February 5, 2008
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Tinderbox 4.1: contextual text menu

I arrived at the office this morning to find a nice example of the way hypertextuality builds on itself, in the form of a fascinating Web link from Jonathan Leavitt. (I've quoted the whole post because JottIt's servers have been hiccuping today)

There is a new feature in Eastgate's Tinderbox note processing software, which makes it possible to turn a note clipped from the Web or from email into an almost-instant hypertext.

As an example, I went to Barack Obama's website (our California primary is coming up on Super Tuesday) and clipped an excerpt from his speech on energy policy. I did that by selecting and dragging a paragraph from the Website to a new Tinderbox document.

Using the new contextual menu feature in Tinderbox, I Googled four items in the paragraph: "climate change," "renewable fuels," and two more. I then used a standard Tinderbox feature to create links to Wikipedia pages and a government page. Voila, an instant (five-minute, actually) annotated hypertext enabling the reader to research these topics while mulling over what the candidate said in his speech.

To see, and follow the links on, the result, go here:


The feature that makes this work is simply the newly-expanded contextual menu in the Tinderbox 4.1 text window. This wasn't planned as a Big Feature; it's just a bit of user interface polish. (It turned out to be a bear to implement, but that's another story).

What happens here, though, is that it's not merely a UI tweak, because it makes it so easy to scout for new Web links. I think we rely too much on the old, reliable links — wikipedia, especially — but it's great to have link discovery tools at your fingertips.