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  • Adam Behringer

    Seattle, Washington USA

    Adam is the founder of BEEDOCS, an artisan software company that makes great timeline software for Mac OS X.

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Document Presentation - How others do "call out"

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

As we design our upcoming document presentation software, I've been searching the web to see how others are doing document call out.

One example that I found is on a website for a company called Animators at Law. This article shows two pages of a policy document each containing a highlighted paragraph. Then the text from the highlighted areas is typed in a big stop sign with an arrow directing your eye to the original context. This is a pretty snazzy looking call-out was custom produced by Animators at Law for the U.S. Department of Justice.

The article is sub-titled "Persuading Under the Guise of Informing Using Trial Exhibits." My personal take on trial exhibits is that they should clearly present the data and the data should persuade rather than trying to persuade with snazzy graphics. But, I suppose different people will have different opinions on that. What is interesting from a design perspective is that the call-out in this chart is not just an enlargement of the original document. It has a new typesetting, in a new font, and is shown in a shape that is supposed to persuade the audience.

As opposed to designing trial exhibits for you, the company InData make a software product called TrialDirector which provides some support for real time document callout. If you are running Windows, you can go to their website and register for access to the demo of TrialDirector. I think InData is on the right track with this product. The callouts look pretty good. However, the software isn't very intuitive to use. Try the demo and let me know what your opinion is. Is it easy to open a document, choose a page, and display a callout? What if you want to remove the callout and choose a new one? It took me a while to figure out how to do these simple procedures and I still get unexpected behavior sometimes.

As we develop our Bee Docs' Callout software for the Macintosh, I think we can do better. First, I agree with the TrialDirector method of displaying a callout without too much "dressing" and we certainly want users to be able to select the callout in real-time. However, I think that we can make it much easier to find and open documents. Just by leveraging some of the Mac OS X Tiger features like spotlight, and smart folders we can make it easy to find relevant documents. Also, I think we can increase the production value of the callouts without decorating the data. For example, we are looking into 3D technologies to zoom in on the selected area of the document while the full document is zooming out. We are working on some screenshot mock-ups for our design of Bee Docs' Callout and will post them to the blog in the next week or so. Please stay tuned.

If you have any document callout charts that you would like to share or if you have comments on existing call-out technologies, please share your thoughts with us using our blog comment feature. Thanks!


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