The Electronic Labyrinth


In 1983, Ben Schneiderman began development at the University of Maryland on The Interactive Encyclopedia System (TIES). This has since evolved into a commercial product, HyperTies, marketed by Cognetics. Early versions supported only DOS text mode, and used the cursor keys for navigation. Hyperbooks implemented at this time include the electronic version of Hypertext Hands-On! and Communications of the ACM, July 1988. Recently, support has been added for graphics modes up to SVGA.

We examined version 3.05, available as HyperTies Standard ($380), HyperTies Professional ($580), and HyperTies for DVI ($1450). The Professional version adds video and video disc support to the base product; the top-of-the-line product adds support for sound and Intel's Digital Video Interactive standard. Both also provide a screen designer. We will concentrate here on the standard package.

HyperTies is oriented towards ease of use. Its small feature set, page paradigm, and touch-screen support make it ideal for public-access kiosks, trade show displays, and interactive tutorials. Navigation features include a history, Boolean search, and index. PCX and TGF graphics may be included. In the standard version, screen designs may be selected from one of seven templates provided. Only reference links are supported, from text or graphics. Anchors appear in a distinct colour. A nice feature is that the mouse pointer highlights the anchors when passing over them. Cursor movement is also optimized to make it easy to select links. Link destinations may be specified only to the level of article; these may be many pages in length.

ASCII import and export with markup codes for nodes and links is supported. Page design--the positioning of buttons, graphics, and other elements--is all done through codes inserted using the rudimentary text editor. Considering the emphasis on ease of use, this process should be automated by way of an interactive designer.

The first ten reader modules are free, subsequently authors can negotiate a rate structure with Cognetics. A typical royalty is 10% of retail; actual rates are based on volume, whether the reader is to be used within the author's organisation, and so on.

Though it has its strengths, HyperTies falls far short of HyperWriter! in the feature department. Future extensions include a reader for Windows. This was being beta tested as of May 1993.

Cognetics Corporation
PO Box 3029
Princeton, NJ
Phone: 609-799-5005

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