Sue E. Borchardt, Stanley I. Letovsky, Kenneth H. Fasman, Laurie C. Kramer, Karen J. Phipps, Lita A. Kearney, Deborah J. Schneider, and Thomas C. Emmel
Division of Biomedical Information Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore MD 21205-2236
Prior to the latest release of GDB, users were able to access the database using the APT interface or a World Wide Web (WWW) client. Both of these applications were hand-coded based on the schema and were therefore difficult to maintain. Both applications were further limited by their inability to display graphical query results such as genomic maps. With the release of GDB version 6.0 come new and better ways for users to contribute and view data. Additionally, recognizing the diversity of our users' needs, we have abandoned the approach of providing all functionality in a single application. We are developing different tools for different tasks.
The means for querying and editing GDB in the 6.0 release is provided via a WWW interface. The query and edit forms are generated automatically from the GDB 6.0 schema using the Genera toolkit [l] modified to use an OPM  object-oriented schema. The Genera-created application provides a consistent low-level interface that allows users to move easily between query, update, and insert operations. The results of some queries, such as genomic maps, cannot be usefully represented in a generic form-based display. These genomic maps are displayed graphically using a Web external viewer (helper application) that is integrated with Netscape[TM] to provide the capability to query further on objects contained in a map. This map viewer was written using a cross-platform development tool that allows us to support many hardware platforms while maintaining a single body of code.
We hope the move to more generic, data-driven applications will allow user interfaces to develop more independently of the database. This independence should allow a wider variety of applications, including higher-level query tools, report generators, and graphical editors. We are investigating the use of new technologies such as Sun's Java which will allow us to respond to our users' needs by prototyping applications more quickly. We seek the community's feedback on this new generation of tools to determine what enhancements and additional programs are needed to serve GDB's users in the future.
[ 1] Letovsky, S.I., and Berlyn, M.B. Genera: A specification driven Web/database gateway tool. http://gdbdoc.gdb.org/letovsky/wgen.html
 Chen, I.A., and Markowitz, V.M. An overview of the Object-Protocol Model (OPM) and OPM data management tools. http://gizmo.lbl.gov/DM_TOOLS/OPM/doc/OPM_3/Overview.ps
*Supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DE-FC02-9ER6130), the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and the Science and Technology Agency of Japan, with additional support from the Medical Research Council of the United Kingdom. the INSERM of France, and the European Union.
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