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SELECT ONE OR MORE CONTAINER OBJECTS
DISPLAY IN ONE WINDOW OBJECTS IN EACH SELECTED CONTAINER OBJECT
GRAPHICAL INTERFACE METHOD,
APPARATUS AND APPLICATION FOR
OPENING WINDOW OF ALL DESIGNATED
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION AND
STATE OF THE PRIOR ART
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to graphical user interfaces. More particularly, the invention relates to a method, appa- 10 ratus and application for opening a single window showing the contents for all designated container objects.
2. Description of Related Art
In order to better understand the terms utilized in this 15 patent application, a brief background definition section will be presented so that the reader will have a common understanding of the terms employed and associated with the present invention.
A "user interface" is a group of techniques and mecha- 2o nisms that a person employs to interact with an object presented in a window. The user interface is developed to fit the needs or requirements of the users who use the object. Commonly known user interfaces can include telephone push buttons or dials, or pushbuttons such as on a VCR or 25 a television set remote. With a computer, many interfaces not only allow the user to communicate with the computer but also allow the computer to communicate with the user. These would include (1) commandline user interfaces (i.e., user remembered commands which he/she enters, e.g. 30 "C:>DIR" in which "DIR" is a typical DOS command entered at the "C" prompt); (2) menu-driven user interfaces which present an organized set of choices for the user, and (3) graphical user interfaces, ("GUI") in which the user points to and interacts with elements of the interface that are 35 visible, for example by a "mouse" controlled arrow or cursor.
An example of a GUI user interface is that which is offered by International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) under the name "Common User Access" ("CUA"). 40 This GUI incorporates elements of object orientation (i.e., the user's focus is on objects and the concept of applications is hidden). Object orientation of the interfaces allow for an interconnection of the working environment in which each element, called an "object," can interact with every other 45 object. The objects users require to perform their tasks and the objects used by the operating environment can work cooperatively in one seamless interface. With objected oriented programming using a GUI, the boundaries that distinguish applications from operating systems are no longer 50 apparent or relevant to the user.
In connection with this patent application, an "object" means any visual component of a user interface that a user can work with as a unit, independent of other items, to perform a task. By way of example, a spreadsheet, one cell 55 in a spreadsheet, a bar chart, one bar in a bar chart, a report, a paragraph in a report, a database, one record in a database, and a printer are all objects. Each object can be represented by one or more graphic images, called "icons," with which a user interacts, much as a user interacts with objects in the 60 real world. (NOTE: In the real world, an object might be an item that a person requires to perform work. As an example, an architect's objects might include a scale, T-square, a sharp pencil, while an accountant's objects might include a ledger and a calculator.) However, it is not required that an 65 object always be represented by an icon, and not all interaction is accomplished by way of icons. For example, and as
will be seen hereinafter, a user can interact with an object by opening a window that displays more information about the object and includes a variety of mechanisms for interacting with the object.
While classification of objects may follow many different definitions, each class of objects has a primary purpose that separates it from the other classes. A class may be looked at as a group of objects that have similar behavior and information structures. In addition, each of the objects enumerated and defined below may contain other objects. There are three primary classes of objects. Each is discussed below.
(1) Container Object: This object holds other objects. Its principal purpose is to provide the user with a way to hold or group related objects for easy access or retrieval. An operating system, e.g. OS/2200 (a trademark of IBM Corporation) or Windows® (a trademark of Microsoft Corporation), typically provides a general-purpose container, for example a folder or a program group—that holds any type of object, including other containers. For example, imagine a program group (or folder) labeled "PRIVATE FOLDER—ICONS". In the program group are three folder icons labeled "REPORTS", "PORTFOLIO" and "LETTERS". By selecting with a mouse or other pointing device the icon "PORTFOLIO", another window may open showing three more icons labeled "OIL PAINTINGS", "WATERCOLORS", and "PORTRAITS," respectively. In turn, selecting any of those three icons may open additional windows with further icons representing further subdivisions, or cross-references (e.g., "CUSTOMERS")).
(2) Data objects: The principal purpose of a data object is to convey information. This information may be textual or graphical information or even audio or video information. For example, a business report displayed on the computer monitor may contain textual information concerning sales of "gadgets" over the past few years (text object) to all customers and also may contain a bar chart (graphic object) to pictorially depict, on the same monitor screen, the sales information.
(3) Device Objects: The principal purpose of a device object is to provide a communication vehicle between the computer and another physical or logical object. Many times the device object represents a physical object in the real world. For example, a mouse object or icon can represent the user's pointing device, and a modem object can represent the user's modem, or a printer object or icon can represent the user's printer. Other device objects are purely logical, e.g. an out-basket icon representing outgoing electronic mail; a wastebasket object or icon representing a way the user may "trash" or dispose of other objects.
As can be seen from the foregoing, a class of objects may be defined as a description of the common characteristics of several objects, or a template or model which represents how the objects contained in the class are structured. While there are further ways in which to define objects and class of objects, typically each class of objects will include similar attributes, the values of which the user will alter, modify, replace or remove from time to time. (For a more complete discussion of objects, attributes, object oriented interfaces etc., see "Object Oriented Interface Design: IBM Common User Access" (published by Que, ISBN 1-56529-170-0).
Suppose the user desires to see the contents of several container objects. The container objects may or may not be shown in the same window. Current graphical interface architectures do not provide a mechanism to facilitate viewing the contents of several container objects simultaneously, particularly where the container objects are in different
windows. Typically, the application will open multiple windows when the user wants to see the contents of multiple container objects. This frequently is inconvenient and cumbersome for the user.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
In view of the above, it is a principal object of the present invention to provide a graphically oriented method, application and apparatus to facilitate viewing the contents of multiple container objects.
Yet another object of the present invention is to permit the user to conveniently view the contents of multiple container objects.
Still another object of the present invention is to provide an application which may be employed in a number of different computers, may be transported between different computers, and may be loaded into various computer environments.
The invention is carried out in the following environment. The computer system has at least a visual operator interface, an operating system for operating applications within the computer system, and memory for storing at least part, preferably all, of an application. The present invention is of an application, apparatus, and method for selecting multiple container objects whose contents are to be viewed, and displaying in one window the contents of all of the selected container objects.
Other objects of the invention and a more complete understanding of the invention may be had by referring to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING(S)
FIG. 1 illustrates a typical desktop computer system which may be employed to practice the novel method and application of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating a sample configuration of the computer system shown in FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a typical screen display showing initial graphically oriented program groups arranged on the display, and illustrating the means for activation of the "Database" and the "Spreadsheet" objects;
FIG. 3A illustrates the conventional display of a separate window to show the contents of each of the "Database" object as well as the "Spreadsheet" object;
FIG. 3B is a typical screen display illustrating the method of the present invention of displaying in one window the contents of multiple selected container objects; and
FIG. 4 is a logic diagram flow chart illustrating the method of the present invention.
DESCRIPTION OF THE ILLUSTRATIVE
Turning now to the drawings, and especially FIGS. 1 and 2, FIG. 1 diagrammaticaily shows a computer system 1 which may be connected to a Local Area Network system (LAN 20) as shown in FIG. 2. As will become more evident from the following discussion, these systems may be employed for globally changing attribute values of selected objects in accordance with the present invention.
As shown in FIG. 1, the computer system 1 comprises a main chassis 10, a display means or monitor 12, a connected keyboard 16 and a pointing device, in the present instance a mouse 18 which is operator controlled to move a pointer
cursor 12b (shown in FIG. 3) on the display or monitor screen 12c. As shown in FIG. 2, the chassis 10 includes a central processing unit, or "CPU" 5, a memory manager and associated random access memory, or "RAM" 6, a fixed disk or hard drive 8 (which may include its associated disk controller), a display manager 12a which is connected externally to the chassis 10 of the display 12; a keyboard manager 16a, which through flexible cable (not shown) is connected to the keyboard 16; a mouse manager 17 (which in some instances may form part of the display manager 12a, and may be in the form of a software driver) for reading the motion of the mouse 18 and its control mouse buttons (MB) 18a and 18fc, shown in FIG. 1. A disk manager or controller 13a which controls the action of the disk drive 13 (and an optional drive such as a magneto-optical or CD ROM drive 14) shown in FIG. 1, rounds out most of the major elements of the computer system 1.
The pointer element or cursor 12b can be moved over the display screen 12c by movement of the mouse 18. The mouse buttons (MB) 18a and 18fc give commands to the operating system, usually through a software mouse driver provided by the mouse manufacturer. With the first mouse button (MB) 18a the operator can select an element indicated on the display screen 12c using the pointer or cursor 12b, i.e., signify that an action subsequently to be performed is to be carried out on the data represented by the indicated element on the display screen 12c. The system normally gives some visual feedback to the operator to indicate the element selected, such as a change in color, or a blocking of the icon. The second mouse button (MB) 18fc may be a menu button, if desired. Conventionally, when the operator presses button 18fc, a selection menu or dialog with system commands will appear on the display screen 12c. The operator may select an icon or item from the selection menu or input information into the dialog box as appropriate using the cursor 12b and the first mouse button (MB) 18a. Some menu items, if selected, may call up another menu or submenu for the operator to continue the selection process.
The use of a mouse and selection menus is well known in the art, for example U.S. Pat. No. 4,464,652 to Lapson et al. describes a selection menu of the pull-down type in combination with a mouse. It should be recognized, of course, that other cursor pointing devices may be employed, for example a joystick, ball and socket, or cursor keys on the keyboard.
The foregoing devices (and software drivers therefore) within the chassis 10 communicate with one another via a bus 7. To round out the computer system 1, an operating system (not shown) must be employed. If the computer system is a typical IBM-based system, the operating system may be DOS-based and include a GUI interface such as contained in OS/2®, or WINDOWS®, or other operating system of choice. If the computer system is based upon RISC (reduced instruction set computer) architecture, then the operating system employed may be, in the instance of an IBM-based RISC architectured System/6000®, AIX. Alternatively, if the computer system 1 is a large host computer, such as a an IBM 3090, it may be running an operating system such as MVS or VM. This operating system normally includes a print service facility called PSF, which is a system-wide resource manager, which takes a "job" which has been formatted for a particular printer, and sends certain files, such as fonts, special commands and the like to the printer before sending the file to be printed.
By way of background only, if in the illustrated instance the computer system 1 is a RISC system, such as the IBM RISC/6000® computer system, it may be programmed to