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The Quick Story on the OHS

Ninety percent of the Open Hyperdocument System will be substructure -- linkbases (databases of links), object repositories (collections of documents, images, video, and audio), and document structures.

People routinely ask, "What does it look like?" It's a reasonable question, but somewhat like asking "What does Unix look like?", with the same answer: it doesn't. The foundation of the OHS is all in programming language. Which moves on to the Hyperscope, that will look like something.

The Hyperscope will be a browser plug-in accessing the architecture and databases of the OHS.

OHS/Hyperscope Features

Among other aggravations, the OHS/Hyperscope will be designed to end:

The email swamp.
Email looked pretty good when it replaced letters -- it was fast, handy, and easy to store. Then 3 emails a day turned to 30, and email grew out of control. The first OHS target is managing email, so that trails are permanent, redundant copy is hidden, important copy is highlighted, and everything can be found.

Scrolling through documents looking for a particular bit of information.
OHS protocols will overlay legacy documents and objects with precise nodes (like HTML anchors). This means bookmarks can be precise, targeting a particular paragraph or photograph, or a particular spot in a video or audio clip. In tech language, this is creating "granular addressability."

Broken links and lost web pages.
The OHS will use linkbases (databases of links) to keep track of pages even when they are moved. Unless a document is actually removed from the web, today's bookmarks will still be good years from now. Yesterday's news stories will still be available today.

Being at the mercy of page designers when viewing information.
The OHS Hyperscope will allow users to structure content their own way. Don't like the sidebar? Get rid of it. Prefer wide margins? Add them. Want to read the section headings only, without scrolling through content? Collapse the page to "headings only," for an instant table of contents. OHS developers will be creating dozens of page viewing options. The architecture will allow users and communities to add their own viewing options.

Beyond Information Retrieval

However, the OHS/Hyperscope go beyond high quality information retrieval, to "knowledge compounding," and will contain many other features, including:

Broad compatibility. OHS will be interoperable over all legacy HTML documents.

Information packaging. The ability to package snippets of information from different web sites into your own document -- plus the ability to email your creation to a colleague.

Annotation. The ability to make notes to a colleague's work, without changing the original.

Technical Details

The OHS is being developed under an open source license (Apache). Mining Augment/NLS systems for start-off features, it is being written in Java and XML.

The OHS is not being designed to supercede HTML or the Web; on the contrary, the goal is to eventually address all legacy documents. Which is why it is open source; the OHS needs to be fully extensible to succeed.

In the open source spirit, the OHS is not meant to be a finished product. Doug Engelbart has emphasized to the OHS developers that he wants an architecture foundation as solid as the rock of Gibralter -- and beyond that, adaptable and expansible to support continuing evolution. The OHS developers expect that people in China will be using information in ways no European could imagine, and vice versa; the architecture is being designed to not only allow, but encourage this.