User interface management tool or user interface management system (UIMS) is a method used to separate domain logic in a computer program from graphical user interface (GUI) code. User interface management tools act as an intermediary between a user and an application. The user’s request for a certain action from the application and the application’s request for data from the user travel with the help of user interface management tools.
User interface management tools help improve the efficiency of the user interface and speed up the process of user interface interaction. UIMS support multilayer architecture by creating a boundary between the process and user interface. The current focus of user interface management tools is on implementation and maintenance but the designing and testing phase of user interface management tools is expected to grow in the future.
User interface management tools have three components or layers: windowing system, toolkit and higher-level tools. The windowing system is the lowest layer that separates the screen into various sections, known as windows. The windowing system can be further segmented into two layers, window system or base layer and window manager or user interface. Window manager or user interface includes features which a user can see. Presentation and command are the two layers of window manager or user interface. Presentation includes pictures which are displayed by user interface whereas commands help the user manipulate the content in windows.
Toolkit is the layer above the windowing system. It contains widgets such as scroll bars, menus, text input fields, and buttons. The higher-level tools, which are present above the toolkit, help the designer in utilizing toolkit widgets.
The difficulty and complexity involved in the design and implementation of user interface toolkits is one of the major challenges faced by developers. However, niche sectors such as multimedia, distributed systems and geographical information systems are expected to experience higher growth in demand for user interface tools.
The two main advantages of using user interface management tools are enhancement in the quality of the interface and cost-effective and simplicity in creating and maintaining the interface.
User interface management tools can be segmented on the basis of platforms. They can run on platforms such as Macintosh, OS X, and Windows. User interface management systems can be available either commercially or through open source. Some of the user interface management tools available for free are the xt toolkit provided by research organizations. Most toolkits, which are embedded in workstations and personal computers, are also available for free. Some of the toolkits are commercially available. The market for commercially available toolkits is highly fragmented due to the availability of many different tools provided by small and medium-sized suppliers.
A few examples of the user interface management systems and models are HyperCard, Model - View - Controller, Model – View – Presenter, Picasso – 3, and ProcSee. HyperCard is a programing tool for Apple Macintosh and Apple II series computers. It features Hyper Talk. Hyper Talk is a programming language for manipulating data and the user interface. Similarly, Model–view–controller is a programing tool to implement user interfaces on computers. It is used for desktop graphical user interfaces (GUIs).
Some of the players providing either embedded or commercial toolkits are Apple Computer Inc., Adobe Systems Inc., Blue Sky Software Corporation, Asymetrix Corporation, and Garnet toolkit.
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