Post, 17 Oct, 14:02


My proposal is to build what I call a ‘Liquid View’ for the word processor Author which I have developed (full name of the application is Liquid | Author). This Liquid View is invoked through a gesture which hides all body text and only shows the Headings in the document which are now treated as Nodes in a free-form thinking and layout space where the user can arrange the Nodes to augment thinking to understand the evolving structure of the document. By repeating the gesture the document reverts to the normal Word Processing view, while retaining any content changes such as a re-naming of a Heading or re-ordering of the Headings. 

Section 1: Literature Review

(a) What is Writing

The English Oxford ‘Living’ Dictionary defines writing as  A sequence of letters, words, or symbols marked on a surface  and the new addition to the name of the dictionary, the ‘Living’ dictionary is interesting, referring to their technology as the Lexical Engine and Platform (LEAP) shows that even the OED is moving into the digital age, adding tools to unleash the digital potential of text.

The act of reading is older than the act of writing, since we have been passively ‘reading’ our environment for as long as we have had senses to do so. We have never had the memory capacity to store everything our senses provide for us – we have always relied on our environment to ‘hold’ some of the information about it for us, while we retain only what is most pertinent for our purposes and even if we theoretically had memory to store everything our senses give us, our senses have never been able to gather and present a full and complete set of what was being sensed. This is important since textual reading is not an entirely unconnected activity to the rest of our experience and it is also important to highlight how we have come to culturally fetishise the printed word over the last half millennium in the way we draw credibility from citing what someone has printed – through the printed document conveying ‘authority’.


Even very basic senses are imperfect and messy and this is why a continuous re-evaluation of the environment is crucial to build up a picture fit for purpose. 

Information is liquid and in order to escape the spin of ‘fake news’ and untruthful research, this needs to be a central understanding of information literacy and information systems design. 

All we can hope is to better map provenance and remove the naive notion of ground truth, while moving to a position of considering perspective in addition to context as a prime aspect of information. 

By Liquid I mean XXX but this does not mean that the world is simply a subject construct, quite to the contrary; the world is as it is, information is what we have to make ‘sense’ of it. 

evidence fact proof paul cairns

In Author I have combined Links and Citations into a single dialog and system, since these are both explicit Extensions the author wishes to make away from the ‘Intentions’ of the body text. One important extension which is currently missing is that of a person, which is of course central to the discourse and in academic text the most important reference point when showing the validity, history or problem of an idea, a concept or a position. 

The written word cannot be isolated from the human mind, since it is not only the human mind which can interpret 

Writing is a visual artefact of the human mind, 

Writing is to our mind as the ground is to our feet, it is a point of contact through which we 

 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.

Norretranders, 1999

A powerful means through which we can transport our thought is through symbols, particularly the highly developed, powerful, grammar augmented symbols of text. These symbols have been refined through millennia to become ever more beautiful to the typographer who designs them and the printers who use them, to the point where the beauty and expensive of a printed codes lined the type up in rigid columns with nary an expensive (because of the cost of paper and writing) ‘white space’ in sight. The symbols which began free on a cave wall have been arrested in lines and columns. 

To re-liberate our symbol augmented thinking we need to break out of the linearity of the book, we need to break free from the purely linear presentation of text. 

 You see, Dad, Professor McLuhan says that the environment that man creates becomes his medium for defining his role in it. The invention of type created linear, or sequential thought, separating thought from action. Now, with TV and folk singing, thought and action are closer and social involvement is greater. We again live in a village. Get it?

Fiore, 2001

Text in Context


“early 1400’s., “network, structure,” 

from Middle French, from Classical Latin textura “web, texture, structure,”  from stem of texere “to weave,” from Proto-Indo-European (PIE) base *tek- “to make”.” (


“1620s, from L. textilis “woven, fabric, cloth,” noun use of textilis “woven,” 

from stem of texere “to weave,” from PIE base *tek- “to make”.” (


“late 1300’s, “wording of anything written,” 

from Old French texte, from Old North French. tixte (1100.),  from Medieval Latin textus “the Scriptures, text, treatise,” from Late Latin “written account, content, characters used in a document,” from Classical Latin textus “style or texture of a work,” literally “thing woven,”  from Past participle stem of texere “to weave,’ from PIE language base *tek- “make”.” (

In other words texture, textile and text all have the same root: ‘to make’ and ‘to weave’ as a shared colour. 

 …the true storyteller, the poet, is a weaver. The scribes made this old and audible abstraction into a new and visible fact. After long practice, their work took on such an even, flexible texture that they called the written page a textus, which means cloth.

Bringhurst, 2013

(b) What is Scholarly Writing


(c) What Tools are Used


(d) How are Scholarly Tools Inappropriately Constraining Thought


Section 2: Author

(a) How Author addresses the problems in 1(d)

Design Principles : Liquid Information 




(b) Features of Author

I have been working on Author for three years but with very little success over the first few years, including working with Finnish and Russian developers. All the work in the current, shipping version of Author has been done over the course of 2017.

Current Features

Author has been through several versions over the last 3 years where a shippable version did not become possible so I re-started the project this summer (2017) with a programmer in the US, Jacob Hazelgrove, and we have managed to get a working version produced and available in the Mac App Store, but not without bugs, which is why I keep working to fund further bug fixes and to make polishes to the way the user interacts with it. Current features include:

Automatic Outline. Pinch to collapse the text using your trackpad to see just the Headings and then click in the left hand margin to re-arrange the Headings at will. This will be the Liquid View in the future. 

Integrated Liquid for advanced text interaction in Author and in all the Mac applications

Quick Citation Creation. Select text and cmd-t  to add citations for academic papers, books, web and even live video

Quick Citation Check. Click to see the source, including having video citations play inside Author, from the moment cited

Export to Plain Text, RTF & Word with automatic appending of citations in References at the end of the document

Instant Find with cmd-f on selected text changes the document to only show sentences with the selected for text

Single-Click Link tagging. Select text and cmd-k to tag the text with a URL, without seeing a dialog. In Edit mode click on the link to edit it. In future versions links and citations will share the same dialog box. 

ESC to go into and out of full screen, which seems like a detail but is very helpful when going between focused writing and interacting with many documents. All commands have easy to remember keyboard shortcuts and you can ctrl-click on text to check what options are available, such as cmd-1 to make turn the text into a top level heading and cmd-t to cite a reference and so on.

Reading/Edit Modes for specific interactions to make both modes more powerful and pleasant, such as spacebar to move down a screen in Read mode

cmd- / cmd+ to scale all the text. You cannot change colour or size of specific text in Author, only bold and italic, since Author is a writing application, not a layout application so therefore have less time wasting distractions while you write and edit

Modern Architecture including auto saving and everything else you would expect from a modern, native macOS application including iCloud Drive (sync with Author iOS in the future)

Warm background to reduce eye strain. Note that in full screen mode your eyes will quite quickly adjust to the cast so you will enjoy the benefit without really noticing anything different.

Fast and innovative keyboard interactions: Triple click selects the sentence, not the paragraph, since testing shows you are more likely to select a paragraph with stripe select. Double click between words to select both words.

Upcoming Features

‘Sticky Path Headings’ as invented by my friend Bruce Horn, so that headings do not disappear off the top of the window but are stuck there until the next heading appears, so as to always show the current heading.

Live Text where the grammar will change based on time, such as ‘something will happen Friday the 16th’ will change to ‘something happened Friday the 16th’ when after the event, specifying weather and currencies based on trading time and more.

Liquid Glossaries which are available across the author’s documents, allowing the reader to choose the level of reveal.

Find improvements including shooing headings above any ‘found’ text and Search & Replace .

List improvements including pinch on list to show more or less sentences in the bullets (if there are hidden sentences add ellipsis at the end), numbered lists, re-ordering, tab-indent, choose how many levels to view and adding more line space between items in bullets than there is line spacing in the same bullet, to create a slightly sublet but useful separation of bulleted items in longer lists.

Export improvements including correct presentation of multiple authors in citations, Author headings being exported as Word Headings, Export Modules to check:

Writing level.

’Show Identical Sentences’ command to help with large documents where sections may have been pasted from notes more than once. 

Auto-summary which the author can choose to click on any sentence off to see what sentences in the document contributed to it in order to edit what the summary says which does not align with the author’s intention, as well as plagiarism check.

& more.

Citations improvements including one-click fill-in of previously used sources, support for BC dates, ingestion of full cited documents automatically, including web and Citation & Link in the same dialog to make all extensions away from the document uniform in their treatment and interactions.

Outline improvements including allowing the user to click and hold on a Heading in Edit mode and have that result in a collapse into Outline view where the user can then drag to move the Heading and expand back into word processor view on letting go.

Further smaller bugs will need to be addressed and this is a bigger issue than anticipated since we are venturing quite far outside the Apple Libraries intended use.

Liquid View Integration 

Automatic Outline becomes Liquid View. Pinch to collapse the text using your trackpad to see just the Headings which are now the Nodes in a free-form thinking space. 

(c) Evaluation of Author

Evaluations of Author would require serious design since it will not only be a speed test but also a test of the quality of thought which goes into a document, therefore the design of the evaluation will be an important part of the project itself. 

Section 3: Future Work

(a) Development of Specific Research Questions

The basic notion of changing the view of a word processing document to show only the headings has instant appeal to everyone I tell it to but the implementation has already highlighted serious design issues, including what level of free movement vs. chunks, how to deal with connecting lines and how to show and hide further information, how to deal with complexity in general and how to make the visual interface optimal for understanding.

(b) Proposal for work to answer the Questions

I will be improving Author until the end of the year (2017) while I also search for funding to build the Liquid View, both for macOS and iOS since simultaneous development is expected to provide a richer set of experiences to learn from. The budget will be 5-10,000 US dollars a month, depending on what I will be able to afford, with either part time or full time development time with my current, US based developer Jacob Hazelgrove.

The The initial architecting will focus on flexibility of development so that multiple interaction means can be explored. 

I will also continue my dialog with the industry, further literature reviews and blogging my findings as I progress: 

(c) Timetable and Plan

Author is available in the Mac App Store and will continue to be improved upon based on my research but I will now start to look for funding to implement the Liquid View. The hope is that I can promote Author and start producing sales to help fund Liquid View but external funding will be necessary as well.

The timeline is to have funding in place by end of 2018 so that I can spend the next year implementing and testing. 

The implementation will be inside Author and will be flexible to allow for multiple styles to be tested.