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Hypertext Tools

Eastgate Systems announces the release of Tinderbox, a personal Web content manager (great for blogs!)


Jason Rousell writes: "I've put together a web site for my MPhil research at It converts Gutenberg e-texts into .lit, .htm, .pdf, .pdb and .txt files on the fly. There are over 4000 titles that can be converted for free. But the main purpose of the site is the hypertext editor I've put together that enables users to create pretty sophisticated hypertext fictions using a WYSIWYG tool. There's still some beta testing to be done but I now want to get a group of writers together to start using the tools."

Eastgate has announced the release of Storyspace 2.0.2 for Macintosh. This upgrade improves video and animation in writing spaces, and is free to Storyspace 2 users. Users of any previous Storyspace release may upgrade to Storyspace 2 for $95.

Ted Nelson announces Cosmic Book, intriguing new software for making "hypertext with visible links."

IOLIB, a Flash development kit from io research, Joshua Ulm's studio, features a variety of useful animation and XML methods for advanced Flash programmers.Thanks, Taylor!

Bob Stein writes that "It's been a long 4 1/2 years, but TK3 Version 1.0 (plus a number of nifty sample books) is finally available on our new website," TK3 is Night Kitchen's new tool for electronic books; Stein -- for years the driving force behind Voyager and a true ebook pioneeer-- continues, "If you want to check it out, download the TK3 Reader before you download any of the samples; you'll only need TK3 Author if you want to try your hand at making books."

Jeff Zeldman and Web Standards have launched a new Browser Upgrade Initiative, debuting in the latest issue of A List Apart, that calls on the Web Design community to promote modern standards by abandoning backward compatability. By designing sites that use style sheets instead of HTML hacks, the Web could be cleaner, more flexible, and much more elegant. abandon your old browser; a better browser is an easy and free upgrade.

The devil's in the details, and the project's opening example -- reimplementing A List Apart -- probably has too many gritty details to start the revolution. Even if we abandon worst and oldest browser, Zeldman shows how tricky things can get to coax new browsers to behave. The results are encouraging -- a nice, liquid layout without messy tables. And it's important to get people to upgrade sooner, not later. It's important to avoid messy mixtures of content, style, and obscure HTML hackery. Join the crusade.

Macromedia has released Flash 5.0a, a Macintosh upgrade that offers better export and a variety of bug fixes.

Paper and the Myth of Permanence by Scott Edelman. A pundit from the world of sci-fi ponders migration from print to screen. Thanks, David Kolb!

Jeffrey Zeldman cuts through the confusion that surrounds CSS style sheets. Each browser version introduces its own compatability issues, but Zeldman distills the complexity into a simple guideline:

If control of the visual interface is your most important goal, use pixels in your style sheet. If accessibility is most important, use ems. Pixels always work correctly, and ems work plausibly in all the major browsers. All other units are broken in at least one major browser, and should be avoided.

Darcy Pattison, a writer of children's books, used Storyspace to design a Web site that previews her upcoming novel, The Wayfinder.

Flash 5, the latest version of Macromedia's Web animation tool, is now shipping.

The Proceedings of CHI 2000 have arrived from ACM. One highlight is an emprical study of The Impact of Fluid Documents on Reading and Browsing by Polle Zellweger et al. This work extends Zellweger's important Hypertext '98 paper, one of the best application s of dynamic typography to date.

"Clearly, the increasing use of computer-based documents is changing how we read. Our subject ignored footnotes, even though they were the conventional way to put details in paper documents. Perhaps, as one subject suggested, Web browsers are training us to ignore text popping up at the bottom of the screen."

Microsoft has announced a new computer language, C# (pronounced C-sharp), positioned as a rival to Java. First impressions recall the strengths and weaknesses of PL/1, an early, IBM-backed replacement for the even-earlier FORTRAN: a big and fairly conventional language with lots of features that tries to please everybody. The level of discussion on slashdot is embarassingly poor; pointers to intelligent discussion would be welcome.

virtual cat at playEastgate has opened a new Development Peekhole, through which visitors can watch the progress of new hypertext systems under construction. (Also seen at times through the peekhole is the virtual bookstore's virtual cat, seen at right designing better geometries for curved links)

Martin Dodge's Mappa Mundi, a project concerned with information mapping, now features a map image created with Storyspace.

Jimmy Guterman previews Rob Kendall's Connection System in the Chicago Tribune.

"The Connection System is geared for those already familiar with the rudiments of hypertext fiction; it's not the means by which new writers will flock to the form. But it does give those already committed to the form some long-needed tools for delivering long-needed effects. Then it's up to them to use those tools to attract the masses to the form."

People sometimes enjoy watching natural patterns unfold over time. That's one reason people like Webcams and follow personal journals. This Macintosh widget adds the current phase of the moon to the menu bar.

JournaleTech publishes software (for Windows) for making personal journals."Our systems promote self improvement by means of journal writing and role playing to enhance problem solving skills."

The Guardian is running a series on new media, and last weekend's article, Giles Foden's "Scroll to the Future" touched on some Eastgate titles. A correspondent reports that the article says, among other things, that "the development of Storyspace, a new program by Eastgate Systems, looks promising."

Macromedia has released a minor update for Flash 4. The update is a 2.3M download is available for Macintosh only, and improves memory handling and resolves a problem in the Actions scripting tab.

Frank Shipman reports that VKB , the Visual Knowledge Builder designed as a successor to the pioneering spatial hypertext system VIKI, is ready for trial use. VKB runs on Windows. Visit the Web site for free download and links to research papers.

David Berreby writes to say:

What I find most useful about Storyspace for non-fiction writing is that it allows you to make explicit your ideas about how pieces of your work relate. Instead of an intuition, a feeling of comprehension in your head, you have something explicit on the screen. You can see holes and you can have peace of mind -- if you forget your intentions, it's OK. The Storyspace web represents them.

So I use Storyspace to work on organization the way I use my word processor to write -- both my writing outlines and my maps of my own knowledge can exist in rough, then less rough, then half-finished form, on their way to completeness (temporary in the case of the knowledge; that's always being added to). All this is a great help. Before I used Storyspace I felt that whatever plan I settled on for writing or analyzing had to be perfect because it would be so difficult to change later. That was an impossible goal. Results: Anguish. Plunging ahead without planning. Random or arbitrary organization. Life is better now.

Ray Kurzweil has created an interactive, intelligent software suite designed to act as a poet's assistant. Ray Kurzweil's Cybernetic Poet,, is now available as a free download from Kurzweil CyberArt Technologies, Inc. According to Kuzweil, " With a little cyber-help, anyone can write creative adaptations based on Elizabeth Barrett Browning's half-rhymes, William Butler Yeats' alliterations, just to name a few, "said Kurzweil.

Nisus Software has introduced a new outline processor, iLiner. Interestingly, iLiner exports presentatations as QuickTime movies, which can be streamed over the net, making iLiner a possible alternative to PowerPoint or home-made HTML presentation schemes.

The Centre for Spatial Analysis offers An Atlas of Cyberspace -- a compendium of maps and other graphic representations of the internet, the Web, and other electronic spaces. Thanks, Simon Buckingham-Shum! URL fixed: Thanks John R. Smith, Jr.!

Dene Grigar (whose review of True North appears in the current issue of American Book Review) taught a workshop on hypertext writing and Storyspace at the annual NCTE meeting in Denver. Each activity is detailed on the workshop's Web site.

New from Ted Nelson, "Embedded Markup Considered Harmful". Nelson argues that embedding markup in text (as in SGML and HTML) is a bad idea for three reasons: (1) it complicates editing, (2) it complicates transclusion -- especially if the section to be transcluded overlaps tag or container boundaries, and (3) embedding markup inside the text unduly emphasizes sequential and hierarchical structures, which fit naturally into embedded markup schemes, over more interesting and useful patterns. Classic Nelson, intertwining history of religion, tranclusion, literary machines, and the early history of programming.

A superb paper on this subject is "Referential Integrity of Links in Open Hypermedia Systems", by Multicosm's Hugh Davis, in the Hypertext '98 Proceedings. Davis, like Nelson, has long advocated external link markup -- maintaining link information separately from the underlying document; in this paper, he shows that all known approaches to link markup, external and embedded, prove unwieldy under some circumstances.

Eastgate's Mark Bernstein writes that "the question may be less central than most people (including Nelson) believe. Transforming embedded links to external links is simply a computation -- simply a data structure change. It may not be easy for users to know whether a particular hypertext tool uses embedded markup or not; Storyspace, for example, uses external links but behaves exactly as if the links were embedded. As a result, Nelson's first two objections to embedded markup don't hold water. The third objection is deeper and more interesting, and Nelson's central prediction in this paper is already becoming true: 'Embedded markup, daily more tangled, will implode and leave HTML as an output format.' Writing HTML by hand is an anomaly; it makes much more sense to use deeper editors and leave HTML (or, more probably, XML) as a data exchange format for moving information between programs.

Ray Kurzweil's Cybernetic Poet is now available for downloading. The package is a collection of poetry-authoring tools designed to make writing poetry and song lyrics easy and enjoyable. Thanks TBTF!

Jazz, the successor to the widely-known Pad++ zoomable user interface system, is now available as an open source beta. Jazz is a 100% Java 2 platform for building Zoomable User Interfaces. It supports all of the features that Pad++ does, but does so in a much more open and extensible manner. While Pad++ was designed to be a simple prototyping system, Jazz is designed to be a serious system for reliable application development. Jazz is built on a "scenegraph" model that comes from the world of 3D graphics. It supports embedded Swing widgets, multiple cameras, internal cameras (i.e., portals and lenses), extensible internal structure, running as an applet, and more. A discussion list is open for subscriptions.

MediaLoom is an interesting tool for creating HyperVideo, by John Tolva. Downloadable alpha for Macintosh and for Windows. Thanks Nitin Sawhney!

The Foresight Institute offers CritSuite, critical discussion tools for the Web. Thanks Andy Edmonds

WebPhotoJournals is a new Trellix site that describes a nice way to create a visually rich online journal. The point is not to write for an audience of a million strangers; the point is to spend an hour or two making something your friends and family will love.

John Udell offers a first-hand report and assesment of the recent Xanadu public source release. Hypertext researchers have been trying to understand some critical details about Nelson's Xanadu vision for two decades; perhaps the source code will clear up the mysteries.

The first public release of the software developed by the Xanadu Operating Company is now available. The Xanadu architecture, originally described in Ted Nelson's Literary Machines, envisioned a world-wide docuverse of interlinked literature as early as 1982.

The Storyspace treemap view is based on research by Ben Shneiderman and his colleagues at the University of Maryland. Treemaps are a very efficient way of viewing a complicated hierarchy; Storyspace was one of the first commercial systems to use treemaps. A report by Ben Shneiderman reviews the history of treemaps and their varied applications.

Boxer is now available from Boxer Software for DOS and Windows. This is not, as previously reported, a descendant of DiSessa's classic hypertext system, but rather an entirely new text editor. John R. Smith, Jr. writes, "I routinely (all day, every day) use Boxer to massage text I pull from the net (and elsewhere) before pasting or importing it into Storyspace for Windows hyperjournal."

Bob Stein's new company, Night Kitchen, is seeking beta testers for its electronic publishing platform. Before starting Night Kitchen, Stein ran Voyager's seminal Expanded Book operation.

Eastgate has begun shipping Storyspace for Windows 1.75. Free upgrades have been sent to registered users who bought Storyspace after 1 September 1998; contact Eastgate if you ought to have received an update and it hasn't arrived.

Hypertext Web toolmaker Trellix has announced improved Web publication facilities. Their new Web site positions Trellix as a Web design tool: "Using Trellix, regular people can easily create...their own web sites."

Web Tools

Bret Benjamin, Andrew Osborn, Gina Siesing, Joseph Slaughter, and Jennifer Wenzel have anounced Critical Tools 2.0, a suite of seven free, Web-based courseware modules.

Assoziations-Blaster, a large, community-based interactive text network with real-time linking now has an English version. It's an interesting collaborative metafiction. All are invited to contribute.

A fascinating Web implementation of transclusive parallel hypertext at URE.ORG is well worth a visit, especially for fans of Ted Nelson's Literary Machines. Drag each column to scroll. (Requires Java) Thanks PeterMe.

SpyOnIt will notify you whenever there's something fresh here in the Hypertext Kitchen. They'll send you email, page your pager, or update a personal Web page, created just for you, that lists recent updates for your favorite sites. Add your HypertextKitchen spy: click here.

David Emberton contributes a nice tutorial on mouse trails in Flash. Mouse trails and waterfalls are a trendy kind of chartjunk, but you never know when you might need the technique.OmniEdit lets you edit your Web site from anywhere. Just enter your FTP information, and OmniEdit lets you revise the site from a Web browser, wherever you may be. Thanks, Dave Winer!

Macromedia announced that new versions of Dreamweaver and Fireworks will ship in December

Andreas Dieberger's collaborative hypertext tool, SWIKI, lets communities create Web spaces. What's especially interesting is that reading in SWIKI leaves footprints: you can see where other people are going and what they've been doing; social navigation, Dieberger believes, is a key to using big hypertexts (like the Web). Fascinating and fun

Robert Kendall, author of "A Life Set For Two", sends word of a new test release of his Connection System Javascript package for dynamic linking on the Web. "We are a bit behind schedule," he writes, "though I just posted a new beta version on the Web site. You can download all the system files and templates and the draft documentation in ZIP format. Everything seems to work pretty well, but the documentation is not yet complete. We are also planning to rename some of the functions, so it isn't really ready yet for extensive use."

Microsoft is pulling the plug on Firefly, the pioneering collaborative filtering system pioneered by MIT's Patti Maes. Microsoft purchased Firefly in 1998. The core technologies are said to be folded into Microsoft's passport portal.

Cartia's ThemeScape is an interesting visualization of conceptual clusters. Cartia makes maps of Web sites (or other document collections) that look like topological maps. Thanks PeterMe

Overlib is a Javascript library that lets you add flexible popup windows to any Web link. Works cleanly with Netscape and MSIE. This is an old idea from Guide and Hyperties that could prove useful in surprising ways. Thanks Scripting News.

In WebReview, Leon Atkinson explains the elements of PHP, an open source Web scripting language that is very powerful, but (in its domain) much easier to use than Perl or ASP. Atkinson is the author of Core PHP Programming, which is quite good.

WebReview has a thorough look at the changes in Flash 4, the latest release of Macromedia's animation tool.

Webmonkey Krister Olsson offers a nice discussion of the merits of two competing Macromedia tools in a tutorial on choosing Flash vs. Shockwave.

RichLink is a Web browser plug-in that supports comment links and glossary links as pop-up menus (but only within its own RLF files). TidBits writer Matt Neuberg offers a review of both the authoring and viewing tools, which he finds promising but "clumsy and full of unnecessary surprises."

Navihedron is an new navigation widget for Web sites. Nodes (or subsites) are vertices of a polyhedron, which the user rotates with the cursor. Requires Shockwave 7. Thanks Cool Tool.

Third Voice provides a Web annotation service. It works only in MSIE 4.0 for Windows (not MSIE 5, not Netscape, not Mac -- all promised soon) Third Voice debuted at Red Herring, but what is the business model? (Thanks David Kolb!)

Macromedia has announced a new generation of Flash, their vector-based Web animation tool. Flash has quietly become ubiquitous; about 75% of today's Web users are believed to have Flash already installed. It's a built-in technology for current Netscape and Microsoft browsers) Renewed interest in animated text might make Flash attractive to electronic poets and other hypertext writers.

Inquisit offers custom Web agents by subscription. These agents autonomously filter the Web and news wires for new work of special interest. No software needed; the agents run on Inquisit's machines and send you results. A free 30-day trial is available. Thanks to Michael Joyce for the tip.

Graphics, Animation, and Other Media

Macromedia has launched Dreamweaver Exchange to support extensions and plug-ins to its HTML editor. Dreamweaver's extensibility, facilitated by defining much of its behavior in external XML files, is itself an interesting example of hypertextuality.

Emigre's trend-setting font designer, Zuzana Licko, has released a new industrial sans serif font family, Solex.

MetaCreations Creativity Magazine offers step-by-step tutorials and details on product introductions and upgrades. Information about product updates to Painter 6, Poser 4 and Carrara are expected soon.

David Amberton and J. Scott Hamlin suggest 14 Flash Tips, including features and affordances people often overlook.

Metacreation's Poser 4 is now shipping -- Eastgate's copy arrived yesterday. At first glance, the program is vastly improved: clothing is more flexible, and it's now easy to change a character's face. (64M RAM suggested!) An independent Poser forum is now available as well.

PuppetTime Producer, a character animation program designed for creating compact digital actors, is now available as a feature-complete beta. Rendered 3D animations may be compressed to 1K/sec.

MacSourcery's ScreenTime for Flash creates cross-platform screen savers with Flash. Because Flash 4 can interact with remote servers, it might be possible to create a self-updating serial hypertext screen saver.

Visibone offers downloadable color palettes of Web-safe colors, suitable for use with Photoshop, ImageReady, and other image tools. The Visibone palettes organize colors in a color wheel, a better arrangement for designers than the customary (and arbitrary) grids.

Jason Coleman's Flash Interface Tips in describe ways to create cinematic wipes and fades in this vector graphics tool. The interface tips are useful, even if Coleman's grasp of film theory is problematic (he thinks the prominent wipes in Star Wars is techno-gloss when it's really a nostalgic gesture to early Kurosawa).

Christopher Schmitt is interested in color theory for Web design, and sells an interesting mouse pad that tries to organize Web-safe colors in suggestive patterns.

Metacreations has announced a new release of Poser, their unique tool for figure design and character animation. Interestingly, the new Poser 4 will not be limited to photrealistic rendering; Poser will now be able to create sketches of figures in a variety of hand-drawn styles.

Software Tools

Motorola intends to acquire Metrowerks, the manufacturer of Code Warrior compilers. (Metrowerks tools are absolutely vital for Macintosh and Palm OS development)


Lada Adamic and Bernardo Huberman (Xerox PARC) have an interesting paper on how Web readers visit sites. They examined usage logs of 60,000 AOL customers for one day in 1997 and created an intriguing statistical model based on the data. While 120,000 different Web sites were visited, users congregated at a small number of sites. Almost 1/3 of the users visited one of the top 120 sites, while 50,000 sites received one visit each.

The Association of National Advertisers surveyed 120 large companies about their Web practices. The average cost of developing a site is reported to be $252,000, with annual maintenance averaging $182,000.

EBooks and PDAs

iSilo converts HTML documents into a special PalmPilot format. Thanks, Jill Walker!

Unusual Technologies

Beyond the antcam:A Media Lab project builds special Web browsers for parrots.

Narrative environments: Tom White and David Small of The Aesthetics and Computation Group at MIT have created a " stream of consciousness", an interactive poetry garden (with a real indoor stream).

Calling itself just the thing "for those who need more randomness for [sic] their writing," this new tool "applies DNA-like evolution process to your text; you are like an orchid breeder selecting the most pleasant mutant offspring to be bred further, until you have discovered a new peak of adaptive fitness, or something." For Netscape only.  New peak of adaptive fitness??

Slugmail helps you manage your email. If you're too busy to handle something today, forward it to and slugmail will send it to you tomorrow. sends the mail back to you next Monday. Thanks, Blake Hannaford!

Sony is marketing an entertaining new robot called AIBO. The robot, shaped a bit like a dog or a cat, learns from its environment and has an elaborate emotional model. Sold out -- all 2000 units available to the US market have been sold at $2500. (Thanks Kaliber10000)

Hypertext designers often think about imagining and visualizing virtual worlds. Roboticist Blake Hannaford has just published a fascinating history of the related problem: feeling virtual (or distant) worlds to make our view of them cohere. Whether making an imaginary world credible or making it easy to operate a robot on Mars, Feeling Is Believing:History of Telerobotics Technology. fixed URL


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