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Software is necessary to make the hardware and networks useful, and to provide support for hypertext and hypermedia information. A rich universe of software is now available to support a wide range of information-processing activities. This section will focus only on those software technologies that are directly relevant to the topic of this thesis, and will start at the lowest level and work up.
First, this section will consider the graphical user interfaces (GUIs) that provide the user with the ability to easily work with and directly manipulate information. These GUIs mediate between the user and the hardware and provide the platform for the rest of the software tools. Next come the pieces of software that enable the display and manipulation of multimedia information types. Textual information is still largely delivered in page form and so-called page description languages are considered next. Moving one level above pages involves a consideration of document description languages. The most widely used environment to integrate all of these pieces is the World-Wide Web which is reviewed next. The final category discussed will be the tools for communicating with other users over networks. These are important because they enable a degree of interaction with other scholars. There is no attempt to provide an exhaustive coverage of products or technologies in each software category (that would make for a very long document). Rather, the most significant examples will be selected and described. Because the technologies discussed are changing so rapidly, what is depicted is the state of the art as of mid-1998.
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