Sophie vs. Powerpoint and Keynote 04.27.2008, 5:12 PM
posted by bob stein
Longtime visitors to if:book have heard about Sophie, the reading/writing environment we've been working on since the inception of the institute in 2004. Version 1.0 of Sophie was quietly released last month. We'll make a number of Sophie-related posts over the next few months, starting with todays' which attempts to distinguish Sophie's feature-set from presentation apps such as Powerpoint or Keynote.
Here is a list of four key features which distinguish Sophie from Powerpoint and Keynote.
[note: PowerPoint and Keynote include a lot of features -? e.g. geometric primitives, transitions or layout tools which make it easier to design the graphic look of a page. however Sophie's distinguishing features go way beyond manipulating appearance to the affordance of new classes of functionality.
since they are entirely page-based, neither Powerpoint or Keynote are useful if an argument needs to be sustained over several pages. when scholars try to use presentation software for "papers" they find that their arguments must of necessity be reduced to bullet point format. Additionally Sophie takes the concept of flowing text well beyond what traditional word processors can do. Sophie allows for completely separate flows to exist on the same page thus enabling bi-lingual editions or texts with commentaries.
neither Powerpoint or Keynote have the ability create time-based events. here are just a few ways that users might employ timelines in a Sophie document
• create narrated slide-shows which combine audio and illustrations (images or video); this could have huge implications for distance learning modules
• textual commentary tracks which explicate an audio or video presentation (e.g. the close-reading of a piece of music or film).
• sub-titling of video. useful in it's own right, but also could be the basis of interesting language-learning modules where students are asked to provide English subtitles for a Spanish film or vice versa.
• just-in-time linking which presents hyper-links to a web-page or to other elements in a Sophie doc at specific times -? overlayed on a video or just popping up on a page.
embedding remote objects
one of the substantial problems with multimedia, even in the present period of faster pipes, is that audio and video files are huge. this is particularly a problem for students who often shift from machine to machine (classroom, library, home or dorm room). sophie potentially solves this problem by permitting the "big" media to be left on a central server but embedded in the sophie file as if it were "in the book." this will be even more powerful as archives of rich media are developed (by professors, academic departments, commercial firms (such as publishers, J-Stor, Art-Stor, etc.) for the use of students. the NEH recently gave us a grant to develop a search gateway within Sophie into the Internet Archive. When completed, a user will be able to search the audio and video holdings of the Internet Archive, choose a file, open it in Sophie, choose IN and OUT points and embed that clip in a Sophie document without the actual audio or video content ever needing to actually be downloaded into the Sophie document.
networked dynamic comment fields
none of the presentation apps allow "readers" to carry on a conversation about the contents of the document from within the document itself. all our experiments so far suggest that this has huge implications for scholarly discourse at all levels from course modules to mechanisms of peer review and the transformation of academic papers into "places" where conversations occur.
Posted by bob stein on April 27, 2008 5:12 PM
Aaron Miller on April 28, 2008 12:57 PM:
Out of curiosity, what does Sophie output? I haven't tried it for awhile, so I can't remember, but does it support exporting to various formats, ebook or otherwise, or does it create executables?
Sorry if this was covered elsewhere.
bob stein on April 28, 2008 1:14 PM:
Sophie outputs it's own file XML-based file format.