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Reality Check, 01 May 2017

I am at the point in authoring my Nine Month Report where a liquid view is being designed for. I thought I should therefore write up how I currently see my problems and needs. 

The most immediate problem is one of organisation. I have written each major chapter in a separate document which I have put in a folder on my hard drive. There are issues with overlaps and lack of ease of following a good outline. A screenshot is here:

I then used Scapple (the application which works the most similar to the anticipated functionality of liquid views) where I pasted the names of all the documents and worked to make some sense of it. I blogged the process here and one of the things I learnt was how useful it was to be doing this for a real document, and not designing ways to connect and display information in general. I started with an outline on the left side of the screen and connected items (document names, which would have been headings in a liquid view) to them but that didn’t make much sense since I don’t have a provision for text to be in the liquid view without being in the word processing view so this proved to be not useful.

I then decided that I should indicate level one headings (which in essence is the plan-outline of my paper) in bold and I needed to add them into the liquid view (which meant also creating documents in the Finder which would correspond) and lay out the sub-headings under them. This made sense but doing this in a linear way, same as the Table of Contents (TOC) view in current Author was space wasteful and would have been something a user would instantly re-organize. I therefore put each column (top level heading in bold with nested headings below) in horizontal list, as shown in this screenshot: In this layout there are two rows, since that was more space-useful, with a top level heading ‘torn’ off and put on top centre (it is the introductory section) as well as a few lower headings which I have not decided where to put yet, torn off and put towards the bottom of the screen.

Conclusions then include the realisation that the liquid view should not initially look the same as the TOC view. It is likely that there should be a few basic initial layouts, though it is likely that documents will have more sub-headings than level one headings and should therefore be organised as such (horizontal use of space), which should be a research item to find out. 

Further thoughts come from the focus on the liquid view being designed for writing a paper, not for general thinking and as such, maybe the user should be able to click to colour code headings to show if they are done (green), in progress (orange) and difficult/paused (red perhaps).

Saturday turns into Sunday

This morning I woke up thinking about the general notion that the liquid view has been thought about as basically a non-linear outline – a place for organisation but the use case of pointing out what is done, as discussed above, begs the question of what else this view should support. It has also been clear that this view should also accommodate navigation.

Organisation (putting nodes in free-form and criteria based layouts)

Connections (adding visible connecting lines with visible attributes free form and criteria based)

Navigation. (Including levels of hierarchy to be visible, what nodes to be visible in addition to the headings).

A key issue to work on now is what the criteria can be.

OK, back to working on the main document…

Published inPhDThoughtsWeekly Post

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