In many computers today, snippets of information are managed by so-called relational data-base programs. But asking for a specific set of data--say, all grandmothers with blue hair, east of the Mississippi--can trip up searchers. Such requests usually are made in what is called structured query language (SQL), which is so complex that even the most experienced programmers can have difficulty using it.

Now, a company called IntelligenceWare Inc. in Los Angeles, has come up with a graphical method for posing questions to relational data bases. Its Iconic Query software lets you use a mouse to point to and click on a set of pictures representing a data base's various entities. Merely link the icons together and the program constructs the appropriate SQL statements, forwards them over a network to a data-base program, and then displays the answers in tabular form.

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