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Author: Frode Hegland

Origins of the Dynamic View in Author

In Doug Engelbart’s demo he showed the power of having different views on the same information, such as when he viewed his shopping list by various criteria and then changed the view to a map:

I am not sure if I had seen that when I designed a concept for being able to drag text around on the desktop in the mid-90s which I called the System Wide Scratch Area but the idea of putting things out on a space to work on the relationships seems pretty self-evident. We do it as children and my father did it with his documents in his pre-digital workflow.


Joseph Novak, who has of course been invited to the Future of Text Book, formalised concept mapping and Tony Buzan was inspired by this and developed mind mapping. In the 1940s Alex Faickney Osborn introduced brainstorming. Thinking on a surface either with marks straight not he surface or using some kind of cards goes back a long time, at least to Carl Linnaeus during the 1700s.


What I am investigating though is the ‘magic’ of digital representations above the flexibility of thoughts on cards, but there is still a lot to be learnt from cards, at least until we have digital desk sized desktops.


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Glossary, Citation, Author, Image, Heading in Dynamic View

The question of how to display the different nodes has been one of ongoing thinking since it’s easy to add icons but it’s harder to simplify and I do not want to build messy views. Having developed the dynamic view and being able to use it and ‘feel it’ I have decided that any and all text in the dynamic view should appear in the same way.

In the dynamic view text which appears in the document–or which have a glossary term associated with it–bold and white. Special text, such as that for a citation, an author’s name or a web address, will all be treated the same, except the URL will be underlined.

There will be no special icons or type treatments for different elements-users will know what they are and interactions will remind them.


To Add Nodes (Text)

just type

Keyword: Double-click on the canvas and type. If the keyword is in the document it will be white and bold. On double-click it will open with a list of occurrences in the document.

Glossary Term, same as above. If it is in the document or in the list of glossary terms it will be white and bold. On double-click it will open with definition above the list of occurrences in the document.

or cmd-shift-k (or drag from desktop) or cmd-k

Citation: cmd-shift-k to choose from the list of cited documents or drag a PDF document from the desktop. On double-click it will open with citation information above the list of occurrences in the document. In the dialog there will be options to select all and also to automatically keep adding citations to the dynamic view when they are added to the document.

Image:  cmd-shift-k to choose from the list of used images or drag an image from the desktop. On double-click it will open in the document if it was taken from the document and is still present.

Heading:  cmd-shift-k to choose from the list of headings used in the document. On double-click it will open to that section in the document.

Web Address: Paste a URL or cmd-k on selected node. On double-click it will open that page in the user’s browser.


Define Nodes

To define a node, for example to define a node as being the name of an author, means creating a glossary term. To do this the user selects the node and ctrl-clicks and chooses ‘Define’ or keyboard ‘cmd-(something)’ or controls will be visible on click–this is not yet decided.


Define Glossary Term Relationship

Drag one node onto another and a dialog will ask:

  • Connect
  • These Are The Same (only appears if at least one node is a glossary term)

‘Connect’ will then ask the user to describe the relationship in both directions, same as making a new glossary term and connecting it to previous terms.

‘These Are The Same’ will add the non-Glossary term to the aliases of the Glossary term (by adding it to the ‘Name’ field after a ‘,’) if one is a glossary. If both are glossary terms a second dialog will ask which one to keep and which one to delete and if the user wants the definition from the deleted one to be moved onto the kept one.


Glossary Term Click for Related Terms

Click to highlight and if it’s a glossary term it will show any connected terms in small boxes, which the user can snap away from the node to drag anywhere (Chris Gutteridge Weblaux style):

If the user chooses to drag another term out of that list, the relationship is indicated by a san-serif font in all caps, aligned along the connecting line. User can click on this text to reverse it (using the relationship definition from the other term, such as ‘invented by’ and ‘invented’) and hide it and only have the line:

The user can drag a term onto other text and the system will prompt the user to specify a relationship or to state that the terms are the same.


Double-Click-For-More View

The user can double click to see all occurs of that text, as usual, but with the glossary definition or citation information on top:

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Update (June 2019)

A friend asked for an update to introduce someone to the book project and the work in general so I thought I might as well post it as an update here in my journal:



With that aim I have developed an interactive text utility for macOS (I’m afraid all my work is in the Apple ecosystem, for my sins) called Liquid | Flow which allows the user to use a myriad of commands within half a second to search for highlighted text or to translate it and more. The site for this and my main project; Liquid | Author, is


Liquid | Author is a minimalist word processor with powerful tools for the digital age. It is not hamstrung by attempting to mimic paper but liberated by enabling rich interactions: Collapse the document into an instant outline with a pinch of the trackpad and see all occurrences of any text without having to scroll through the document looking for yellow boxes. Add citations from Books, Web, Video & Academic Documents instantly, and search any online resource in half a second.

It is also the first word processor with an integrated Dynamic View for freeform thinking, brainstorming, concept mapping and mind mapping. You can see the new 2 minute video demo:

Visual-Meta & Reader

Finally, and I perhaps most importantly, is my notion of a visual-meta information system, for which I am building a new PDF reader called Liquid | Reader (I don’t use my imagination on naming things I have been told). It should be in the App Store around next weekend.
The origins of the approach is acceptance that PDFs are embedded in the academic (and business) world and that the act of ‘freezing’ information at the point of publishing is useful and important, but it should not be a struggle to utilise a document’s meta-information for such basic and core uses as citing a document.
It is based on the premise that documents should be readable, both by humans and systems and this is done by adding a visual meta information section at the end of the document. Please have a look at the blog post, with contains a roughly made demo video using Author and Reader to make this happen:
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