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FreeTM: A Web-Based Topic Map Tool

George Tryfon, Anastasia Papastergiou, and Panayiotis Tzekis, and Athanasios Hatzigaidas
Department of Electronics, Department of Sciences Alexander Technological Educational Institution of Thessaloniki Sindos, 57400, Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Greece georgetryfon@freemail.gr, {natp,tzekis,sakis}@el.teithe.gr

Abstract. The aim of this work is to present the architecture and functionalities of Free-TM, a web-based tool for creating, managing and sharing topic maps. A client/server architecture was developed that enables several clients to interact simultaneously online with the topic map based-system enabling the distribution of knowledge via a simple Internet browser, anywhere and anytime. The user-friendly GUI serves as a useful guide at the overall process of managing Topic Maps.

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Introduction

Semantic Web Technologies such as Topic Maps (TM), provide a revolutionary way for information description and knowledge management [1-2]. Topic Maps are a stable and reliable international standard implying that they are ideal for knowledge management applications [3-7]. However, in order to exploit the potentials of TM technology there is an increasing need for software development to manage topic maps in an efficient way. A number of commercial and noncommercial tools that support editing and managing of Topic Maps are available. These tools could assist the TM developers in creating topic maps as well as in efficient management, query and storage of TM based knowledge bases. However, after a short evaluation of existing TM tools, we haven’t been aware of the existence of a complete free software editor for TM that provides all the features that could support TM developers [8-11]. There is still place for a free and efficient software tool for TM editing, and this was the main motivation for this research work. The aim of this paper is to present a software tool, FreeTM, which helps endusers to access information in an organized way, by employing Topic Maps, so as to make it findable and more relevant. The main point in which the proposed editor differs is the fact that is a complete free TM tool which is web based and provides easy and efficient Topic Map managing and sharing among multiple users. It is built on recognized international standards regarding the organization of information and on best-practice information architecture. The proposed software tool is a Topic Maps editor that is based on the separation of the Topic Map knowledge structure from the actual content, which is data-driven, allowing
Maicher, L.; Garshol, L. M. (Eds.): Linked Topic Maps. Fifth International Conference on Topic Maps Research and Applications, TMRA 2009 Leipzig, Germany, November 12–13, 2009 Revised Selected Papers. Leipziger Beiträge zur Informatik. ISBN 978-3-941608-06-1

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a high degree of flexibility while manipulating both Topic Maps and Schemas in an efficient way.

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Describing Previous Work

In our previous work we implemented Topic Maps accompanying to other technologies in an effort to revolutionize the ways in which we access information. The ultimate goal of the research efforts of our team has been the modeling and the representation of knowledge in an interchangeable form so as to provide a unifying framework for knowledge and information management in many cases. During this research effort, our first attempt resulted to the design and implementation of two TM tools, TMed [9] and Atop [10] aiming to meet most of the requirements that such a tool should employ, giving to our team valuable inputs . Another approach based on Topic Maps has been an advanced TM software tool, Yellow TM [11], implemented to support the development of TM-based knowledge management systems and applications. Yellow-TM was a Java-based application that has been implemented as a module under NetBeans platform [12] while client/server communication was established via Web Services. In YellowTM approach an open source Java library, TM4J [13], was used for TM manipulation in conjunction to TMAPI interface [14], in a way that any client developer that worked with TMAPI, could connect and display the topic maps in its own way. The structure of any Topic Map was derived from TM Schema, which is a collection of rules. We concluded that a number of design principles should be implemented in a way that an application for Topic Maps should be useful. That is, flexible extendable architecture, persistent storage of TM, more comfortable user interfaces offering enhanced editing functionalities, visualization for interactive exploration and editing of topic maps, as well as implementations of constraint languages, query and reasoning support via friendly user interfaces [8-11]. Problems with previous approaches that have been overcome in FreeTM are stated below: – Difficult installation process on both server and, especially, client side – Time consuming – Necessity for great amounts of memory

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Architecture and Implied Technologies

Topic Map standard refers to knowledge management, so it is essential that a software tool for administering topic maps should support simultaneous access by numerous clients. A 3-tier architecture that supports effective distributed client/server design was implemented supporting increased performance, flexibility, maintainability and scalability. Due to this approach any complexity of distributed processing is not visible to the client.

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The proposed software tool, FreeTM, employs a 3-tier architecture where a repository that contains all the XTM files, the TM engine and the web server are on the server side. Free TM is a Java-based application implemented using NetBeans IDE [12]. The client-server communication in a network is established via making remote procedure calls (RPC) supported by the Google Web Toolkit (GWT) [15]. This approach contributes to reduced bandwidth, improved performance, reduced server load, and improved user experience. The most important feature of RPC is the support of asynchronous calls which renders true parallelism in the FreeTM application, even without multi-threading [15-17]. The Topic Map engine that resides in the server uses tinyTIM [18], which is a very small, easy to handle, in memory Topic Map engine. tinyTIM implements the TMAPI interfaces and as a consequence it can work with Topic Maps via the TMAPI standard. TMPAPI is a programming interface for accessing and manipulating data held in a Topic Map providing a single common API which can be adopted for coding by all developers [14]. The “TM Engine” is the core of the FreeTM software tool. It is a software development kit that implements the Topic Maps standard and allows end-users to access and manipulate all the elements that are associated to TMs, such as topics, occurrences, associations, roles and properties. In the proposed implementation of the Topic Map Editor, FreeTM, the collection of rules which constraint the structure of each Topic Map is defined by the accompanying Topic Map Schema which is also an XTM file. Each Schema provides the constraints for validating new TM entries at run time so as to follow the predefined structure of each TM. FreeTM is based on open standards to

Fig. 1. Architecture of FreeTM

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provide end-users with easy manipulation of Topic Maps and the accompanying TM Schemas. In the application server, all Topic Maps reside under a specific directory, in which each Topic Map accompanying to a certain schema comprises a folder named after the name of the Topic Map. As a consequence, the end-user has access to the whole number of the Topic Maps, except from one, called “Users”. This specific folder contains the topic map that describes all the users, of Topic Type User, that have been created accompanying to other information that refers to the Topic Maps. That is, information that describes which Topic Maps belong to each user, which of them can be seen to each user etc.

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Functionality of the Proposed Tool

FreeTM is a software tool that supports the manipulation of numerous Topic Maps and as a result it can be used at almost any large project that uses Topic Maps. Using FreeTM does not indicate the user’s awareness of particular syntaxes and specifications relating to Topic Maps even though the knowledge of some basic concepts, i.e. association, occurrence, types, is essential. In that sense, the user does not need to know the exact syntax of the XTM files due to the user-friendly GUI that serves as a useful guide at the overall process of managing Topic Maps. FreeTM provides a great potentiality when a user needs to create, edit and manage a Topic Map (Figure 2). Editing of Topic Maps is based on the constraints that have been defined by the owner of the Topic Map using Topic Map Schema GUI (Figure 3). As a consequence this set of rules guides the user when editing Topic Maps and any further modification on the rules does not have any impact at the end-user. Furthermore Topic Maps can be shared among the users of the system via web in an easy and efficient way which contributes significantly in integration and distribution of knowledge. FreeTM provides: – an overview of a subject domain in high level, as the Topic Map can be browsed independently of the content. – rich sets of relevant links for content, which are always up-to-date. – integration of diverse data sources. Functionalities of Free-TM editor are illustrated in Figure 4. As far as query support is considered, the use of TinyTIM, even though it implies a light implementation, it does not supports querying as it does not support the use of TOLOG [19]. Nevertheless, end-user can search among knowledge and locate information and relevant resource data, in an easy and initiative way, using TM Search GUI (Figure 5) .

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Fig. 2. Screenshot of the FreeTM Editor

Fig. 3. Screenshot of the FreeTM Editor

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Fig. 4. Functionalities of FreeTM Editor

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Fig. 5. Screenshot of the FreeTM Editor (Search)

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Conclusion

The proposed editor for Topic Maps, named FreeTM, has been designed and implemented in order to serve as a software tool for complete management and distribution of Topic Maps. Topic Map technology offers the necessary framework for knowledge management to support sharing and reusing of information. Features like stability, expandability and scalability are reassured by the means of the applied technology. Furthermore, the use of FreeTM does not imply any difficulty as far as installation process is concerned. The main advantage of this editor is the fact that any user can have free access to the system via a simple Internet browser, anywhere and anytime. Easy to use user interfaces, offer rich editing functionalities as well as visualization for interactive exploration and editing of topic maps. Currently the proposed editor is in evaluation phase on a technical and functional level. FreeTM is available for download (http://freetm.el.teithe.gr:8080/ freetm/freetm.html), so that researchers that are interested, are encouraged to explore all the features it offers. Potentials user’s opinions may provide valuable input on how FreeTM could be refined and integrated.

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References
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