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Expressive Query Specification through Form Customization

By H. V. Jagadish Magesh Jayapandian


A form-based query interface is usually the preferred means to provide an unsophisticated user access to a database. Not only is such an interface easy to use, requiring no technical training, but it also requires little or no knowledge of how the data is structured in the database. However, a typical form is static and can express only a very limited set of queries. Without room for change, query specification is limited by the expertise and vision of the interface developer at the time the form was created. If an available form cannot express a desired query, the user is stuck. In this paper, we propose a mechanism to let a user modify an existing form to express the desired query. These modifications are themselves specified through filling forms to create an expression in an underlying form manipulation expression language we define. The technical sophistication required to modify forms is not much greater than form filling. We have developed a form editor that implements this form manipulation language. We have also developed a query generator that modifies the form’s original query based on a user’s changes. We show, by means of a controlled user study, that this tool provides an effective means for specifying complex queries

Year: 2008
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