The more ways in which you can engage yourself with what you're reading, the more likely you are to understand and remember it. It's a practice known as active reading, and it can involve taking notes, highlighting passages, setting aside snippets of important information, or even reading text aloud. While some programs already exist that facilitate the active reading of digital documents, a team from the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed what they believe is a better approach. It's called LiquidText, and it was developed around touchscreen technology.

One of the things that reportedly sets LiquidText apart is its large onscreen work area. The display consists of the original document, and a large empty area to the side. Using fingertip gestures, users can select important passages from the document, then drag them into that work area (the passage will also remain in the original document, although it will be shaded to indicate that it has been copied). Passages in the work area can linked together to form a new document, or otherwise moved around and organized, while still remaining linked to their original sources.

Users can also add annotations, or write comments that can be applied to one or more parts of the original document, or even to several documents simultaneously.

Other features allow users to collapse text by pinching it, highlight and bookmark text, pan and zoom, or magnify specific sections using an onscreen magnifying glass. Multiple sections of the same document can also be navigated at the same time, so users don't have to scroll back and forth between them.

Georgia Tech graduate student Craig Tashman, who created LiquidText with School of Interactive Computing associate professor Keith Edwards, is starting up a spinoff company to develop and market the software. It currently works with any Windows 7 multitouch PC or tablet, and should be available to the public later this year.

The video below illustrates how the system could be used.

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