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A new software tool which enables programming virgins to build their own Java apps and applets makes its debut at Internet World tomorrow. And it's cheap - £99. or £40 if you’re a student.

Called Imitate, the software is designed to bring Java applets to the masses. Its maker claims that a user new to Imitate can build from scratch an animated slogan, which bounces across a computer window. Quizzes and polls are two other obvious applications.

"More significantly however, is that it will allow people with perhaps very limited programming skills to add functionality to a web site or intranet that would previously have needed an expensive programmer to develop."

Imitate is the brainchild of Dr. Edmund Furse, a leading British academic in the field of artificial intelligence.

He has developed a way of replicating human imitation learning through a computer model, which is incorporated into Imitate. The upshot is that users work through the steps of the function they want to build “and the software automatically writes a Java programme that is a generalisation of those actions”. This differs from a macro, which has no intelligence and is unable to generalize an example, Furse points out.

The software is supplied with a series of instructional movies in which Furse shows how to carry out various procedures including: designing layouts; giving buttons actions; using the learn table; web clipping and creating a graph from a series of statistics.

It runs on several software platforms including Apple Mac OS9, Microsoft Windows 98, NT and XP. System requirements are 64MB of memory and 150MB of disk space (more if videos and sample files are included.

Furse has set up a company called Imitation to develop and sell the software. So far, there are eight employees.

The next step we guess is a review. We'll sort one out in a week or so. ®

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