A Form-Based Office Information System
Forms are the main way of interaction between office workers and the Office Information System (OIS). A smooth transition to an automated environment requires that forms act as user-defined views on the contents of the data base supporting the OIS. We focus our attention on a database built around the relational model (Cold, 1970) and able to manage forms’ contents besides their structure and organization. While relations are supposed to be normalised, no condition is put on the forms, which may contain repeating fields coming from several relations, but the system is provided with mechanisms to maintain both consistency with the database and transparency for the user. We use the distinction between ‘form schema’, ‘completed forms’ and ‘external appearance of forms’, much like Tsichritzis (1982). While (description of) form schema and external appearance are stored, completed forms are not: they are filled of content coming from the data base relations each time needed. Retrieval and manipulation of stored forms are accomplished by means of blank presentation forms, using the concept of example element (Zloof, 1980). However, the underlying relational structure is kept transparent to the final user: only the users who can define the form schenas can view the relations to connect the form schema attributes to relations columns.
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