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Liquid | Author 5.1 RFC (email)

This is what I sent my ‘hypertext/electronic literature/brilliant’ friends since I just released the latest version of my macOS word processor Liquid | Author, requesting their feedback.

Liquid | Author has grown out of my own PhD work and it is focused on augmenting student work so I have been doing quite a bit of bootstrapping with this work.

Digital Text

This ‘thing’ we are interested in, words on a screen, was defined by Ted Nelson as “non-sequential writing with free user movement.” Doug Engelbart talked of ‘symbol manipulation’ in context of augmenting our collective intellect.

“We perceive about 12 million bits/second (10 million from vision, 1 million from touch, and the rest scattered among the other senses) … 16 bits per second is the bandwidth of consciousness … Symbols are the Trojan horses by which we smuggle bits into our consciousness.”
Tor Norretranders

Symbols are important and I don’t think we are anywhere near reaching the potential we can unleash for the user. As the inspiring 1994 ‘Industrial Revelation’ commercial for the Macintosh promised us in stirring tones: “Your only limits will be the size of your ideas and the degree of your dedication.”

What Author aims to augment specifically, is a student’s ability to interact with, and view, their information–as presented as textual symbols–to support their thinking and to present their information in persuasive ways while minimising any clerical work the computer can do.

I choose students because they are (or should be) in a state of wanting to extend their literacies by trying new tools and techniques and they follow (or should be following) rigorous academic conversions of citing prior work.

I chose to focus on interactions since I feel this is a fundamentally important aspect of what information is and it what computers can uniquely provide over previous analog substrates a very useful function: Lao-Tse said: “If you tell me, I will listen. If you show me, I will see. But if you let me experience, I will learn.” Views are a focus since perspective determines where we see and the ability to change perspectives to a large part extends our ability to see deeper and wider.

Liquid | Author 5.1

The new big feature in 5.1 is what I call Magic Margins: Sometimes you just need to jot down some notes, thoughts or keywords which you may or may not write about later. In Liquid | Author you can double-click in the margin when you are in full screen mode and type or paste anything you like and move it around into groups should you wish.

If what you put in the margin appears in the main body of your document, the text in the margin becomes bold and you can double click it to change the view of the main body of text to show only the sentences in the document with that text. You can then click on any of the sentences to jump to that section, click in the margin or click ‘Exit’ to dismiss this view.

If you double-click on non-bold text, that text will be automatically appended to the end of your document so that you can keep writing about it (and therefore also become bold but not immediately, it might take a few seconds).

However, as my professor Ed Leahy said “Show ‘em, don’t tell ‘em”, so you may want to look at videos: The latest feature is the Magic Margins, for which you can see a 30 seconds video here: For a full introduction, please feel free to have a look at this 2 min video:

Of course, actually trying the software is always the best and I would be eternally grateful if you could do so :-) (and I’ll buy you lunch when I see you to reimburse your cost!). But back to the features in Author:

Sometimes you just need to put fingers to keys and punch out your thoughts. Other times you need to jot down notes in the margin for future use {as you can with the new Magic Margins}and sometimes you need to explode your thoughts into a visually dynamic space {using the Dynamic View}.

Being able to quickly see where you wrote about something {Instant Find} and to pinch your document into an outline {Instant Outline View} gives you better views of your work and being able to look up any text {companion application Liquid | Flow} in any search engine or reference work without any conscious effort, in less than a second, gives you a better view of where what you write fits in the world.

As you edit and cut sometimes you may not want to paste straight away but still have what you cut available should you decide to use it {Cuttings}.

At the end of the day though, students will always need to cite their sources {Quick Citation Creation from academic documents, books, video and web} and format their documents for submission {Auto Export with Formatted citations and a References section}.

Should you prefer to post your work online, a click is all it takes to post your document to WordPress.

This is liquid authorship. Smooth, liquid interactions are important and that is what I am trying to deliver. I’d love to know what you think. Author is available from or directly from the macOS App Store.

Marshall McLuhan once said: “The movie, by sheer speeding up of the mechanical, carried us from the world of sequence and connections into the world of creative configurations and structure.” Doug Engelbart used the analogy of skiing down a hill: It would not be enough that it be easy to steer your skies, you’d need instant responsiveness to flow.

Future : Visual-Meta

Liquid | Author supports the Visual-Meta, which I think is the most important part of my work and I implore you to have a look at this approach to document metadata if you have a moment at all: I believe that this approach can bear fruit with powerful citations interactions and visualisations.

Published inAuthorPhD

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