Year of Publication

2000

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Engineering

Department

Computer Science

First Advisor

Victor Marek

Abstract

Software is often capable of efficiently storing and managing data on computers. However, even software systems that store and manage data efficiently often do an inadequate job of presenting data to users. A prototypical example is the display of raw data in the tabular results of SQL queries. Users may need a presentation that is sensitive to data values and sensitive to domain conventions. One way to enhance presentation is to generate documents that correctly convey the data to users, taking into account the needs of the user and the values in the data. I have designed and implemented a software approach to generating human-readable documents in a variety of domains. The software to generate a document is called a {\em computational register}, or ``register'' for short. A {\em register system} is a software package for authoring and managing individual registers. Registers generating documents in various domains may be managed by one register system. In this thesis I describe computational registers at an architectural level and discuss registers as implemented in DEXTER, my register system. Input to DEXTER registers is a set of SQL query results. DEXTER registers use a rule-based approach to create a document outline from the input. A register creates the output document by using flexible templates to express the document outline. The register approach is unique in several ways. Content determination and structural planning are carried out sequentially rather than simultaneously. Content planning itself is broken down into data re-representation followed by content selection. No advanced linguistic knowledge is required to understand the approach. Register authoring follows a course very similar to writing a single document. The internal data representation and content planning steps allow registers to use flexible templates, rather than more abstract grammar-based approaches, to render the final document, Computational registers are applicable in a variety of domains. What registers can be written is restricted not by domain, but by the original data representation. Finally, DEXTER shows that a single software suite can assist in authoring and management of a variety of registers.

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