Database Browser

Introduction

Working with computer is working with information. Computers store data, while the software allows the user to extract this data and represent it in an easy-to-understand format. Software is merely an intermediary between the hardware and the user. In other words, software is an interface, and the easier it is, the easier it is to access and use the stored information. Therefore the interface is the most important part of any information system.

First programs were designed for programmers. One could interact with the computer on a low level, i.e. take the burden of computer interaction upon themselves. The extreme case of such interaction is a programmer using Assembler language in the console mode. Obviously such way of work is not for most people, the end users. Special programs were designed for the purpose of making it easier for the end user - sacrificing some system flexibility in order to achieve an easier-to-use interface. The interface was a program working between the end user and the program that worked with the data directly. Such an interface would have a number of built-in commands that a user can utilize, which in turn get translated by the program into a set of machine operations that work with the data. The majority of current informational systems are built by this example.

The problem lies in the fact that the interface is designed for one specific program, and for each new program it would have to be written anew. If the data is designed for just one application or its size is small, then it's alright, but most often the same data can be used by different programs in various applications. This two-level approach is common for DBMS (database management system). In case of DBMS, the programmer language that's in between the user and the data is usually SQL.

Another approach is used in the WWW. To work with the Internet a universal program is utilized, a web browser. Such program gives a standard interface between the user and the data stored in a special format (HTML). Interface, in this case, doesn't depend on the data, and once the user learns to use the web browser, he can access any number of data directly. However with this the user's abilities are limited to viewing, searching and navigating the information. To utilize a more complex scenario, special programs are added to the HTML data written in Java, JavaScript, CGI, or other languages. Nevertheless, in all cases the web browser provides the interface, and it's not dependant on other applications. This approach seems the most flexible and universal.

The only problem is that the HTML format is good to store only a small amount of not structured information, while the databases are often keeps a massive in size structured data, making it impossible to use the web technology in such systems directly.

To solve this problem Alexander Lashenko developed a special technology which combines the WWW with the DBMS. This system was named ConteXt.

Features of Database Browser

ConteXt is a combination of DBMS, Database Browser, and remote data access technology through an ordinary web browser. In fact, ConteXt is made up of two independent parts - the informational system, including the DBMS on the server side, and an interface program that works on the user's side. Their independence is demonstrated in the fact that ConteXt can be used without the interface (as embedded DBMS) , the same way the interface can work without ConteXt, allowing the user to enter a remote UNIX computer and execute any console applications.

The main feature of DB-Browser is the combination of a flexible and simple interface of an end user with the speed of writing complex informational programs that can be accessed through the Internet. In the end it all comes down to the cost of such system: Using BD-browser it's possible to develop such systems at a significantly lower cost. The use of such tools changes the way to write database applications. Now the programmer does not write the whole application but just a few bits to "help" the DB-browser. All standard functions responsible for data representation, manipulation, search, editing etc. etc. are already incorporated into the DB-browser.

Another distinction of DB-browser is not as evident, but no less important. DB-browser expands the idea of information cyberspace, i.e. the interaction of an end user with the database without the programs in the chain that limits his actions. In fact, when working through DB-browser, the user is working with the data directly that are simply visualized by the database browser. For now this interface is two-dimensional, but we are working on making it three-dimensional in the near future. In the future data will be presented visually as 3D objects into which you can enter to see them in more detail. Interface with the data instead of command prompt will eventually transform to navigation through these objects like through a virtual reality. However, this doesn't eliminate the standard command language, of course.

DBMS ConteXt front page: DBMS ConteXt

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