X-Designer — Abstraction and Visibility in Graphical User Interface Design
X-Designer is a graphical user interface (GUI) builder for the OSF/Motif toolkit. Like other tools in its class, it allows the developer to create the GUI for an application graphically, and then generates the code needed to implement the interface. Unlike other tools, however, it does not merely present the visual abstraction of the GUI — that is, this is how it looks — it also makes explicitly visible the internal structure — that is, this is how it is.
X-Designer uses a variety of simple techniques to control the amount of detail of the internal structure which is visible to the tool user. This allows the tool to present both a simple view for naive users and at early stages of development, and a more complex but complete view when required.
This provides considerable benefits in terms of designer support. This paper discusses these benefits, and shows how an appropriate set of tool functions can provide the advantages of abstraction and reuse, particularly at the early stages of development, and yet still allow tight control and the use of a familiar paradigm in the implementation stages.
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