EiffelStore DataView Cluster

1. Introduction

DataView cluster helps the programmer creating a GUI for a RDBMS. It gives a basic solution for a RDBMS GUI and also enables the developer to customize his GUI from this basic interface.

This cluster is client of EiffelStore to interface with a RDBMS and EiffelVision2 to create a GUI. However, the use of EiffelStore and EiffelVision 2 is sufficiently encapsulated to let the programmer use other database/graphic libraries.

Notice finally that DataView is based on some common O-O design patterns. Knowing these patterns will help you understand how the library works. It can also give an example of patterns use.

2. Specifications

This part draws the main capabilities that can be expected from the DataView cluster. These capabilities are not exhaustive since the cluster architecture enables to add easily new capabilities to it.

2.1. Required database structure

The cluster has been designed to work well with relational databases on Third Normal Form. Database tables must also have an unique numeric ID.

  • The cluster automatically performs associations between related tables. This is required to work fine with 3rd NF architectures.
  • The unique ID enables to update the database content. If you only intend to display database table content, unique IDs are not required.
  • The numeric ID enables to directly give IDs to new table rows. If you don't intend to create table rows, this is not necessary. Notice that with only a couple of redefinitions, the numeric ID requirement problem can be overcome.

2.2. Database content display

The cluster provides facilities to:

  • display a set of table rows.
  • select a (current) table row in the set.
  • display the current table row so that it can be edited.

For instance, an interface can display a multi-column list of table rows. A given row can be selected in the list and its information can be then edited through a set of text fields and combo-boxes.

The standard cluster usage is to define a GUI that will associate a given frame/window to a given database table, that is, the information that is displayed in a GUI area will be determined at compile-time. This enables to adapt the GUI display to the type of information displayed, which is recommended when creating a GUI for non-developer users (or any people that should not be aware of the database structure and functioning). Nevertheless, determining the type of information displayed by a frame/window at runtime is still possible as not hard-coded.

Abstracting database in the GUI might not be as easy as only changing database attribute fields names. Information to display may not match the database tables structure. However, for consistency reasons, we can assume that he information to display within a GUI area belongs to a set of associated tables. The easiest solution is to create database views that directly contain the information to display on the GUI area. This implies though that the database has to be modified for the GUI needs.

DataView cluster affords a second solution:

  • Model-View separation enables to merge graphically information that is separated in the process part (i.e. that is from a different table).
  • Table associations facilities enable to specify to display automatically content of table rows associated to a given table row. For instance, with a CONTACTS table associated to a COMPANIES table, the cluster can retrieve automatically a COMPANIES table row associated to a selected CONTACTS table row.

2.3. Actions performed on the database

The cluster provides facilities for the following actions:

  • Creating a table row
  • Deleting a table row
  • Updating the content of a table row
  • Selecting a set of table rows

Other capabilities can be added to these ones, for instance by writing descendants of DataView cluster classes that would handle more database operations.

Operations relative to the database structure modification, for instance creating a database table, may be more difficult to add since the database structure is hard-coded. But these advanced capabilities might not be necessary in a GUI for non-developer users.

3. General description

3.1. Global architecture

The DataView cluster is based on 1 class called DV_TABLE_COMPONENT that represents the interface for 1 relational database table. An architecture using DataView is centered on database table structure rather than the GUI structure. The basic idea is to have:

This is then possible to adapt the code to have a GUI meeting the specifications, database structure can be totally abstracted in the interface, which might be more convenient for non-developer GUI users.

3.2. Library structure

The cluster can be separated into 3 main parts:

  • The model: processes the information and interfaces with an abstract graphic interface (the handle) and an abstract database interface.
  • The handle: defines an abstract graphic interface for the model.
  • The view: implements the handle interface with EiffelVision2 widgets.

The abstract database interface is defined in the EiffelStore generation.tables_access cluster. This cluster can indeed been used independently from the DataView cluster.

3.3. Model cluster structure

The model cluster processes the information retrieved from the GUI and the database and update then both GUI and database.

The cluster is based on the DV_TABLE_COMPONENT class which objects represents a database relational table (or view).

DV_TABLE_COMPONENT objects can be interconnected to match the table associations. The DV_TABLE_COMPONENT class has been designed to work with 3rd Normal Form relational databases. DV_TABLE_COMPONENT achieves most of the work to retrieve associated table rows for a 3NF database. For instance, when deleting a table row, the component ensures that every associated table row is also deleted.

DV_TABLE_COMPONENT objects can be customized by adding some subcomponents to it. Subcomponents enable to display table rows content on screen, to navigate among table rows and to perform different database queries.

Process objects structure for a GUI

3.4. Design patterns

This cluster adapts several well-known O-O design patterns.

3.4.1. Model-View separation pattern

The GUI appearance is totally abstracted in the GUI processing part, this enables to change the GUI display without changing any part of the model part.This is implemented with 2 sets of classes:

  • A set of interfaces that corresponds to each type of abstract widgets needed by the model.
  • A set of classes that implements these interfaces. Notice that an implementation class can implement several interfaces and several classes can implement the same interface.

Let's see an example through a BON diagram:

Model-View separation pattern implementation in DataView

  • Light blue classes represents the model cluster.
  • Orange class represents the handle.
  • Yellow and green classes represents the view cluster.
  • Pink classes represents the EiffelVision2 library.

3.4.2. Strategy pattern

DataView cluster provides the developer with a basic GUI implementation AND lets them customize their application. This is possible with a strategy pattern:

The developer assigns different subcomponents to a DV_TABLE_COMPONENT object to define its behavior. The component object only uses the interface of each subcomponent.

A default implementation is written for each interface to let the user use the cluster as quick as possible. To adapt components behavior to their needs, the developer can then create a new subcomponent class inheriting from the abstract interface.

This BON diagram illustrates this for DV_CREATOR and DV_SEARCHER subcomponents:

Strategy pattern used in DataView model cluster

4. Cluster interface

This part describes how to use the table component class and its subcomponents classes:


This class is responsible for the management of a database table. Its behavior is determined by its assigned subcomponents.

To create a valid and functional DV_TABLE_COMPONENT object, follow these steps:

  1. Call set_tablecode to specify which table the component will deal with.
  2. Specify handlers to output messages .
  3. Set the database handler .
  4. Add different controllers corresponding to actions to perform .
  5. Set subcomponents .
  6. Set associated components .
  7. Call activate to let the component work. This will basically set different default values for non required information not set during the creation process.

The component can then be used on an interface:

  • Input interactions are done via component and subcomponents controllers (4).
  • Output interactions are done via output handlers (2).

4.1.1. Output handlers

Output handlers are specific to the DV_TABLE_COMPONENT object, that is, you can output messages in a different way within your GUI. However, the same handlers will be used for subcomponents.

3 handlers can be set:

  • status_handler to display status information
  • warning_handler to display warning information. Warnings usually correspond to database errors, they are called warnings because the database error is "caught" and the message should enable the user to round the problem.
  • confirmation_handler to ask for confirmation before an action.

These handlers have default values, which are:

  • For status_handler and warning_handler, messages are displayed on standard output (with {ANY}.io.put_string)
  • For confirmation_handler, action is executed without confirmation.

4.1.2. Database handler

This handler is specific to the application. It must inherit from ABSTRACT_DB_TABLE_MANAGER. Since it is specific to the program, it can be set before creating any DV_TABLE_COMPONENT object through {DV_DATABASE_HANDLER}.set_database_handler.The DB_TABLE_MANAGER class is the default database handler for EiffelStore.

4.1.3. Action controllers

No subcomponent is associated to 'write', 'refresh' and 'delete' actions since these actions does not require specific behavioral choices.

To perform 'write', 'refresh' and 'delete' at runtime, a controller is associated to each of these actions. This controller triggers the action when a determined user event is grabbed, for instance, when the user clicks a button.

Controllers are implemented by the abstract class DV_SENSITIVE_CONTROL of cluster user_interactions (handle).

4.1.4. Subcomponents

Subcomponents can be assigned to a table component to specify its behavior to create table rows, select table rows from the database and navigate among selected table rows. A special subcomponent enable to display the current table row, i.e. the table row that can be edited to update the database. The default behavior for these subcomponents is that the functionality is not available, that is, subcomponents are not mandatory.

These components share the table component output handlers. They are automatically activated when table component is activated.

4.1.5. Associated components

Table components can be associated to reflect relation of database tables represented. Associated table components are organized:

  • 1 master component enables to manually select database table rows.
  • Slave components automatically select table rows that are associated to the current table row of the master component.

Note: Notice that table associations can be nested.

2 types of associations are possible to reflect table relations:

  • The slave table is dependent on the master table (1:N relationship)
  • The slave table is necessary for the master table (N:1 relationship)

Let us see an example with 3 relational tables:

Tables architecture and corresponding component objects

The object architecture leads to a GUI where the user can select a company and see the company country information and contacts in this company.

Finally, notice that by default slave components have the same output handlers as their master and slave components are activated when the master component is.

4.2. DV_SEARCHER class

4.2.1. Overview

DV_SEARCHER is responsible for retrieving table rows from the database. Let us see how it interacts with a table component:

Basic relationship between table component class and search class

  • display assigns a set of table rows to the table component.
  • refresh asks to refresh the table rows from the same database query.

DV_SEARCHER component does not afford an extended interface. This interface is defined in its descendants. The implemented DV_SEARCHER descendants are:

4.2.2. DV_TYPED_SEARCHER class

This class provides 3 types of searches:

  • "Every row" search: every rows of a table are fetched.
  • "ID selection" search: the selection is qualified by an ID.
  • "Qualified selection" search: the selection is qualified. "Every row" search

Call read to set table rows on the associated table component. "ID selection" search

Call read_from_tablerow to set table rows on the associated table component. Qualification ID is the ID of the table row in parameter. Table of row in parameter must be the table of rows to select.

This capability is used by DataView cluster in DV_CHOICE_CREATOR to select a just-created table row and display it on the table component. "Qualified selection" search

Call read_from_table row to set table rows on the associated table component. Table of row in parameter may not be the table of rows to select.

To extract the qualifier, the search component needs additional information:

  • The location of the qualifying value in the table row passed in parameter (set_row_attribute_code)
  • The qualifying attribute location in the table rows to select (set_criterion)

This capability is used in DV_TABLE_COMPONENT when a table row is selected to set associated table rows to slave components. Take a look at add_necessary_table and add_dependent_table.


This class enables to create a graphic interface to let user perform basic searches. These searches are qualified by one table attribute. This interface has 5 parts:

Text input fields correspond to handle class DV_SENSITIVE_STRING , typed input fields corresponds to handle class DV_SENSITIVE_INTEGER and Boolean input fields corresponds to handle class DV_SENSITIVE_CHECK .


4.3.1. Overview

Table component class contains a set of table rows. This class lets table component class know which of these rows is the current one.

Basic relationship between table component class and navigation class

DV_CHOICE_CREATOR also uses the class to enable to select associated table rows when creating a new table row (for instance, when creating a company, an existing country should be selected). Let us see how this is designed:


Note: DV_TABLEROWS_COMPONENT class merely carries a set of table rows and enables to select one table row.

DV_CONTROL_NAVIGATOR affords a way to navigate among searched table rows.


This class enables 2 navigation systems:

  • Navigating among table rows with "previous" and "next" controllers.
  • Navigating among table rows through a display list.

Tip: Notice that both systems can be used.

You can directly set controllers for "previous" and"next" actions. A 3rd controller, "edit list", enables to show or raise the display list.

Caution: Notice that DV_CONTROL_NAVIGATOR only manages this controller sensitivity.

You can assign a display list to the navigator with a DV_TABLEROW_LIST component.

4.4. DV_CREATOR class

4.4.1. Overview

This class enables to create database table rows.

Basic relationship between table component class and navigation class

DV_CREATOR class contains minimum information to interact with DV_TABLE_COMPONENT : when a table row is created, a creator component may display it on the table component. In this case, when the table component needs to refresh the table rows set, this refreshing action need to be managed by the creator component:

  • set_just_created informs a table component that displayed table row set comes from the creator component.
  • refresh lets the creation component refresh table component display.

Much of the work, that is row creation, is totally abstracted in DV_CREATOR.DV_CHOICE_CREATOR implements DV_CREATOR and thus affords a creation procedure.

4.4.2. DV_CHOICE_CREATOR class Overview

This class creates a new table row and sets its key values:

  • Database handle gives the primary key value (ID) .
  • The class asks the user for foreign key values (for table associations) by displaying available values in a list.

DV_TABLEROW_NAVIGATOR is used to select a foreign key value, let us see how this is implemented:

DV_CHOICE_CREATOR suppliers for foreign keys selection


Relation between DV_CHOICE_CREATOR and DV_TABLEROW_ID_PROVIDER is basically:


Creation process and DV_CHOICE_CREATOR objects creation procedure can help you use this class. Creation process

Table row creation process is:

  1. Table row creation is triggered by a controller ("create")
  2. DV_CHOICE_CREATOR creates a table row object
  3. DV_CHOICE_CREATOR requests a first foreign key value to DV_TABLEROW_ID_PROVIDER (through select_from_table)
  4. DV_TABLEROW_ID_PROVIDER loads the available table rows that can be referenced
  5. DV_TABLEROW_ID_PROVIDER assigns the table rows to DV_TABLEROWS_NAVIGATOR and pops up the interface with the table rows
  6. Table row selection is triggered by a controller ("ok")
  7. DV_TABLEROW_ID_PROVIDER retrieves the selected table row ID and gives it back to DV_CHOICE_CREATOR (through add_foreign_key_value)
  8. DV_CHOICE_CREATOR requests other foreign key values to DV_TABLEROW_ID_PROVIDER
  9. DV_CHOICE_CREATOR creates the database row with a new ID through the database handle Objects creation procedure

To create a DV_CHOICE_CREATOR, follow these steps:

  1. Create an object conforming to DV_TABLEROWS_NAVIGATOR
  2. Create a DV_TABLEROW_ID_PROVIDER object and assign the DV_TABLEROWS_NAVIGATOR object to it
  3. Set a controller to trigger foreign key selection
  4. Set the action to perform to pop up the interface to select the foreign key
  5. Create a DV_CHOICE_CREATOR object and assign the DV_TABLEROW_ID_PROVIDER object to it
  6. Set a controller to trigger table row creation


4.5.1. Overview

This class enable to display and edit the current table row of a table component. Let us see first how it interacts with the table component:


  • refresh_tablerow refreshes display with a new table row
  • update_tablerow requests an updated table row for database update. Unchanged values are kept from a default table row
  • updated_tablerow is the last updated table row

The class contains a list of fields that represent editable table attributes.The design is simple:

Table row edition capability design

4.5.2. DV_TABLEROW_FIELD class

This class enables to edit a table row attribute value. The view is abstracted using the handle cluster DV_SENSITIVE_STRING class that represents the editable text value .

This class manages a field value but can also provide field name and type if graphic fields are provided. Notice that standard DV_TABLEROW_FIELD objects can be generated through the DV_FACTORY class, which is a component factory.

5. Handle cluster

This cluster provides the model with an interface to input or output data on the GUI. This enables to remove any link to a graphic implementation in the model, following the Model-View separation design pattern. The cluster contains a set of interface classes to design this:


The DV_SENSITIVE_CONTROL class lets a model class trigger a specific action on a determined user event. Furthermore, the model class lets the user know when its state enables to trigger the action, by setting the controller sensitivity (i.e. if the controller is insensitive, the action cannot be triggered).

Note: sensitivity excepted, these controllers could have been implemented by Eiffel agents.

Note: sensitivity enables to let the user know beforetriggering an action if this is possible or not. The other possibility is to let the user know after trying to trigger the action that it was not possible(with a warning for instance): this is often less convenient.

The standard controllers are buttons or menu items: the specific action is triggered when button is clicked or menu item selected.

DV_SENSITIVE_CONTROL is inherited by DV_BUTTON that implements an EiffelVision2 button. Other implementations can be added, such as a menu item.


The DV_SENSITIVE_STRING class lets a model class input or output a text graphically. As for controllers, the model class lets the user know when a text value can be input by setting the widget sensitivity.

The standard graphical widgets to perform this are text fields, but several other widgets can be used:

  • A combo-box so that the interface can suggest different values.
  • A label if the text only need to be output.

Note: customized, specific widgets can be defined, you can for instance take a look at the DV_STRING_LIST class.


This class lets a model class input or output an INTEGER value graphically. As for controllers, the model class lets the user know when an integer value can be input by setting the widget sensitivity.

Different widgets can be used to implement this:

  • A text field. Notice that the value entered should be checked to ensure it is an INTEGER value.
  • A combo-box. Each combo-box option is associated to an integer.
  • A scroll button.


This class lets a model class input or output a BOOLEAN value graphically. As for controllers, the model class lets the user know when a Boolean value can be input by setting the widget sensitivity.

The standard widget to implement this is a check box.


The DV_TABLEROW_LIST class provides an interface to display a set of table rows so that the user can select a particular row.

  • The model can be informed of a row selection or deselection: the class accepts actions (implemented by agents) that are triggered when a row is selected or deselected.
  • The model can retrieve the currently selected row: the class yields the current index position in the list.

DV_TABLEROW_MULTILIST implements DV_TABLEROW_LIST with an EiffelVision2 multi-column list.

Note: This class is used for the standard implementation of DV_TABLEROW_NAVIGATOR to navigate among table rows selected from the database.