Visual Programming in Prolog

Holland, Simon (1991). Visual Programming in Prolog. In: Sixth International PEG Conference on Knowledge-Based Environments for Teaching and Learning, 31 May - 02 Jun 1991, Rapallo (Genova), Italy.


A new, simple, complete visual formalism for programming in Prolog is presented. The formalism is shown to be equivalent to the standard textual notation for Prolog. We demonstrate some kinds of relationships and styles of programming that appear to be particularly lucid for novices when presented in the graphic notation, while other aspects of Prolog are identified that are clearer in the standard notation. The symbolism is proposed as a specialised complement, but not a replacement, for the traditional notation. The design of a computer interface called VPP is presented that supports visual programming in Prolog using the graphical notation. We discuss a prototype of VPP that has been implemented. We give examples to demonstrate how VPP has the capacity to allow users with little or no knowledge of Prolog to explore, understand, modify and create Prolog programs used to represent domain expertise in intelligent tutoring systems and interactive learning environments. We argue that the use of VPP may have advantages for beginners in the early stages of learning to program in Prolog, and may help to avoid certain misconceptions. We informally analyse the structure and properties of the notation from an abstract human-machine interaction viewpoint. An extension of the interpreter (dubbed VPE) designed for visualising Prolog execution spaces is presented. The limitations and possibilities for further work of both systems are identified and discussed.

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