The Electronic Labyrinth

Software Evaluation Conclusions

Of course it is not possible to recommend just one of these seventeen hypertext packages for all uses. Yet it is surprisingly easy to narrow the field considerably.

Of the HyperCard clones, Toolbook is the best choice for work in Windows because of its speed, price, and features, while HyperCard itself is ideal for the Mac. However, we should reiterate here that, despite its popularity, the "stack of cards" paradigm is not ideal for hyperbook development. HyperWriter! is the definite winner in the card-based arena. For $1000, this program will do almost anything you want, though it does lack even simple decision-making ability.

We did not expect to seriously consider Knowledge Pro, Folio VIEWS, FrameMaker, SmarText, or the Windows Help Compiler as authoring systems. However, SmarText surprised with its ability to automate tedious work and make stand-alone hyperbooks. Limiting factors include the reader price and lack of any method to embed intelligence. The Windows Help Compiler has a lot going for it, and deserves a look by any serious hypertext author. Finally, Storyspace can be recommended for its reasonable price, breadth of features, and overall interface. While certain design decisions are irritating and the lack of text formatting features is a disappointment, it is easy to see why this package is popular among writers.

The term "hypertext" has been interpreted loosely by many application developers and reviewers. Support for truly nonlinear writing and reading is found in few products. Distributed and multi-author texts are not possible. The traditional wall between author and reader is barely scratched. This survey reveals that the theory and practice of hypertext, at least at a consumer level, are distinct.

These products will improve; as users become more demanding, features from research systems such as Intermedia and NoteCards will become commonplace on the desktop. Until that time, there is more than enough here to satisfy writers restricted by the printed book, eager to break the spine and free the leaves within.

For The Electronic Labyrinth, we chose to use the Windows Help Compiler to target the DOS/Windows platform. To automate the otherwise tedious process of creating the help file, we used FileMix.

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