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Category: Thoughts


My review of the JATS conference which Author was one of the sponsors of: It was useful to present the Future of Text book and to get to know some of the people but it’s an odd world publishing–interactive word processing systems producing flattened semantically barren PDF or Word documents and huge resources are then used to make the content semantically available.

I hope JATS can become something like this but currently it is quite a loose standard which needs modifications for different uses so exporting as JATS isn’t very useful unless the export has been tailored to the specific JATS ingestion needs.

The academic world is way too focused on superficial aspects of how a citation should be shown and how typesetting should be done. This is like Martin Luther King spending the day at the barbershop before doing his great speech. It’s ludicrous.

Write semantically and visually mark up that which matters to the author, such as bolding and so on. Leave the font and page layout to the reader software. Implement citations with a basic set of references but also able to support link types. This is not ballistic engineering, this is pretty basic. I hope Author can somehow help this along since another thing I kept hearing is that ‘people want Word’ to write in but they think of ‘Word’ as also being Google Docs–in other words, the industry belief is that people want to write in familiar styles. That makes sense, but maybe we can push them more towards meaning and away from faffing with fonts and layouts. Over.

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User Guide December 2018

Welcome to Liquid | Author

Please go through this brief document to get the most out of Author since it probably works quite differently to what you are used to.

Read & Edit Modes

Author features distinct modes for reading and editing with different functions available in each mode, as described below. Toggle the modes by clicking the button at the bottom centre of the screen or do the keyboard shortcut cmd /

  • Read Mode. Neutral grey tone
  • Edit Mode. Warm tone

Read Mode

In Read mode you can use the spacebar to go down a screen–just like on the web–and you can select text and hit the spacebar to have the selected text spoken.

Edit Mode

  • To Link to a Website do cmd-k (or ctrl-click) on the text. If you already had copied the link, it will be attached automatically, otherwise you need to type it in manually.
  • To Link to a Heading in your document or an image, cmd-shift-k (or ctrl-click) on the text and choose from the list.
  • Quick Lookup & Search. To interact with the text in Author and all the text in your macOS applications download the free companion utility ‘Liquid | Flow from
  • the App Store.

  • It’s worth getting used to since it will allow you to search, look anything up, convert translate and more so quickly that when you use another computer your hands will feel like they are working in slow motion. To use it select text and

  • ctrl-click and choose ‘Liquid | Flow’ or use the Liquid | Flow keyboard shortcut you have assigned.
  • Quick Command Access Most commands are available through keyboard shortcuts and you can quickly learn any new commands since when you ctrl-click on any text you will see the keyboard shortcuts next to the commands.
  • Quick Access to Focus Mode. You can toggle in and out of full screen focus mode with the ESC key.

Instant Outline

To collapse the document to only show the headings in an outline form so that you can quickly get an Outline or Overview and jump around the document, pinch-in on your trackpad. To return to the regular word processing view pinch-out or click on a heading to jump to it.

Dynamic View

Cmd-d or click ‘Word Processing View’ lower right to change into the Dynamic View which you can use for concept mapping and brainstorming etc. To return to the word processing view cmd-d again or click ‘Dynamic View’ lower right.

The first time you do this with your document it will be completely empty but you can now type anything you like, anywhere on the screen: just double-click where you want to type.

If what you type is also in the word processing view it becomes bold. You can double click on the bold text to get a list of all the occurrences of that text in the word processing document which you can then click to jump to or click outside to dismiss.

Any text which is not in the word processing view stays non-bold. Double-click on the text to copy it across to the word processing view and you can keep typing or assign it as a heading etc. When you return to the Dynamic View this text is now bold.

This is just the beginning. The ability to add connections and more will come.

Start with a Brainstorm

If you want to start your document in the Dynamic View for brainstorming, you can create a new document with keyboard shortcut cmd-shift-n and it will open in the Dynamic View.


  • If you forget if you have used a certain word or phrase, just select it and ‘Find’ all occurrences of it in the document by doing cmd-f which instantly shows only the sentences in the document which has that text.
  • This is also very useful when reading a document–you can instantly see the first time a name or term was introduced which is where it would be explained, without losing your place or spending time scrolling. Do cmd-f again to cancel out of this view or click on a sentence to jump to it.


    To cite, select the text you want to assign as a citation to and do keyboard shortcut cmd-t (or ctrl-click on the text and choose Citation). You can then choose to fill in the citation manually for any material or:

  • Books. You can choose to search books by Title or Author will fill in all the citation information for you.
  • Scholarly Papers. We are working on an extension for searching scholarly papers. If you have specific preferences or suggestions, please email me:
  • Images. Click on any image you have dragged into Author to add citation information. You can also paste an image into your document which means you can draw on an iPad or take a picture on an iPhone and copy it there and, provided you are near your Mac, simply Paste into Author without any further effort to move the image between devices.
  • Web. If you have copied a web address from Safari you can choose ‘Web’ and Author will fill in all the citation information for you.
  • BibTeX

  • . When you download an academic paper the page you download from is likely to have an option to show the
  • BibTeX citation information. If you click to see this, then select All (cmd-a) and Copy (cmd-c), without having to select the BibTeX text only, you can go to Author, select text and do cmd-t and now you can choose to have the Citation dialog auto-filled-in.

  • Video. If you have copied a URL from YouTube, you will additionally have the option to choose ‘From YouTube URL’ and use it for your citation. While watching a YouTube video you can choose to cite the video from an exact time. To do this, while in YouTube, ctrl-click on the video itself and choose ‘Copy URL from Current Location’, switch back to Author, select the text you want to assign the citation to and cmd-t as usual and choose ‘From YouTube’ (or hit ‘enter’). For example here Doug Engelbart talks about demonstrating his early prototypes (Make sure you are in READ mode when you click, in order to view the video):

“…they never thought about just how quickly and flexibly you could do things…”
Engelbart, 2013, v


On export (cmd-e) Author will (optionally):

  • Add a Cover Page based on your personal details (stored from last use)
  • Format the Citations inside the document with brackets or superscript
  • Appends a References/ Bibliography section at the back of the document

Export formats include:

  • .pdf Adobe Portable Document Format
  • .doc Microsoft Word
  • .rtf Rich Text Format
  • plain text
  • JATS
  • .liquid native Author document
  • Print to Paper
  • Publish to WordPress blog


You can change the font for the headings and body text and manage your WordPress accounts in the Preferences (cmd-,).


Thank you for being a pioneer Author user. These are early days and I look forward to hearing from you. Please email me with any questions/comments/bugs/suggestions at and of course, if you could Rate Author in the macOS App Store that would be very much appreciated indeed – for a small developer like me, it makes a huge difference!!!

Author is designed and produced by me with coding by Jacob Hazelgrove, based on the philosophy of Doug Engelbart as I have interpreted it, and is supported by Vint Cerf. It is dedicated to my father Ole, and my son Edgar, with grateful thanks to my PhD supervisors Dame Wendy Hall and Les Carr at the University of Southampton.

If you like, you can watch the Video Introduction.

Frode Hegland
London 2019


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Our House is on Fire

(Our house is on fire. Should we have another coffee and chat about it and try to put it out that way or should we maybe build a powerful hose and get off our butts and put it out?)

…we don’t have these tools, concepts, skills, and heuristics because our species is smart; we are smart because we have culturally evolved a vast repertoire of tools, concepts, skills, and heuristics…

This is another post in the ‘Why is interactive text important’ Category. I really don’t like to write these since I feel they are kind of defensive but since what I write is clearly not obvious to the general public I feel I have no choice. The book quote above, by Joseph Henrich, makes the point that culture is what makes us smart and he firmly places tools as a cultural transmitted human extension. Howard Rheingold ‘made’ me read this book and I think it it makes its point powerfully.

We are seeing serious climate change issues as well as issues of poverty, social injustice, lack of education, important academic work lost in sheer volume of documents produced and the potential war but what I hear is that we have enough tools and technology, what we need are new ways to be smarter and work together. I do not find these to be mutually exclusive, I find that technology is a greatly powerful way to augment our smarts and our communication and collaboration.

Yes social media presents real issues now but this is because virtually all the effort to design them has been from the commercial interests who made the them and they benefit from the discord of the medium since it keeps us engaged. There has been very little work by those whose focus is purely to augment our ability to understand what someone else is writing and communicate our own thoughts clearly, whether for work or socially. Not only has social media been commercialised, it also has been weaponised by those with vested interests and the resources behind them. This is why we must arm the citizenry. This is why we must invest in providing better tools and interactions by those who represent the users. To add two analogies to this mix: It’s like we have no car safety tests or rules and no food safety–it’s all just self policed by the auto and food industries. But back to the analogy of buildings, which I have been using for the last few posts:

Our house is on fire and I feel like a fireman saying ‘our house is on fire’ but although people in general complain about the heat and smell and argue over which fire is most important (civil rights, climate, etc.) and complain about who promises to put the fires out (politicians of various stripes), they can’t be bothered to get off their seats to douse the flames–they only throw their water glasses at it while I beg them to help me build a more powerful fire hose–but that’s just more water they say, more of the same thing. Why would we need that? We need better ways to talk about the flames they say. Water glasses only makes the problem worse since many don’t use it right and spill it and we slip on it when we go to the bathroom so clearly water is not the answer they say, we have too much of that already.

Our house really is on fire and we need to put it out.

A major medium for serious communication to form consensus and coordinate our efforts is the written word. Out mental resources is the water in this analogy and text is one of the firehose technologies through which we direct our mental resources. How can this not be a crucial world-goal to improve for anyone but those who actually benefit from the status quo?

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