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The Electronic Broadsheet


The ideal newspaper scales and transposes news to any reasonable output device available. At times, large and dynamic is appropriate, while at other times, small and portable is more suitable to the user. In designing the presentation system, the goal is to let the user, rather than the data provider, find a fitting balance between static and dynamic, large and portable displays. Figure 24 shows some of the formats available for paper- and screen-based publishing.

One extreme is the immobile 2k display which is comparable to a broadsheet newspaper in size. The other end is the highly portable stylus-based notebook computers. They weight less than 3 kilos have LCD screens comparable to books in size. One recent instantiation is the GO computer.

In between these two extremes most computers find their place. The PC is comparable to a magazine in display surface, and it is hard to imagine a business world without them. Workstations, popular in academic environments much because of their larger screen size, provide a tabloid-sized display.

To study how the news presentation will change when the size of the medium changes, the display application was ported to an IBM RS6000 with one tabloid-sized color monitor (1280x1024 pixels, also known as 1k). The technical part of the porting process was simple due to the availability of X11 and BSD libraries.

There are two major differences between the 2k and 1k system. For one, the difference in size between the main monitors is significant, more so than the numbers themselves indicate. Secondly, the 1k system has only one screen; there is no separate screen available for the map.

11.1 The Tabloid Screen

The tabloid screen contains about one fourth of the pixels available in the 2k system. It is given that the human interface will change dramatically.

While the large monitor can display around eight full tiled articles simultaneously, the 1k only displays two--which hardly makes a front page. Scanning the page is no longer an activity when there are two headlines. Compromising by not displaying all articles in full may be one way to improve upon this, in general, the newspaper metaphor is unfortunately not applicable to the 1k display.

11.2 The Missing Map

Lacking a dedicated map monitor, a part of the main monitor has to be used. This further decreases the newshole, but a map is essential for navigating in the Newspace. Simply moving the square map to the main screen is not a good solution since it leaves the newshole in an odd-shaped form. Instead, the map was reshaped and placed on the side of the screen--the right side seemed natural to me. The newspace now consists of five pages that form a vertical bar that; see figure 25


The similarities with a scrollbar are striking, but with one major distinction. A traditional scrollbar indicates the current position in a linear space. The map, on the other hand, also tells about the content in the space. This is also an excellent idea to all scrollbar designers out there. Make a map!

11.1 - The Tabloid Screen
11.2 - The Missing Map

The Electronic Broadsheet - 30 JUN 95
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