Monday, July 2, 2012

Table View

As we struggle to find ways to effectively represent textual variation on screen one of the persistent requests from various quarters has been the need for a table view: a hierarchical representation of the variants of a range within the chosen base text. This kind of view, for example, is used in the Cervantes hypertextual edition, or CollateX. Unlike the apparatus, which is a compact series of footnotes about variations in a text, table view shows variants in a strict rectilinear grid. Although variation is naturally overlapping in structure, not rectilinear or recursive, we can use such a format to clarify for the reader what is a variant of what across a number of versions – something side-by-side view cannot achieve.

Full text

One way to make table view work would be to show the text of all versions covering a particular range in the base text. Although this duplicates text between versions it is quite clear:

The rectilinear grid is implemented as a simple table, which can be seen by turning on the table cell borders:

This ensures that variants are vertically aligned, but since much of the text is the same, we might want to collapse the grid wherever the text is the same, and show only variants of the chosen base text above the line as highlighted alternatives:

This reduces clutter, but introduces another problem: the context of part-word variants is now removed and they may be regarded as unreadable. Extending them to the nearest word-boundary overcomes this:

What this view highlights is another need: many versions are almost the same. For example, in the Shakespeare example, Q1 and Q2 are practically the same, just like F1-F4. The differences are only minor punctuation changes. Collapsing these further introduces nested tables of variants that are best hidden from the reader:

The underlined text-ranges can be expanded by clicking on them, and the same action collapses them again. In the expanded form the sigla are displayed as a guide to the reader:

How this table view differs from the others

This table view differs from other attempts in two key ways:

  1. It is generated directly from a merged multi-version text, not from a collation of many separate texts
  2. It has three combinable options: 1) expansion to word-boundaries, 2) hiding merged text and 3) collapsing minor variants into sub-tables. These may be combined where desired to produce different effects.

The tables are generated as simple HTML. The cross-browser Javascript and CSS required to animate and format them may also be generated optionally.

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