The National Information Standards Organization (NISO), Z39, Committee G, has completed a draft standard for a common command language for online interactive information retrieval. The standard specifies the vocabulary, syntax, and operational meaning of commands in a command language. The purpose is to help users by making it unnecessary to learn more than one language to perform similar tasks on different systems. This would include not only online patron access catalogs, but also “gateway” data base access and search facilities. The scope applies to bibliographic, textual, numeric, and other types of data bases. The standard does not restrict the use of a “native” non-standard language, but requires that each system shall recognize and respond to the common commands when the functions to which they apply are used. The standard does not specify the manner in which system designers implement the functions it describes. The primary commands are explain, help, start, stop, choose, find, scan, relate, print, sort, more, back, review, save, delete, show, set, and define. Each is, defined and a three letter abbreviation is given.
The draft will be circulated to voting members of NISO with responses due by early March. The objective is to gain consensus, rather than to achieve a majority vote. It may, therefore, be several more months before the standard is revised and adopted.
[Contact: National Information Standards Organization (Z39), National Bureau of Standards, Admin. 101, Library E106, Gaithersburg, MD 20899.]