The Electronic Labyrinth


Hyperion Softword's Orpheus 1.53 is a DOS text mode hypertext system. It implements history and bookmark features, and supports full-screen PCX images. Reference, note, and command links may be created using the simple markup language. Macros, a print function, and on-line help round out the feature set. ASCII importing is possible, but as only one page may be filled at a time, it is not practical. The included runtime program occupies just 125 KB. One hundred pages of documentation are provided on-line. It costs $5 to obtain and $50 to register this shareware package.

Though Orpheus relies on a page metaphor (indeed, the manual contains a lengthy defense of this position), it does provide several extensions. During authoring, each page may contain fifty lines, so that there is room for rough work. Up to four edit windows (and one view window) may be open at a time, though only one occupies the screen. The hyperbook manual notes that scrolling will be added to a future version.

Orpheus' interface has not been implemented well. The menus are far from intuitive, and often have too many options. Some menu options require you to enter data right on the menu, instead of presenting a dialogue window for data input. This behaviour is non-standard and distracting. Small icons (actually ASCII characters) are available in the top right corner of the screen. These too are not intuitive; the right arrow does not advance to the next node, but instead moves you backwards along the current path.

One intriguing aspect of the interface is the ability to use the mouse for block operations without the need for selecting menu commands. This ability, which is called "quick formatting" in other packages, is welcome.

The markup language contains only one structure, an IF statement. Commands are available to display graphics, text, and ANSI files; run external programs and batch files; change and test the graphics mode; set colours and special effects; go to a specific card or book, and define graphic anchors. Scripts may be run when a node is loaded or when a link is activated.

Orpheus would be a viable authoring system with the addition of scrolling windows, an improved import procedure, and redesigned menus. Compare with Dart.

The author of Orpheus, Rod Willmott, has published the hyperbook poem Everglade using this system.

1997 update: Orpheus 2 is now at version 2.30 and has significantly enhanced features.

Rod Willmott
Hyperion Softword
535 Irene-Couture
Sherbrooke, PQ
J1L 1Y8


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© 1993-2000 Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.
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