Software ties marks to digital
Technology Research News
though it introduces an extra step into the process, many writers and editors
proof on paper using proofreading marks, then transfer the changes to a
computer copy of the text.
Paper is a good interface for marking up copy, but the nature of
paper does not allow the mark-up copy to be easily saved electronically.
Researchers at the University of Maryland are trying to bridge the
considerable gap between paper and computers by allowing users to import
annotation marks made on paper back into a word processor.
"While proofreading printed documents is [common] among word processor
users... no word processing programs support the transfer of information
from paper back into the computer," said Kevin Conroy, a researcher at the
University of Maryland who is now a user interface designer and software
engineer at Hillcrest Communications Inc. "This forces users to re-enter
the corrections into the digital version of a document manually, a time-consuming
and error-prone task."
The researchers' system includes a word processor that supports
both digital and physical document annotation. A user can print a document,
annotate it using a digital pen, then merge the changes with the digital
source. "All of the proofreading marks you make on a printed draft are copied
back into the digital copy and move with their corresponding text as you
continue the writing process," said Conroy.
When a user changes the content, structure or layout of an annotated
document, the word processor maintains the correspondence between an annotation
and the document text, said Conroy. "As you edit the document, all of the
annotations reflow, or move with the text, so that their meaning is preserved."
Key to the system is software that anchors annotations to a word
processor's layout and formatting engine, said Conroy.
Previously developed systems allow annotation marks to be imported
into word processing documents, but they either require the text to remain
static or reflow annotations only with document-wide formatting changes,
said Conroy. The researchers' system integrates the marks with the text.
The researchers' software includes two major components. The ProofRite
word processor, which is a modified version of the open source word processor
AbiWord, and distributed paper-augmented digital document software, dubbed
PADD, that tracks annotations.
The distributed software enables users to annotate their own printed
copies of a document, then gather all the annotations into a single electronic
copy. "This infrastructure is vital to... group writing efforts often found
in business, government and academic settings," said Conroy.
After writing a document, a user prints it out onto paper that contains
a faint pattern of X and Y coordinates and a unique page identifier. The
pattern is used by many commercial digital pens that have a normal ballpoint
pen tip plus a small sensor that reads the pattern printed on the paper.
The paper-augmented digital document software keeps track of the
correspondence between documents and annotations, said Conroy. "When a user
prints a document, our database saves a copy of the printed document and
records the page identifier for the paper the document is printed on," he
said. "When the user plugs the digital pen into the computer, the annotations
made by the user are uploaded to the database, which then determines which
documents and which pages of those documents were annotated." The documents
are then opened in the word processing program, and the user can choose
which annotations to transfer to the digital copy.
Ultimately, the software makes it easier for people to create, edit
and manage documents regardless of the physical or digital format, said
The software is an open source project. The researchers are currently
working on making it possible for the software to apply the annotations
to the electronic text. So far, they have the automated cross-out function
working, said Conroy. Getting all the annotations to work this way will
enable "an office environment where users can print out their documents,
gather around a table, and annotate their printouts," he said. "Once complete,
users can go back to their computers, upload all of their annotations, and
have the word processor apply some or all of the changes."
Conroy's research colleagues were Dave Levin and Francois Guimbretière.
They presented the work at the User Interface Software and Technology (UIST
'04) conference held October 24 to 27, 2004, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The
research was funded by the University.
Timeline: > 2 years
TRN Categories: Applied Technology; Human-Computer Interaction
Story Type: News
Related Elements: Technical paper, "ProofRite: a Paper-Augmented
Word Processor," presented at User Interface Software and Technology (UIST
'04) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, October 24-27, 2004
February 9/16, 2005
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