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Category: Liquid | View

ELO 2019

flier for sponsorship of

The premise of my work is that the written word is a fundamental unit of knowledge and therefore the richer we can interact with our text, the richer we can interact with our knowledge. This is why I host the annual Future of Text Symposium and curate the largest collection of perspectives on the future of text ever undertaken in the book: ‘The Future of Text : A 2020 Vision’, due out next year: (and for which I would greatly appreciate suggestions for further contributions).

Liquid | Author

This is also why I produce software to learn what the possibilities actually are, rather than only what they might be. All the software is for macOS (with iOS versions planned), available from 

Liquid | Author is a minimalist workspace word processor with powerful gestures and commands, such as the ability to pinch the document into an outline, a Find command which shows you the full sentences of the text you search for instead of yellow dots out of view, quickly accessible full screen mode (ESC to enter and leave), Cuttings which stores everything you cut, and more. Your final work can be exported with academic formatting of citations including appending a References section or posted to WordPress. 

Author also features a Dynamic View, which is similar to a mind map or concept map but remains part–of and connected to–the text in the word processing view: 

Liquid | Flow (universal text tool companion)

Liquid | Flow is a companion to Author which allows you to select text and search, look up references, translate, convert and more, in less than a second once you are familiar with it. 

Liquid | Reader (supporting Visual-Meta from Author)

Liquid | Reader is a visually lightweight PDF reader which supports the Visual-Meta system, where citation information is visually ‘printed’ at the end of the document, in the last appendix automatically added by software, such as Liquid | Author, or which you can add manually for downloaded documents by pasting its BibTeX export format text.

The Liquid | Reader ‘reads’ the Visual-Meta in the document so that when you copy text from the PDF and paste it, the citation will be pasted as a citation, not just as text. This means that even if the document changes format or is printed out and scanned with OCR again, it will still retain its metadata, including citation information but also information about the document in general, such as the contents of tables, glossaries and more:


My friend and mentor Doug Engelbart presented the vision and mission in his 2002 address ‘Improving Our Ability To Improve’:

The thing that amazed me – even humbled me – about the digital computer when I first encountered it over fifty years ago – was that, in the computer, I saw that we have a tool that does not just move earth or bend steel, but we have a tool that actually can manipulate symbols and, even more importantly, portray symbols in new ways, so that we can interact with them and learn. We have a tool that radically extends our capabilities in the very area that makes us most human, and most powerful.

There is a native American myth about the coyote, a native dog of the American prairies – how the coyote incurred the wrath of the gods by bringing fire down from heaven for the use of mankind, making man more powerful than the gods ever intended. My sense is that computer science has brought us a gift of even greater power, the ability to amplify and extend our ability to manipulate symbols.

It seems to me that the established sources of power and wealth understand, in some dim way, that the new power that the computer has brought from the heavens is dangerous to the existing structure of ownership and wealth in that, like fire, it has the power to transform and to make things new.

I must say that, despite the cynicism that comes with fifty years of professional life as a computer scientist, inventor, and observer of the ways of power, I am absolutely stunned at the ferocious strength of the efforts of the American music industry, entertainment industry, and other established interests to resist the new ability that the coyote in the computer has brought from the heavens. I am even more surprised by the ability of these established interests to pass laws that promise punishment to those who would experiment and learn to use the new fire.

As the recipient of my country’s National Medal of Technology, I am committed to raising these issues and questions within my own country, but I am also canny enough to understand that, in the short term, it is the nations with emerging economies that are most likely to understand the critical importance and enormous value in learning to use this new kind of fire.

We need to become better at being humans. Learning to use symbols and knowledge in new ways, across groups, across cultures, is a powerful, valuable, and very human goal. And it is also one that is obtainable, if we only begin to open our minds to full, complete use of computers to augment our most human of capabilities.



I would greatly appreciate your perspective and feedback, which is why I am here at this festival and proud to play a very small role in it by being a sponsor. 

Frode Hegland

London 2019

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Email from User Brad Stephenson

Brad Stephenson is a Liquid | Author and Flow user who got in touch asking where Liquid | Reader is since he had seen it on the website. I apologised that it had been held back a bit and asked him why he was interested. His reply read like a manifesto for why we are building it so I asked him for permission to post his email and here it is:

Your mention of Reader as a helpful Literature Review tool caught my attention. My understanding, in simple terms: Reader would open PDF documents and allow copying of text within the app, then when pasted (assumedly in Author or another word processor) the bibliographic meta data would be embedded and automatically pasted with the text (I wasn’t exactly sure how it would be displayed and read _ code or text). Additionally the document could be read and highlighted in its entirety then Reader would include a feature which allowed only the highlights from the document to be displayed for review and assessment. This of course would make citing from PDF’s more streamlined and efficient.

A major frustration for me in completing my dissertation was in relation to citation software. My institution began with RefWorks as recommended by the library research assistant. The next year they dropped the contract with RefWorks, and recommended Mendeley, the following year dropping Mendeley and supporting Zotero. What I discovered was citations downloaded in compatible format from the library websites opened in Zotero were unreliably formatted. Instead of making the job easier it made it harder. If I were doing the project again I would probably build a bibliographic database using a spreadsheet, and manually insert footnotes. Your description of Reader indicating an ability to have the citation data embedded with the text which would be easily pasted and referenced for bibliographic or footnote usage.
Brad Stephenson
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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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