Fluid Documents: Annotation in Context

Bay-Wei Chang, Jock Mackinlay, and Polle Zellweger, Xerox PARC

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University April 9, 1999


Typographic conventions such as footnotes and marginalia have long been used to place supporting information on a static page without disrupting the primary information. Computer-based documents have recently augmented these conventions with hypertext links to supporting documents. Compared to static typography, hypertext has fewer limits on the size or complexity of an annotation, but at the cost of removing the supporting information from its context on the page.

This talk presents a new technique for annotation, called Fluid Documents, which uses lightweight interactive animation to incorporate annotations in their context. Our approach initially uses the space on a page for primary information, indicating the presence of supporting material with small visual cues. When a user expresses interest in a cue, its annotation gradually expands nearby. Meanwhile, the surrounding information alters its typography and/or layout to create the needed visual space.

The talk will demonstrate the value of Fluid Documents in two prototype applications. Fluid Links use animated glosses to support informed and incremental hypertext browsing, and Fluid Spreadsheets use animated graphics to make formulas and cell dependencies visible in a spreadsheet.
We will also describe our underlying negotiation architecture, which allows the primary and supporting information to adjust their typography and layout appropriately.

Please consult the Fluid Documents Web page for references and more information.

All three speakers are members of the Xerox PARC Information Sciences and Technologies Laboratory.

Bay-Wei Chang is a member of the Human Document Interaction group. He has done research in object-oriented languages and environments, cartoon-inspired animation in user interfaces, web application builders, in-place editing of community-shared documents, and Fluid Documents. He holds a PhD in computer science from Stanford University.

Jock Mackinlay is a member of the User Interface Research group. He has been working at PARC on user interfaces and information visualization since receiving his PhD in computer science from Stanford University. Much of the fruits of this work can be seen in his recently-published book, Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think (Morgan Kauffman, 1999, co-authored with Stuart Card and Ben Shneiderman).

Polle Zellweger is a member of the Collaborative Systems group. Her research interests include user interfaces, hypertext, multimedia, electronic books, and collaborative work. She conducted her PhD work in interactive source-level debugging for optimized programs at Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Xerox PARC.


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