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The provision of software engineering environments is seen as a major task facing computing. The authors focus on the design of an infrastructure (called Cosmos) to support software engineering environments. This infrastructure is carefully tailored to support the functionality required of a software engineering environment. Furthermore, the infrastructure assumes a distributed environment and implements mechanisms to make this distribution transparent to the user. The Cosmos system is unusual in that it combines elements of a functional system with elements of an object-oriented system. It is argued that the two views of data can be successfully synthesised and that this synthesis is ideally suited to supporting software engineering environments and handling distribution in an elegant manner