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INFOVIEW is a CASE tool from Applied Technical Systems (ATS) specifically designed for the Advanced Revelation environment. It is designed to track related items (such as programs, windows, menus, and symbolic fields) and to allow easy navigation of the connections between them. As with all CASE tools, the theory is that armed with such formally detailed knowledge of your system it subsequently becomes quicker and easier (and hence cheaper) to apply changes while keeping track of all implications of these changes. It is implied in the documentation that it would be a good idea for end users to have access to INFOVIEW to aid in their technical understanding of their system and to help them view their application from the most relevant perspective, but I suspect that this will seldom be the case in practice!

Since INFOVIEW is currently a version 2.x product only this review will by necessity contain references to old nomenclatures, but in line with current editorial policy, the new conventions adopted in version 3.0 will be used where possible.

Product Description.

INFOVIEW is a product in two parts, the first being the INFODEX TM -CASE engine. (An acronym for INFOrmation inDEXing.) This is a proprietary logical database structure designed by ATS which is still in the patenting process; this obviously limits the information currently available but we can tell you that it is based on a Contiguous Connection Model (CCM) rather than any strictly relational structure. The CCM was the subject of a study by the University of Washington, and the product literature quotes from that survey: "(CCM)...potentially provides a means of solving database problems that have heretofore been very difficult and even impossible to solve." In the interests of balance I should point out that the same document also reported "some disadvantages of CCM, and it may not be appropriate for every database application." but it did go on to say that for applications with a complex array of data inter- relationships "CCM presents an innovative and highly effective new approach to database design and management." Perhaps the most telling comment however was that "In many ways, this model is better suited to today's technology than is the relational model.", a sentiment which should find sympathetic echoes in the Advanced Revelation community.

INFOVIEW is the physical Advanced Revelation implementation of the INFODEX-CASE logical system, based around normal linear hashed tables. Although very similar to the look and feel of Advanced Revelation (V2.x), much of the interface is custom coded, including the menus. The menus mimic Advanced Revelation pulldown menus quite effectively, but in the version reviewed (2.0a), inconsistencies arose in V2.12 where menu hotkeys are conspicuous by their absence. Navigation is strightforward however around tools which allow various volumes to be attached, scanned and queried. INFOVIEW seems designed to be installed and used on an existing system and provides little or no help in the initial design stages of an application, but once up and running on a live system it really comes into its own.

Installation and Use

Theoretically, installation of INFOVIEW should be quite straightforward but be prepared in practice to spend at least a little time fiddling around with the configurations. I actually installed the package twice: the first time on a V2.12 system things went quite smoothly, but second time around (on a 2.03 system) the automatic installation routine refused to function. This may have been a security feature, but if so it wasn't mentioned in the manual! Simply typing RUN DOS A:INSTALL at TCL should suffice to install the master system but when this failed (with invalid command errors at DOS) I was still able to proceed as the documentation provides full manual installation instructions (presumably for historic reasons - I'm sure ATS didn't expect the automatic routine to fail.) At the end of the first phase, the INFODEX engine and its associated programs will have been installed, along with a volume containing the structures required to hold the knowledge base for an application, and INFOVIEW can then be started from within the relevant application.

Once the first phase of the installation is complete, there are still some changes required to Advanced Revelation. You are expected to manually edit rows in VERBS and SYS.POPUPS, and to provide volume pointers in the appropriate VOC tables using SETVOLUME. It is also advisable to make a copy of the existing (blank) knowledge base volume for each specific application which is to be tracked, and to create an INFOVIEW pointer/definition for this area. Some utilities are provided to aid in these tasks, but you will find yourself alternating between INFOVIEW and TCL. I don't like to admit it, but it took me a few tries to finally arrive at the correct configuration. Once achieved though, you wonder why had difficulty the first time - perhaps the manuals could be a little clearer? One oft- repeated caveat in the manuals is that your application MENUS and VOC tables must both reside on the same volume; if this is not the case than a blank MENUS table must be created on the appropriate volume (but be careful thereafter in which order you attach your volumes.) INFOVIEW uses its own VOC table when running but automatically sets a QFile to the application vocabulary to enable it to analyse and report on connections.

Using INFOVIEW is, relatively speaking, a lot simpler than installing it. It is loaded from within the actual Advanced Revelation application (a simple TCL batch command should be created) and the appropriate knowledge base is selected. The first task on first using INFOVIEW in any application is to actually build the knowledge base. Easy-to-use utilities allow you to scan the tables which contain your R/Basic programs, Menus, Popups etc. as well as all data dictionaries to allow cross reference of field names and numbers as well as an analysis of symbolic items. These details are added to the knowledge base automatically and a separate process is used to build (or rebuild) the links between them which form the heart of the CASE tool. It is not guaranteed that all related items will be identified by this process (I had a few MFS utilities in my system which were not linked correctly) but otherwise, INFOVIEW performed surprisingly well in this respect. Links can be defined manually to overcome these few exceptions, but this presupposes that you already know your application so well that you can identify these missing links. Especially in complex systems across several volumes, duplication (e.g. of names of programs) can occur, and INFOVIEW tracks these automatically. It also provides utilities to compare and cleanup program and system tables, which can ideally be used before actually building any links.

Once built, the knowledge base can be easily queried to provide a report (on-screen and/or to the printer) of the links between any items in the system. The on-screen report allows selection of any visible item to allow navigation around the logical structure of your application. This means that a developer can easily assess the potential implications of a change to, say, a symbolic field or a popup. When changes are actually made, they can be implemented from within INFOVIEW allowing it to audit the changes made and to automatically keep track of amended or deleted links within its knowledge base. There are also utilities to allow definition of access rights for each user of INFOVIEW, making it feasible that an end user (e.g. the Accounts Manager) could peruse the links in the system for purposes of maintenance or enhancement.


INFOVIEW is especially suited for large and complex applications with a wealth of data inter-connections, although I know some smaller systems that could probably benefit from its rigorous analysis. If you are a fan of CASE tools generally, then you will be neither disappointed nor amazed at the range of tasks INFOVIEW can perform. Its huge advantage here is its excellent customisation to fit the Advanced Revelation environment, and its automation of the building and maintenance of the knowledge base. Other packages might give the same analysis features, but INFOVIEW is much faster to build and maintain.


INFOVIEW currently only runs on Advanced Revelation between versions 2.01 and 2.12 (and there are potential problems with internationalisation in the later versions affecting quickdexes.)

Infodex Case is available from Applied Technical Systems of 9300 S/W Barney White Road, Port Orchard, WA 98366-9136. (206) 674 2022. Priced at $299 for the single user version. Multi user version pricing available on request.

(Volume 4, Issue 6, Pages 14,15)
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