Active documents, agents, and coordination

With support from

In the last two years we have been developing XML-based technologies for addressing some specific notations, eg. for software engineering. For instance, we are able to visualize and manipulate inside standard browsers like MS Explorer graphically complex notations like Petri Nets, UML, and Z.

See The Displets Project

We intend to capitalize such experience to develop a concept that we call here XFolders (eXtented Folders), which extends the basic desktop metaphore with active document spaces useful for groupware applications. Starting from the observation that documents are the basis of collaborative work applications, it is natural to think about documents as basic coordination entities for distributed collaborative environments.

Active documents can take the place of other data structures used in data driven coordination models and lead to the design of a high level coordination model that can be used to manage complex document-driven applications. Our approach is to move coordination facilities as close as possible to the users while presenting a known interface.

XFolders are special folders (accessed possibly using the host operating system's standard graphical interface) that contain both active mobile documents and a set of rules. The rules are fired when some document becomes available (or is in some state); the actions performed by the rules are activations of document behaviors. Thus, we intend to explore the technology of coordination languages applying it to XML-based document management systems.