The KADS methodology and its successor, CommonKADS, have gained a reputation for being useful approaches to building knowledge-based systems in a manner which is both systematic and well documented. However, these methods require considerable effort to use them completely. It has been suggested that automated support for KADS or CommonKADS users, in the form of “knowledge engineering workbenches”, could be very useful. These tools would provide computerised assistance to knowledge engineers in organising and representing knowledge, in a similar fashion to the support which CASE tools provide for software engineers. To provide support for KADS or CommonKADS, the workbenches should provide specific support for the modelling techniques recommended by these methods, which are very detailed in the representation and analysis stages of knowledge engineering. A good knowledge engineering workbench should also be easy to use, should be robust and reliable, and should generate output in a presentable format.
This paper reports on an evaluation of two commercially available workbenches for supporting the KADS approach: KADS Tool from ILOG and Open KADS Tool from Bull. This evaluation was carried out by AIAI as part of the CATALYST project, funded by the European Community's ESSI programme, which aimed to introduce CommonKADS to two technology-oriented companies. Information is also presented on two other workbenches: the CommonKADS workbench (which will soon become commercially available) and the VITAL workbench. The results show various strengths and weaknesses in each tool.