. to assure document integrity and availability via database management of critical document controls and information.

CASCADE presents itself to the user through five major components. The opening CASCADE screen shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: CASCADE Initial Screen

The main sections of this screen are:

  1. The Main menu which runs across the top of the screen

  2. Document and comment display and editing which occupies the main area of the screen

  3. Document/directory button bar which is placed on the left side of the screen

  4. Control and status information which is presented across the bottom of the screen
  5. Agent Bars which are the free-floating shells labeled ``Utilities'' and ``AgentBar'' at the lower portion of the display.
The figure also shows a popup login message box. These five main components provide the following functionality:

Main menu provides access to system functionality. This includes access to document information, structure information, system utilities such as mail, document searching, document analysis, group communications, session history, group information, preference setting, help, etc. The main menu also provides access to primitive level CASCADE agents. One might consider the `parse link' function to provide an agent-like function. The parse link function function takes incoming mail related to review of the document and parses it for comments about the document and situates those comments in the source document.

Document part provides access to the document components. The user can view or edit an existing document or create new documents. The user can create links between existing documents within or outside of CASCADE control or the user can create ``implicit'' links where the system will assume responsibility for naming and locating the links to documents created by the user in the review process. The user can traverse links or view link contents in the context of a review structure. In addition, the module provides support for maintaining integrity of the various views of the data. Finally, the document module provides access to information that might be made available to users directly or through agents in order to ease the various authoring and review processes.

Navigation is currently supported via a variety of mechanisms. 1) A visual browser is provided that allows interactive traversal and review of the document components and structure. Figure 2 shows the browser open to the comments on three chapters.

Figure 2: CASCADE Browser

2) A directory listing window provides access to siblings and immediate subordinate and superior documents. 3) The history function allows visited documents to be revisited.gif 4) Anchors in the displayed documents provide the user with direct access to the comments or documents linked to the currently viewed document. Comments may be viewed without leaving a document by opening comment review windows which provide a variety of information about the attributes of the viewed document.

Control module provides status and location information as well as system information and problem reports.

Agent Bars provide a 'home' for agents. This area of the display has recently become a very active area of developmental interest. The initial effort has focused on how agents can be created and managed to support synchronous and asynchronous communications among group members. When an agent is active or available, it is displayed on this bar.

next up previous
Next: The POSIX 1003.21 Up: Background Previous: The Literature

Michael Spring
Tue Apr 23 13:23:13 EDT 1996