Similarity inheritance : a model of inheritance for declarative visual programming languages Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/9306t150w

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  • Declarative visual programming languages (VPLs), including spreadsheets, make up a large portion of both research and commercial VPLs. Spreadsheets in particular enjoy a wide audience, including end users. Unfortunately, spreadsheets and most other declarative VPLs still suffer from some of the problems that have been solved in other languages, such as ad-hoc (cut-and-paste) reuse of code which has been remedied in object-oriented languages, for example, through the code-reuse mechanism of inheritance. We believe spreadsheets and other declarative VPLs can benefit from the addition of an inheritance-like mechanism for fine-grained code reuse. This dissertation first examines the opportunities for supporting reuse inherent in declarative VPLs, and then introduces similarity inheritance and describes a prototype of this model in the research spreadsheet language Forms/3. Similarity inheritance is very flexible, allowing multiple granularities of code sharing and even mutual inheritance; it includes explicit representations of inherited code and all sharing relationships, and it subsumes the current spreadsheet mechanisms for formula propagation, providing a gradual migration from simple formula reuse to more sophisticated uses of inheritance among objects. Since the inheritance model separates inheritance from types, we investigate what notion of types is appropriate to support reuse of functions on different types (operation polymorphism). Because it is important to us that immediate feedback, which is characteristic of many VPLs, be preserved, including feedback with respect to type errors, we introduce a model of types suitable for static type inference in the presence of operation polymorphism with similarity inheritance.
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