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Communications of the ACM

Surveying current research in object-oriented design


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The state of object-oriented is evolving rapidly. This survey describes what are currently thought to be the key ideas. Although it is necessarily incomplete, it contains both academic and industrial efforts and describes work in both the United States and Europe. It ignores well-known ideas, like that of Coad and Meyer [34], in favor of less widely known projects.Research in object-oriented design can be divided many ways. Some research is focused on describing a design process. Some is focused on finding rules for good designs. A third approach is to build tools to support design. Most of the research described in this article does all three.We first present work from Alan Snyder at Hewlett-Packard on developing a common framework for object-oriented terminology. The goal of this effort is to develop and communicate a corporate-wide common language for specifying and communicating about objects.We next look into the research activity at Hewlett-Packard, led by Dennis de Champeaux. De Champeaux is developing a model for object-based analysis. His current research focuses on the use of a trigger-based model for inter-object communications and development of a top-down approach to analysis using ensembles.We then survey two research activities that prescribe the design process. Rebecca Wirfs-Brock from Tektronix has been developing an object-oriented design method that focuses on object responsibilities and collaborations. The method includes graphical tools for improving encapsulation and understanding patterns of object communication. Trygve Reenskaug at the Center for Industriforskning in Oslo, Norway has been developing an object-oriented design method that focuses on roles, synthesis, and structuring. The method, called Object-Oriented Role Analysis, Syntheses and Structuring, is based on first modeling small sub-problems, and then combining small models into larger ones in a controlled manner using both inheritance (synthesis) and run-time binding (structuring).We then present investigations by Ralph Johnson at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign into object-oriented frameworks and the reuse of large-scale designs. A framework is a high-level design or application architecture and consists of a suite of classes that are specifically designed to be refined and used as a group. Past work has focused on describing frameworks and how they are developed. Current work includes the design of tools to make it easier to design frameworks.Finally, we present some results from the research group in object-oriented software engineering at Northeastern University, led by Karl Lieberherr. They have been working on object-oriented Computer Assisted Software Engineering (CASE) technology, called the Demeterm system, which generates language-specific class definitions from language-independent class dictionaries. The Demeter system include tools for checking design rules and for implementing a design.

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