The Electronic Labyrinth


Guide was first developed by Peter Brown at the University of Kent in 1982. The original implementation was for PERQ workstations running UNIX. In 1984, Office Workstations Ltd. was formed to develop Guide commercially. In September 1986, the product gained the honour of being the first commercially available hypertext system. The Apple version was joined by one for Microsoft Windows in July 1987. After version 2.0, Owl International Inc. was bought by Matsushita Electric Industrial Corporation. In 1992, the developers changed to InfoAccess Inc.

Version 3.05 is a single-user document hypertext, with support for PCX and TIFF graphics, video, video disc, and external pointers. Multiple document Boolean search and a 32-item history are the only available navigation features. All four link classes are supported; anchors are represented by the following formats: italic (reference, command), bold (note), and underline (expansion). The anchor appearance may be changed, but only to other typographic styles. We consider these choices to be unfortunate. However, a nice feature is the fact that the mouse pointer changes shape when over an anchor. Text, graphics, and invisible anchors are supported.

Links may be created without scripting, though a simple Pascal clone (Logiix) is provided. Extensions may be written in C. Dynamic Data Exchange is supported. ASCII and RTF files may be imported and exported. An additional utility, G-Convert, converts Mac to PC hyperbooks.

Guide is priced at $495. However, readers must be purchased individually, at prices which start at $95 each (for less than ten). This makes low volume distribution on par with book pricing unfeasible. For larger volumes, pricing is more reasonable. For instance, if purchasing between 1,000 and 5,000 copies, each reader is $19.50.

Owl once marketed Idex, an industrial-strength multi-user hypertext system which supports SGML, page templates, and user-defined search templates. The successor, Guidex, is available only in Europe. Owl more fully supports Guide Professional Publisher, a combination of Guide, Guide Writer, and Avalanche FastTAG. FastTAG analyzes a document's structure, inserting markup codes compatible with SGML. Guide Writer then builds this file into an electronic document, according to style attributes defined by the author. Input formats include DCA, RTF, WordPerfect, and Word.

Guide is very user-friendly. In case of difficulties, most of the 300-page manual is on-line. Its cross-platform compatibility and ease of linking earn it high marks. It is recommended if you can afford the runtime fees.

InfoAccess Inc.
2800 156th Ave SE
Bellevue, WA

Phone: 206-747-3203
Fax: 206-641-9367

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