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Well specified public tool interfaces(PTIs) on which tools run, and which provide access to all facilities used by tools, are now being designed to lie at the heart of software engineering environments. This allows the source code of tools to be ported between different implementations of the PTI. Database access is of particular importance for an effective environment, and this is not provided by conventional system services. The background to current PTI work and some early developments are considered. Standardisation efforts are described, and future research is mentioned briefly, before drawing conclusions on the importance of this topic.