The Author PhD Project

Frode Hegland PhD Thesis




My PhD research project is concerned with the act of switching between different views of textual information, specifically measuring what interactions detract & which contribute to augment the users comprehension of the textual material.


The research objective is therefore to establish a metric of the Costs of the Interaction in terms of mental exertion and time exerted, in relation to the Perceived Utility of the view to switch to, and back again from.





By ‘view’ I mean the visual representation of the text on the screen. This is based on my friend and mentor Doug Engelbart's ViewSpec (View Specification) interaction from Augment, which allows the user to specify how the information should be presented on the screen, including such attributes as outline or full text etc.


In this study the fit to task of various views will be evaluated as well the effort to switching between views, measured alongside the users subjective feeling of the usefulness of any given view, to provide a frame of how effort to usefulness.



research plan


Initially am reviewing the basic interaction means and views available in current systems in a series of blog posts:  Current System Measurements


The research will involve measuring the cost of the interaction by measuring time taken and subjective level of effort by the users and the utility of the views, primarily through subject interviews. I will therefore need to design the tests and questionnaires and present them to the ethics committee.


Supporting the research of existing view switching functionality I will also be building views into the Author word processor to test novel methods:



the ‘author’ research platform


My macOS word processor Author is host for some of the practical application of the research, including the dynamic views I am developing specifically to test aspects of view switching.


Author also features unique views as implemented since the start of this project, including:






This work is being written in Author and blogged  at as it progresses, written hypertextually, and will be collapsed into a traditional document when required. An Interactive Text Glossary is also being built as I go.


The community I am developing this work with includes Mark Anderson, Christopher Gutteridge, Ted Nelson, Mark Bernstein, Frank Shipman, Cathy Marshall, Jeff Conklin, Ward Cunningham, Bruce Horn, Jack Park, Jane Yellowlees Douglas, Timour Shoukine, Adam Cheyer and Vint Cerf. My supervisors are Dame Wendy Hall and Les Carr.


The scope of my research is limited to university students who use macOS or iOS.





The original 9 Month Report which was accepted to the point of needing a viva with Dr. David Millard is available as a PDF and Dr. Millard's Notes are also available. I am working on improving the document for re-submission.


Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments or questions - or even better, if you would like to get involved somehow, at




Frode Hegland


(original version of this page, at the start of the project)