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Queries and Views of Programs Using a Relational Database System

Linton, Mark A.
Technical Report Identifier: CSD-83-164
December 1983

Abstract: Large software systems are expensive to develop and maintain. A significant amount of programmer activity in understanding, changing, and debugging these systems is information management. To support these activities more directly, we have designed a programming environment, called OMEGA, that provides powerful mechanisms for accessing and displaying the information in a large software system.

OMEGA uses successful ideas from existing programming environments while trying to correct deficiencies. The major deficiency in these systems is that programmers can only view and manipulate a single logical representation of programs.

To support multiple representations, OMEGA uses a relational database system to manage all program information. Using a database system provides a powerful mechanism for efficient access to a variety of cross-sections of program information, as well as providing traditional database facilities such as concurrency control, data integrity, and crash recovery.

The user interface to OMEGA separates input specification from output display, relies on pointing rather than typing, and exploits interaction in semantic analysis to detect many errors as soon as they are made. By eliminating the traditional textual interface to programs, OMEGA also allows the unification of the different abstraction mechanisms present in traditional programming environments.

We have experimented with the ideas in OMEGA by designing a relational schema for software written in a particular programming language, and by implementing a program that transfers existing programs, stored as text, into a database managed by an "off-the-shelf" database system. A prototype visual interface to the program database has also been implemented.

The results of this thesis are new models of program representation and user interaction for software development systems. The model of program representation can be expressed in the relational data model, and software can therefore be manipulated easily and powerfully using relational calculus. Our experimental implementation demonstrates the feasibility of using a relational database system, and provides insights into potential problems and how they might be solved.