Emerging from the MIST: A Connector Tool for Supporting Programming by Non-programmers
McCrickard, D. Scott
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Software development is an iterative process. As user re-quirements emerge software applications must be extended to support the new requirements. Typically, a programmer will add new code to an existing code base of an application to provide a new functionality. Previous research has shown that such extensions are easier when application logic is clearly separated from the user interface logic. Assuming that a programmer is already familiar with the existing code base, the task of writing the new code can be considered to be split into two sub-tasks: writing code for the application logic; that is, the actual functionality of the application; and writing code for the user interface that will expose the functionality to the end user. The goal of this research is to reduce the effort required to create a user interface once the application logic has been created, toward supporting scientists with minimal pro-gramming knowledge to be able to create and modify pro-grams. Using a Model View Controller based architecture, various model components which contain the application logic can be built and extended. The process of creating and extending the views (user interfaces) on these model components is simplified through the use of our Malleable Interactive Software Toolkit (MIST), a tool set an infrastructure intended to simplify the design and extension of dynamically reconfigurable interfaces. This paper focuses on one tool in the MIST suite, a connec-tor tool that enables the programmer to evolve the user interface as the application logic evolves by connecting related pieces of code together; either through simple drag-and-drop interactions or through the authoring of Python code. The connector tool exemplifies the types of tools in the MIST suite, which we expect will encourage collabora-tive development of applications by allowing users to inte-grate various components and minimizing the cost of de-veloping new user interfaces for the combined compo-nents.