Volume 4 Issue 1
Spring 2008
ISSN 1937-7266

Rapid Document Navigation for Information Triage Support

George Buchanan

University of Wales Swansea

Document triage is a critical part of the information seeking process, where readers determine the relevance of documents in the context of their information needs. Triage is characterised by the rapid reading and skimming of documents. This includes comparing documents and different parts of the same text. To achieve this, users repeatedly make temporary “bookmarks”.

When performing document triage on physical documents, this is easily achieved by sticking fingers or loose paper between pages. However, in electronic documents research demonstrates that users are limited by the cost of creating temporary placeholders. Furthermore, the limitations of screen estate mean that comparing documents becomes an arduous sequence of switching between stacked windows. Improving this experience will allow users to focus first on the actual text, rather than on interacting with their computer.

Our novel “click-through” interaction provides an interactively lightweight solution to the navigational needs of users engaged in document triage. In one gesture (dragging), they can create a placeholder in a text, to which they can return later with one button click. The area that they select is captured and displayed in a floating window, which is easily hidden from view. When in view, it reproduces the document fragment that they selected with the drag. Clicking on the snapshot allows them to navigate to that text at any time. Clicking a second time returns the user to the position they just left.

The snapshot can also be used to keep a selected piece of text continuously visible, facilitating comparison between documents. Thus, one simple tool provides bookmarking, bi-directional navigation and comparison support. We are now evaluating click-through navigation thoroughly as part of a three-year programme of research. See the Document Triage Project website (http://www.cs.swan.ac.uk/~csgeorge/triage/) for further details.