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A Little History of the World Wide Web     Timeline     World Wide Web browser     Proposal     Erwise     Viola     Project     W3 Servers    

A quick look at Erwise

These are some notes following a test of the "Erwise" hypertext brower for the world-wide web. Erwise is a motif application. It was developed by the erwise team at Helsinki Technical Unversity. These four are finishing their degrees. The source code will be released, but there are no concrete plans to continue support of the product there.

See also: Comparison with ViolaWWW.


Features of "Erwise" are:
  • Multifont text
  • Links underlined, double click to jump
  • Multiple window operation, optional single window mode.
  • Open local file
  • Searching of remote index: input field at bottom of window.
Current (Apr 29) bugs include:
  • Seems to crash on some displays which are not good motif? Works with display on Sun4, NeXT/CubX, crashes displaying on decstation.
  • Many buttons exist which don't actualy work.
  • No documentation

Look and Feel

The application by default has black text on pale blue background, and uses serifed fonts which give one the impression of reading a paper document. The buttons and window are very motif, so eriwse will blend into a general motif environment.

Erwise looks very smart. The display is well manged, with scroll bars in both directorions, and a Find field which is only present on windows corresponding to searchable documents. The text rewraps quickly when a window iwith is changed. The only feature I missed in the window handling was the automatic resizing of windows of small documents to avoid them covering a lot of the screen. Still, this is easy to do by hand if you want to keep, say, the phone book out.

Whenever one opens a new document, a new window is created. If one sets single-window mode, the old one is deleted, so the effect is of jumping around the screen, which is confusing. If your window manager is set to place all new windows interactively, then this is a pain. Multiple window mode is not too bad, with no speed penalty a nd a big window close button in the corner of each window.

There is a strange box which is around one word in the document, a little like a selection box or a button. It is neither of these -- perhaps a handle for something to come.

Ease of use

On starting erwise, it presents you with a control panel with four large buttons: Info, Open, Quit and Help. You always need to start with Open, which presents you with a file selecting panel set to your current directory. This means that you first have to find a suitable hypertext document at which to start, and then click "OK". One you have done that, you're away. I kept a soft link to the system default home page from the directory with erwise in to help with this.

Bells and Whistles

There are a number of buttons which some time will, but currently don't, do anything. This include "Previous page", "Back", "Next Page", and many menu options.

There is a search feature which looks as though it will allow multilevel tracing of links, but which I couldn't get to do anything. (Maybe this was te lack of documentation). the same applied to the "print" and "list of links" menu items.

The only menu item I used was the page/settings menu, which allows one to set single-window mode for the window. the single-user property applies to the window and its children, so previous windows which have not got this property will still produce seperate offsping when you click on a link.

The menu items "Top", "Bottom" and Next/previous tag are not as easy to find as the scrollbar and buttons on the bottom, which could have eth same effect.

Obviously more possibilities are planned, with the concept of a "hierachy" (something to do with history I am told).


Erwise is certainly a well-finished browser for W3 systems, proffesionally produced. We only have binaries at the moment for sun4 and decstation use, and there seem to be a few outstanding problems with running on on some displays (like decstation). Its is a very good job, especially for a group starting completely from scratch with motif. Once the problems with crashes on different displays are solved, the next thing to decide will be who will support and extend this product for the very many users who will want it on their systems.
Tim BL

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