WWWeb Hypertext Style
by Jerry Tutsch, Copyright © 1996
Standalone Hypertext DocumentsMuch of the complexity of hypertext WWWeb documents derives from the fact that several different programs must often be used to write and/or read them. For example, any text editor that can output plain ASCII text can be used to add HTML codes to a document, but to see the effect of the HTML codes a viewer such as Netscape Navigator is needed. If more than a simple hypertext WWWeb page is desired, various graphics, video and sound editors are needed. Netscape then requires "helper" programs to "view" the additional document components. The helpers must often be installed and configured by the reader of the document. Since the file formats of the various parts are different, the hypertext document becomes a (generally large) collection of files. The author then needs yet another program to manage the files. Maintaining the document becomes a big task in itself.
Prior to the advent of the WWWeb, hypertext theorists and researchers developed many different standalone programs that could be used for reading, writing and maintaining hypertext documents.1 Unfortunately, because of the high cost of these programs, few people have been able to gain much experience writing or reading true hypertext documents. With the increased availability of the WWWeb and low cost WYSIWYG HTML editors, this situation is changing but there are still many problems associated with WWWeb publishing and hypertext.
Let us review the pros and cons of first generation standalone hypertext systems. On the plus side, such systems are true hypertext editors as opposed to being simply "word processing" or HTML editors. They have built-in facilities for managing the additional complexity of hypertext documents. They also define a uniform document GUI. This relieves the author of the task of defining yet another GUI for each new hypertext document. Since they run on the local single-user machine, they can speed up the process of reading a hypertext document. Finally, standalone hypertext documents can be sold much like books.
On the negative side, standalone hypertext systems produce documents that are dependent on particular hardware and software. Unless the editor and reader both come with each document, documents become obsolete whenever the needed hardware and/or software becomes unsupported - which in the computer business is generally a matter of just a few years. Another major problem is that standalone hypertext documents cannot easily link to external hypertext documents written using different systems.
It seems that there is a need for second generation hypertext editing systems that can output HTML documents for publishing on the WWWeb.2 Adding HTML formatting features to word processors is a temporary half-step toward creating true hypertext editors. Determining how authors can get paid for significant WWWeb documents is a separate, but important, problem.3
Created using HyperText ToolÝ, at 11:53 AM, on 4/3/96. The document is located at: http://www.execpc.com/~tutsch/HTT-W3HTS/top.html.