Augmented Text Tools


Augmented text is simply text you can interact with in useful ways. Digital text is a raw material which must always be augmented in some basic way to be displayed. There must be a choice as to the font, the size, the colour, the placement on a screen and so on. The question is what we can do beyond this and what could be useful. The ability to copy and paste text, to create and follow web-links as well as instant spell check and the undo function has changed how we think when we write, we have more freedom to change our view and our mind, to connect and to improve what we write. This is is just the start.


tools


We are building Augmented Text Tools to augment your thinking with richer ways to interact with your text to see and create connections, while still allowing your work to remain part of the current PDF document workflow:

Liquid allows you to interact with any text on macOS instantly, opening up a whole new freedom of movement of text exploration.

Author augments your writing and citing, with powerful linear and non-linear views: You can paste a DOI into an Author document and it will automatically resolve into a full citation. You can fold your document to see only what you want to see. You can toggle into a Dynamic View where you are free to put your thoughts anywhere you choose, unconstrained by the traditional column of text, while having your text stay connected to your regular word processing view, freeing you to think in new ways.

Reader is a new type of PDF reader which allows you to copy as citation which will automatically be formatted as a citation and added to the References when exporting from Author. Reader also allows you to fold your documents into outlines, perform more useful Find operations and includes a powerful–and powerfully simple–Glossary system.


capabilities


In addition to the modern standard interactions of copy/cut & paste, spell-check and static direction links, the software provides capabilities for Augmented Copying, Glossaries, Views and Implicit Linking. Reader’s capabilities are enabled by the Visual-Meta created for the documents on export from Author:

Augmented Copy. Copy text (cmd-c) from a PDF (or simply ‘copy’ when a document is open) and paste into Author as a full citation which the user can choose the formatting style of, and which will be included in a References section automatically on export. This includes separately specifying author and editor for collected works. It can also include page and paragraph information plus the ability to find the source document on the user’s system–if available-instead of only following a web link or performing a search. Augmented Copy is an action of the system actively engaging with the copy and paste operation, including automatically resolving a DOI into a full citation on copy.

Augmented Glossary. A ‘super simple’ glossary system which is simple for an author to create and effortless for a reader to access: The document simply needs to have a heading called ‘Glossary’ and any text following which is bold will be treaded as a term, and any text following that as definition. Because of the limitations of PDF this is being created on export from Author automatically, based on a user defining text and doing cmd-g, then typing in the definition and any links, in separate fields. As with any Visual-Meta powered functionality it can also be hand-coded however. The glossary is integrated with the Find command:

Augmented Views:

  • Find other occurrences of typed in or highlighted text, by doing Cmd-f which results in a view of only the lines of text in the document which contents the text. If the text is also a term in the glossary, the glossary definition will appear on top of the Find results, giving the reader further information without the reader needing to learn additional commands. cmd-f again or ESC to close this view.
  • Fold Documents to only see headings in an instant Outline in Author or Reader. cmd -
  • In-Body Citation Click. Click on a citation in the document body and a pop-up menu appears, showing the References information which the user can use to dismiss the citation, accept its validity or view the source document. If the user chooses to view the document, the system will first search the user’s local storage and open the document (if not found, there will be an option to search online) to the cited location. [Reader only]
  • Headings & Names (’n’) view [Reader only]
  • Headings & Highlighted (‘h’) view [Reader only]
  • Dynamic View. On cmd-d the word processing view is replaced by a non-linear ‘Dynamic View’ which the user can add any text to. Double click on any text in this view presents a Find list of any occurrences in the document. [Reader only at this point]

Implicit Linking. Allows the user to follow what Doug Engelbart called ‘Implicit Links’ which helps the user see connections.


infrastructure


Visual-Meta is a system which connects Author and Reader by allowing you to export to PDF with a Visual-Meta appendix. This takes the raw text of the PDF and informs the Reader how to enable advanced interactions. It is an open system and a legacy safe path to richer documents based on the standard BibTeX format.


thinking with symbols


For as long as writing has been around it has not only been a medium of communication across time and space, it has also served as a mental extension for human thought because it provides a non-decaying substrate with a much larger storage capacity than our working memory. Other than writing in sand however, the stable substrate does not provide flexibility for moving thoughts to see text in different ways, through different views. All it allows for is crossing lines of text out and writing them down elsewhere, should a better fit be found, leaving behind not an empty space but unusable space.

Digital text affords the user to move text and thoughts at will–but only within the constraints set by the software used. So far that has meant the ability to edit freely and have spelling checked in word processors and to move nodes of text representing thoughts in graph programs. It has meant the ability to copy text, to publish text and to one-click share text on social media.

The developers of early software which we use to interact with our text were true pioneers, prominently among was Doug Engelbart. His mission was to augment our ability to solve urgent, complex problems collectively. This focus on augmentation led him to develop Augment (originally called NLS) where the power of the user to get to grips with their knowledge was paramount and text interaction–or symbol manipulation as he referred to it–was key. In his environment the user would learn the ability to follow both explicit links, such as the web links we have today, as well as implicit links, such as the way a word is linked to its entry in a dictionary for example. Powerful views of text including automatic outlining and being able to see text in a freeform graph was also developed at his Augmentation Research Center.

Engelbart's focus on powerful augmentation took a back seat as digital text became mainstream and the the development focus became 'ease-of-use' for the beginner, who was the customer. I admit, the following is a bit of a rant: Instead of commands, the user would click on pictures, much like someone who does not know a language fluently may point on pictures to express what they want to communicate. The corporate development of text systems would go on to change how we work and socialise, with weblink and instant-share social media changing our information and communication landscape. The evolutionary pressure for this development was at core financial so end-user software was developed to appeal to the novice (new) user–not the experienced user who wanted to have more control–since this was the user who would purchase the software. Networks were developed to encourage the easy of feeding social media for news and gossip, benefiting the network owners and advertisers, not necessarily the end user who paid no money to use the system. Much has been spoken about the issues around social media but not as much around the issues of textual communication in general. This is what the notion of augmented text aims to address:


interactions


Starting with the principle that the most fundamental aspect of existence is not matter–nor information–but interaction, and that the human brain is a connective environment, the development of augmented text is focused around developing rich interactions and flexible views to augment human thought.


wouldn't it be nice...


The development is constantly guided by a question of 'wouldn't it be nice…' within the paradigm of augmentation (not simply ease-of-use). Here are so more of the specific questions we have asked so far:

Wouldn't' it be nice to
copy text as citations, not just plain text? > With Reader and Author you can do that. And it knows the different between who edited and who wrote the text. And it can link straight to a document on your own computer–even to the section within that document.

Wouldn't' it be nice to
click on a citation in a document and have a little pop-up come up with all the information you'd need to evaluate whether its a useful citation and whether you should download it yourself? > You can do this to citations created in Author and read in Reader.

Wouldn't it be nice if the author would not have to elaborate on every term, person and concept they write about, but to do so once in a
glossary, in a process taking no more time or effort than writing it once–then have the reader get access to this further information without it being distracting? > This is what we have implemented as an Augmented Glossary. This is possible with our super-simple glossary implementation.

Wouldn't' it be nice to be able to
spread out your thoughts free-form, but still have them connected to your main document and Glossary? > This is the Dynamic View in Author and Reader.

Wouldn't' it be nice to be able to
look up any text instantly, to check assertions, facts and basic meaning? > That's what the Liquid tool allows you to do.

And a final 'wouldn't it be nice' for this introduction to Augmented Text: Wouldn't it be nice if all of this was possible without inventing a new document format–if it just worked on ordinary PDF documents? > This is why we invented
Visual-Meta, which adds rich metadata to a document as an appendix, at the same, visual, level as the rest of the document information, in an open and well established format (it builds on BibTeX).


onwards


We believe that text is a fundamental unit of knowledge and therefore the richer we interact with text, the richer we interact with our knowledge, and with each other. This informs everything we do.There is still so much untapped potential, which we hope to be a part of realising as we build ever more powerful systems based on what we learn along the way, hoping to encompass computational text as we keep the importance of longevity in mind.

We invite you to have a look at the software and see how it works and how it feels. Please do not hesitate with any questions of comments. After all, we are developing this to augment you. We also urge you to have a look at the work of Ted Nelson, Bret Victor, the systems of Scholarcy, the connections of Notion, Roam and Obsidian and generally look into the wonders of what augmented text can be.


futures of text


We can only move forward together. We started The Future of Text Symposium for this purpose and it has been active for a decade, developing into a diverse community. It has resulted in the book, The Future Of Text, a framing of where we are so far today, with the expectation of publishing annual editions for the foreseeable future.


foundations


The Augmented Text Tools are developed by a small independent software company, The Liquid Information Company, under Frode Alexander Hegland, in the UK. This work is a Future Text Initiative supported by the co-inventor of the Internet, Vint Cerf.

We'd like to close with a word from Doug, who was Frode's friend and mentor and who all this work is dedicated to:


“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.... ¶ 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.”

Douglas C. Engelbart http://dougengelbart.org/pubs/augment-133320.html



© 2020 Frode Alexander Hegland




Augmented Text Tools


Augmented text is simply text you can interact with in useful ways. Digital text is a raw material which must always be augmented in some basic way to be displayed. There must be a choice as to the font, the size, the colour, the placement on a screen and so on. The question is what we can do beyond this and what could be useful. The ability to copy and paste text, to create and follow web-links as well as instant spell check and the undo function has changed how we think when we write, we have more freedom to change our view and our mind, to connect and to improve what we write. This is is just the start.


tools


We are building Augmented Text Tools to augment your thinking with richer ways to interact with your text to see and create connections, while still allowing your work to remain part of the current PDF document workflow:

Liquid allows you to interact with any text on macOS instantly, opening up a whole new freedom of movement of text exploration.

Author augments your writing and citing, with powerful linear and non-linear views: You can paste a DOI into an Author document and it will automatically resolve into a full citation. You can fold your document to see only what you want to see. You can toggle into a Dynamic View where you are free to put your thoughts anywhere you choose, unconstrained by the traditional column of text, while having your text stay connected to your regular word processing view, freeing you to think in new ways.

Reader is a new type of PDF reader which allows you to copy as citation which will automatically be formatted as a citation and added to the References when exporting from Author. Reader also allows you to fold your documents into outlines, perform more useful Find operations and includes a powerful–and powerfully simple–Glossary system.


capabilities


In addition to the modern standard interactions of copy/cut & paste, spell-check and static direction links, the software provides capabilities for Augmented Copying, Glossaries, Views and Implicit Linking. Reader’s capabilities are enabled by the Visual-Meta created for the documents on export from Author:

Augmented Copy. Copy text (cmd-c) from a PDF (or simply ‘copy’ when a document is open) and paste into Author as a full citation which the user can choose the formatting style of, and which will be included in a References section automatically on export. This includes separately specifying author and editor for collected works. It can also include page and paragraph information plus the ability to find the source document on the user’s system–if available-instead of only following a web link or performing a search. Augmented Copy is an action of the system actively engaging with the copy and paste operation, including automatically resolving a DOI into a full citation on copy.

Augmented Glossary. A ‘super simple’ glossary system which is simple for an author to create and effortless for a reader to access: The document simply needs to have a heading called ‘Glossary’ and any text following which is bold will be treaded as a term, and any text following that as definition. Because of the limitations of PDF this is being created on export from Author automatically, based on a user defining text and doing cmd-g, then typing in the definition and any links, in separate fields. As with any Visual-Meta powered functionality it can also be hand-coded however. The glossary is integrated with the Find command:

Augmented Views:

  • Find other occurrences of typed in or highlighted text, by doing Cmd-f which results in a view of only the lines of text in the document which contents the text. If the text is also a term in the glossary, the glossary definition will appear on top of the Find results, giving the reader further information without the reader needing to learn additional commands. cmd-f again or ESC to close this view.
  • Fold Documents to only see headings in an instant Outline in Author or Reader. cmd -
  • In-Body Citation Click. Click on a citation in the document body and a pop-up menu appears, showing the References information which the user can use to dismiss the citation, accept its validity or view the source document. If the user chooses to view the document, the system will first search the user’s local storage and open the document (if not found, there will be an option to search online) to the cited location. [Reader only]
  • Headings & Names (’n’) view [Reader only]
  • Headings & Highlighted (‘h’) view [Reader only]
  • Dynamic View. On cmd-d the word processing view is replaced by a non-linear ‘Dynamic View’ which the user can add any text to. Double click on any text in this view presents a Find list of any occurrences in the document. [Reader only at this point]

Implicit Linking. Allows the user to follow what Doug Engelbart called ‘Implicit Links’ which helps the user see connections.


infrastructure

Visual-Meta is a system which connects Author and Reader by allowing you to export to PDF with a Visual-Meta appendix. This takes the raw text of the PDF and informs the Reader how to enable advanced interactions. It is an open system and a legacy safe path to richer documents based on the standard BibTeX format.



thinking with symbols


For as long as writing has been around it has not only been a medium of communication across time and space, it has also served as a mental extension for human thought because it provides a non-decaying substrate with a much larger storage capacity than our working memory. Other than writing in sand however, the stable substrate does not provide flexibility for moving thoughts to see text in different ways, through different views. All it allows for is crossing lines of text out and writing them down elsewhere, should a better fit be found, leaving behind not an empty space but unusable space.

Digital text affords the user to move text and thoughts at will–but only within the constraints set by the software used. So far that has meant the ability to edit freely and have spelling checked in word processors and to move nodes of text representing thoughts in graph programs. It has meant the ability to copy text, to publish text and to one-click share text on social media.

The developers of early software which we use to interact with our text were true pioneers, prominently among was Doug Engelbart. His mission was to augment our ability to solve urgent, complex problems collectively. This focus on augmentation led him to develop Augment (originally called NLS) where the power of the user to get to grips with their knowledge was paramount and text interaction–or symbol manipulation as he referred to it–was key. In his environment the user would learn the ability to follow both explicit links, such as the web links we have today, as well as implicit links, such as the way a word is linked to its entry in a dictionary for example. Powerful views of text including automatic outlining and being able to see text in a freeform graph was also developed at his Augmentation Research Center.

Engelbart's focus on powerful augmentation took a back seat as digital text became mainstream and the the development focus became 'ease-of-use' for the beginner, who was the customer. I admit, the following is a bit of a rant: Instead of commands, the user would click on pictures, much like someone who does not know a language fluently may point on pictures to express what they want to communicate. The corporate development of text systems would go on to change how we work and socialise, with weblink and instant-share social media changing our information and communication landscape. The evolutionary pressure for this development was at core financial so end-user software was developed to appeal to the novice (new) user–not the experienced user who wanted to have more control–since this was the user who would purchase the software. Networks were developed to encourage the easy of feeding social media for news and gossip, benefiting the network owners and advertisers, not necessarily the end user who paid no money to use the system. Much has been spoken about the issues around social media but not as much around the issues of textual communication in general. This is what the notion of augmented text aims to address:


interactions


Starting with the principle that the most fundamental aspect of existence is not matter–nor information–but interaction, and that the human brain is a connective environment, the development of augmented text is focused around developing rich interactions and flexible views to augment human thought.


wouldn't it be nice...


The development is constantly guided by a question of 'wouldn't it be nice…' within the paradigm of augmentation (not simply ease-of-use). Here are so more of the specific questions we have asked so far:

Wouldn't' it be nice to
copy text as citations, not just plain text? > With Reader and Author you can do that. And it knows the different between who edited and who wrote the text. And it can link straight to a document on your own computer–even to the section within that document.

Wouldn't' it be nice to
click on a citation in a document and have a little pop-up come up with all the information you'd need to evaluate whether its a useful citation and whether you should download it yourself? > You can do this to citations created in Author and read in Reader.

Wouldn't it be nice if the author would not have to elaborate on every term, person and concept they write about, but to do so once in a
glossary, in a process taking no more time or effort than writing it once–then have the reader get access to this further information without it being distracting? > This is what we have implemented as an Augmented Glossary. This is possible with our super-simple glossary implementation.

Wouldn't' it be nice to be able to
spread out your thoughts free-form, but still have them connected to your main document and Glossary? > This is the Dynamic View in Author and Reader.

Wouldn't' it be nice to be able to
look up any text instantly, to check assertions, facts and basic meaning? > That's what the Liquid tool allows you to do.

And a final 'wouldn't it be nice' for this introduction to Augmented Text: Wouldn't it be nice if all of this was possible without inventing a new document format–if it just worked on ordinary PDF documents? > This is why we invented
Visual-Meta, which adds rich metadata to a document as an appendix, at the same, visual, level as the rest of the document information, in an open and well established format (it builds on BibTeX).


onwards


We believe that text is a fundamental unit of knowledge and therefore the richer we interact with text, the richer we interact with our knowledge, and with each other. This informs everything we do.There is still so much untapped potential, which we hope to be a part of realising as we build ever more powerful systems based on what we learn along the way, hoping to encompass computational text as we keep the importance of longevity in mind.

We invite you to have a look at the software and see how it works and how it feels. Please do not hesitate with any questions of comments. After all, we are developing this to augment you. We also urge you to have a look at the work of Ted Nelson, Bret Victor, the systems of Scholarcy, the connections of Notion, Roam and Obsidian and generally look into the wonders of what augmented text can be.


futures of text


We can only move forward together. We started The Future of Text Symposium for this purpose and it has been active for a decade, developing into a diverse community. It has resulted in the book, The Future Of Text, a framing of where we are so far today, with the expectation of publishing annual editions for the foreseeable future.


foundations


The Augmented Text Tools are developed by a small independent software company, The Liquid Information Company, under Frode Alexander Hegland, in the UK. This work is a Future Text Initiative supported by the co-inventor of the Internet, Vint Cerf.

We'd like to close with a word from Doug, who was Frode's friend and mentor and who all this work is dedicated to:


“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.... ¶ 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.”

Douglas C. Engelbart http://dougengelbart.org/pubs/augment-133320.html



© 2020 Frode Alexander Hegland