Author & Reading Views

This is also the first post (I think) written with Liquid Information Author, though it was not posted from within Author. That ability will come.

I have decided to spend time and money on Author as I am also working on writing Deep Literacy because I keep getting pulled from working on the philosophy of Liquid, deep literacy and practical innovations.

For example, the amount of writing I have done up until this sentence, looks, to me, to be beautiful and very readable. Check out the screenshot below.

Looking at this and thinking stops me writing since I then focus on the tool I am writing with – Author. ByWord, which is a beautiful and simple word processor, and inspiration for the visual look of Author, makes text on top of the screen ‘blur out’ to keep a bit of a frame around the text. I like to have the space, but I don’t like blurred text, it doesn’t feel clean and I think there is a small amount of cognitive load in scrolling ‘just so’ that the new line is below the blurring. This is similar to the cognitive load of scrolling documents which you’d want to pin the top of what you are reading to the top of the screen, when reading with a traditional desktop/notebook device.

So how can I design a text environment which shows a large amount of text but in a way that makes you feel you are focusing on a small chunk of it, without feeling the need to often ‘change screen’? This is the kind of question that tugs me between the tool and the philosophy.

So far, answers to this in general include automatic outlining and simple typography, but maybe, maybe there should be a reading mode which is paragraph by paragraph?… Or is the idea of modes not a good idea? If we had a reading mode distinct from writing mode in Author then the user could also choose to invoke non-permanent Views more easily. Hmm…. It would likely work well and look good with Doug’s Augmenting Human Intellect but for web writing, that is, one thought per paragraph, as I do, it would leave some very small paragraphs…. How about using the headings as a ‘pin’ on top of the screen, with space to spare, as in the second screenshot?

This could be experimented with maybe in this way: User has cursor in a paragraph and does cmd-right arrow and only current paragraph is visible. cmd-right arrow again and next arrow ‘slides’ into view.  OR, the user can hold down the space bar and the screen turns into what the third screenshot below show: Top paragraph stays black. All other paragraphs becomes fray at 20% opacity. Space bar again to skip to next paragraph (hoisting next one up, heading always stats on top). Space and hold cancels this mode, as does esc.  (Use case that no-one will need to do many multiple spaces in Author. Do tap, tap, tap if they want to, but not tap and hold. Tap and hold space bar enters a more like web-read mode!).

Hmm.. I think we should try this.

(pause while playing around with screenshots of Author, then working in Photoshop and Keynote)

Initial Idea

So, this has now been been mocked up in: icloud.com–Writing_to_Reading_Mode_idea_1

Talking with Emily this seems a bit extreme so here is another idea. People don’t read down more than about half the page on a scrollable document before scrolling but they/we have no problem reading all the way down on a ‘page’ documents in a book.

Revisiting Criteria

Taking a step back to clarify the criteria: I want the reader to read with space on the screen, as a nicely laid out book, with margins on the sides and also top and bottom. I also want to remove cognitive navigation-housekeeping-load of scrolling.

The idea then becomes to make reading on a notebook/desktop screen as pleasant as that of a tablet or printed book.

Second Idea

So here is the next suggestion, when in writing/‘normal’ mode hold-down the spacebar to go to reading/‘book’ mode:

1) Any paragraph which is visible at the bottom of the screen but goes off below the screen is greyed to 20% opacity, indicating that it is, in a way, a preview to the next ‘screen’.
2) The paragraph where the users cursor is currently is ‘hoisted’ to the top of the screen, if it is not there already, with about an inch of empty space above it.
3) The heading of the current section is shown in this top area. If there is no heading then the document title is shown. If there is no document title then this space is simply empty.

To navigate:

1) Press the space bar to flip the top visible set of (normal colour/black) paragraph(s) up and away while a next set of paragraphs from below jumps up (the one  you saw a bit of, greyed out) to the to of the screen.
2) Shift-space to go back a screen.

(Any new headings passed in this way would replace the one on the top of the screen)

Hold down spacebar to toggle to back to basic view:

1) The top heading and background fades quickly to show whatever text is above the currently top-pinned paragraph.

I like this one a lot. We shall have to try it. It would look like this: icloud.com–Writing_to_Reading_Mode_idea_2 or Download the Keynote Presentation if iCloud doesn’t play the animations, which are a bit key to this.

It would need to be defined as a view so users can edit text in this view (edit: That would not work, since text needs spaces… I need to think this through a little more…). ONLY holding down the space bar would toggle it on/off.

 

#happy

 

Little bit of text in Author

 

Second Screenshot