Pen Stroke Cuts Through PDA Web Clutter

The proliferation of the Internet and the increasing popularity of handheld computing devices pose a challenge: it is difficult to read and navigate through Web pages displayed on small screens.

Several research teams have addressed the problem with various methods of zooming in on relevant content from a Web page to make it easier to view.

Researchers from Microsoft Research, Microsoft Research Asia, and Tsinghua University in China have devised an interface that goes a step further by allowing a user to zoom in on relevant content and collapse irrelevant content with a single pen stroke. The interface could eventually be included as an extension to small-screen Web browsers.

The scheme solves a problem that can arise when a Web page is simply shrunk to fit a handheld screen. Content can be rendered too small for the user to be able to find what she's looking for in order to zoom in on it.

The researchers' collapse-to-zoom interface allows users to identify areas of a Web page -- like columns containing menus, archive material or advertising -- that can be replaced in the small-screen view with thin placeholders that preserve context.

Users control the system with pen gestures. Dragging the pen diagonally downwards from right to left collapses all page content in the rectangular area covered by the pen. The content is replaced by a thin placeholder that provides context but takes little space. Clicking a placeholder restores the content.

Dragging the pen diagonally upwards from left to right zooms that area into a 100-percent-scale reading mode and collapses everything around the area.

The researchers are scheduled to present the work at the Seventeenth Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST 2004), in Santa Fe, New Mexico on October 24 to 27. Read the full story at


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