We have developed a drag-and-drop information-centric paradigm, in which applications as discrete entities no longer appear. The information-centric approach is the next logical step along the path from application-centric architectures to the modern document-centric approach. The distinctions among these approaches hinges on differences in the "basic currency" through which the users interact with the system.
In application-centric architectures, the basic currency is the file. With the introduction of graphical user interfaces and the desktop metaphor, files became concrete visual objects. They could be directly manipulated by the user, stored on the desktop or in folders, and--to a limited extent--arranged by users and software in semantically meaningful ways. But the contents of those files were still out of direct reach of the user.
With the document-centric interface the basic currency is no longer the file, but the document. The application's role is subordinated and the user focuses on direct manipulations of documents; users can almost literally "get their hands on" their documents.
The information-centric approach represented in Visage is simply a natural continuation of these trends. Visage abandons the primacy of the document wrapper as the central focus of user interaction in favor of the data element as the basic currency of the interface. Visage permits direct drag-and-drop manipulation of data elements at any level of granularity. A numeric entry in a table, selected bars from a bar chart, and a complex presentation graphic are all first-class candidates for user manipulations. Several Visage representations illustrate these points.
Hints of this approach may be found in a few existing interfaces. Recent versions of Microsoft Word support the ability of the user to drag selected text from one place in the document to another. In Visage, this capability is promoted from a special-purpose feature to a ubiquitously available capability that can be used everywhere in the environment. It becomes part of the "interface physics," empowering the user to perform directly unique actions that usually require knowledge of specialized interface features.
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