Encyclopedia of Database Systems

2018 Edition
| Editors: Ling Liu, M. Tamer Özsu

Direct Manipulation

  • Alan F. BlackwellEmail author
  • Maria Francesca CostabileEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-8265-9_134


Desktop metaphor; Graphical interaction


The term direct manipulation was introduced by Shneiderman [ 2, 3] to describe user interfaces that offer the following desirable properties:
  1. 1.

    Visibility of the objects and actions of interest

  2. 2.

    Physical actions on the object of interest instead of complex syntax

  3. 3.

    Effects of those actions that are rapid, incremental and reversible


Direct manipulation is generally associated with Graphical User Interfaces, although the above properties are also beneficial in interfaces where the user is working with text or numeric data. Direct manipulation has been most popularly applied in the “desktop metaphor” for managing disk files, a visual representation where the objects of interest are the user’s files, and they are therefore continuously presented on the screen. This was an improvement over disk operating system consoles in which file listings were only transient results of a directory listing command.

The currently most...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Recommended Reading

  1. 1.
    Hutchins EL, Hollan JD, Norman DA. Direct manipulation interfaces. In: Norman DA, Draper, editors. User centered system design, new perspectives on human-computer interaction. Hillsdale: S.W. Lawrence Erlbaum; 1986.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Shneiderman B. The future of interactive systems and the emergence of direct manipulation. Behav Inf Technol. 1982;1(3):237–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Shneiderman B. Direct manipulation: a step beyond programming languages. IEEE Comput. 1983;16(8):57–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of BariBariItaly

Section editors and affiliations

  • Tiziana Catarci
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. di Ingegneria Informatica, Automatica e GestionaleUniversita di RomaRomaItaly