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A concept for a direct manipulation interface to monitor and control water-based Rankine cycle heat engines is discussed and illustrated. The computer-driven interface utilizes measured plant data to form a model of the process. The model is presented in the form of an icon based upon the Rankine cycle. The icon is formed in terms of the temperature and entropy properties of water from various points within the Rankine cycle. In addition, real-time mimics of plant systems, which contain, control, and interact with the process, are presented within the same display format. The image displayed (on a cathode-ray tube) is designated a system-process iconic display of plant operations. An inference engine driven by plant data updates the display of plant segments which compose the iconic display. The iconic display serves as a visual knowledge base of plant operation as the interface is based on a model-world metaphor. A keyboard containing dedicated control keys serves as an interface to actuate control tasks allocated to human operators. A direct manipulation of the heat engine is achieved through the dedicated keys as the icon responds to plant reactions activated by the control tasks. The human operator evaluates the data presented in the system-process iconic display to determine if the goals of operation are being met. The workload imposed upon human operators to assess goals is minimized, making the human operator an effective supervisor of resources and also an active integrated member of plant operations.