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Alternative syntaxes (was RE: Proposal Announcement)

  • From: "Meltsner, Kenneth J" <Kenneth.J.Meltsner@j...>
  • To: xml-dev@i...
  • Date: Wed, 20 May 1998 15:29:44 -0500

xml alternative syntaxes

There's a great prototype for "Adaptive Forms" at:


The developers put together a Java program that takes a grammar for a
"natural language-ish" statement, form, rule, query, etc. and provides a
form-based interface that dynamically changes depending on the terms
entered by the user.

It seems like this would be a good way to enter information for some
applications with complex DTDs.  I suspect the grammar could be
automatically generated (in many cases) directly from the DTD (or

In one of their papers, the authors briefly mention the Texas Instruments
natural language shell from more than a decade ago that allowed users to
frame complicated queries by selecting appropriate text fragments from a
set of lists.
 This was an exceptionally powerful shell that never reached widespread
popularity; perhaps this will be more successful.

Ken Meltsner

>From the first page:

"Adaptive Forms is a tool for producing context-sensitive form-based
interfaces. The system initially displays an overview of the main sections
of a form, and an initial set of fields for the user to fill in. Depending
on the values that the user enters, Adaptive Forms progressively adds new
fields to the form. For example, a form for entering household information
would show the user fields for entering the spouse's name only if the user
had entered "married" in the "marital status" field.

"The main design goal for Adaptive Forms is in entering structured
information rapidly and without errors. One of our target applications was
the specification of air campaign objectives, which are structured objects
consisting of a verb (e.g., deny, gain), an aspect (e.g., what to deny or
gain), an actor (e.g., country, a branch of armed forces), a location
(e.g., a country or a region) and a time period. Each of the parts is
itself a structured object whose substructure and possible values depend on
the values specified for the other parts. For example, the aspects that can
be gained are different from the aspects that can be denied, so the
interface needs to compute the menus for the "aspect" field dynamically
based on the fillers of other fields. Similar requirements arise in
virtually any other application domain. "

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