Monday, August 31, 2009

Copy-editing marks and annotations

Signal vs Noise looks at why traditional copy-editing marks are more effective than how revision changes are shown in Word's Track Changes feature.

I think Track Changes is symptomatic of a more general shortcoming of all existing software: they’re hopeless when it comes to annotations.

Most software simply has no support for adding annotations to bits of your information (in your address book, your image files, your calendar, email, etc etc.). There might be a separate ‘note’ field, but that’s nothing like being able to add real annotations, like you can do on paper.

As the linked post points out, annotations should stand out as separate from what they are annotating, but I don’t know of any existing software that gets this aspect of annotations right.

Also, with hand-written annotations you can use subtle details, like the positioning of the annotation in relation to what it applies to or the size of the annotation text, to convey information, and software annotations are poor in this regard (though it'd definitely be worth investigating how to make it better). Certainly this is one area where pen input would be useful.

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