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Paper: Image Markup Tool 2.0

Holmes, Martin, Humanities Computing Media Centre, University of Victoria,

Timney, Meagan, Electronic Textual Cultures Laboratory, University of Victoria,

This paper discusses the re-development of The Image Markup Tool in two parts: (1) as a crossplatform desktop application and (2) as a web-based, html5 standard, client-side browser application. Currently, a few text-based tools allow for markup of documents (most often) in XML/TEI. They range from legacy software such as the Analytical System Tools and SGML/XML Integration Applications (Anastasia)(ITSEE, University of Birmingham; and Editing Digital Interactive Texts in an Online Network (EDITION), to more recent projects such as eLaborate,Huygens Instituut KNAW (a research institute for text edition and textual scholarship of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences); TextGrid, and TEXTvre. TextGrid uses a collaborative document markup interface, as well as a project and user management system to facilitate the markup of texts. TEXTvre, which will be modeled on TextGrid, has been described as a “a working exemplar VRE for textual scholarship.” While each of these tools offers specific methods of text-based editing, The Image Markup Tool is image-based, allowing for the markup of encoded digital images of remediated textual objects.

We are building on the current iteration of The Image Markup Tool (v1), developed by Martin Holmes at the University of Victoria. Version 1 of the Image Markup Tool was first written in 2006, and has gone through several versions. It was originally conceived as part of the project Le mariage sous L'Ancien Régime, where it was used to mark up engravings (Carlin, Haswell and Holmes 2006; Carlin and Holmes 2008). Early versions of the tool used SVG code embedded into a TEI file to delineate areas of interest on an image, but the current version makes use of the Facsimile module recently added to the TEI schema, which enables the use of native TEI elements to define rectangular “zones” on “surfaces” (often pages) which are part of a facsimile.

However, version 1 of the Image Markup Tool suffers from a number of serious limitations, most of which were apparent from its inception. Firstly, it allows only rectangular areas (hereafter “zones”) to be specified on images. This was in line with the original specification of the Facsimile module in TEI, in which <zone> elements were similarly constrained, but users have been demanding the ability to specify polygonal shapes ever since the first release, and recent modifications to the TEI schema now allow the use of polygonal <zone> elements. Secondly, IMT version 1 can handle only one image per file. This was sufficient for its original projected use as part of the Mariage project, which focused on individual engravings, but makes the tool inadequate for serious facsimile work; most documents have multiple surfaces or pages. Thirdly, the program can handle only a one-to-one relationship between a single <zone> on a <surface>, and a single <div> in the <body> of the document. This is inadequate. It is a common requirement to link, for instance, a single block of text on an image to an original transcription, a modernized version of the transcription, and an editorial note or interpretation. Similarly, a single <div> (or in fact any other element) in the body of a text might conceivably be linked to more than one <zone>; multiple views of a particular surface or page might be provided in the facsimile, each with an equivalent <zone>. Finally, IMT version 1 was written as a Windows application using Borland Delphi. It will run on Linux using Wine, but there is no simple way to run it on a Macintosh computer.

Nevertheless, IMT version 1 has a number of strengths. As a compiled desktop application, using a very sophisticated open-source graphics library (Graphics32), it can to do high-quality resampling of images on-the-fly, enabling effective and rapid zooming of high-resolution images. Most file operations are very fast, and the interface itself is simple and relatively easy to use. For Windows and Linux users, it is easy to download and install.

The desktop version of IMT 2 is being written using Nokia's QT Creator tools. This will enable us to compile the application for Windows, Mac and Linux. Our intention is to build on the strengths of version 1 -- in particular, the speed and efficiency of graphics handling and file i/o, and the user-friendliness and simplicity of the interface -- while adding three important improvements:

  • Handling of an unlimited number of images.
  • Many-to-many linking between <zone>s and any elements with @xml:id attributes in the <text> section of the file.
  • Support for polygonal zones.
  • These screenshots of early development pilots show how we envisage the user interface.

    Full Size Image

    The first shows the main window, with multiple folios (pages) listed down the left side. Clicking on a folio shows the corresponding image, and the polygonal zones defined on that image (in red). The selected zone has draggable circular nodes at all of its corners. The context menu for the selected zone is displayed, showing that the zone is linked to three different elements in the <text>.

    Full Size Image

    The second screenshot shows the corresponding dialog box, where the user can select an element in the <text> of the TEI file for linking to a zone. Three views of the file are available: the first is a read-only syntax-highlighted text view, the second consists of a list of all the @xml:id attributes in the file, along with a text box which can be used to filter them, and the third is an “outline” or tree view of the file. The user could use any of these to find and select an element to be linked to a zone. In addition, the user will be able to edit any element in the <text> of the TEI file directly, to add transcription, markup, @xml:id attributes, etc. We do not envisage that the majority of XML editing will be done in the Image Markup Tool itself; rather, the base transcription would be done using an XML editor such as oXygen, and the file brought into the IMT for the definition and linking of images and zones. However, it will be important to allow direct editing of the XML code so that corrections and changes can be made without moving the file back into an XML editor.

    The web platform of the Image Markup Tool fills a gap in current collaborative editing models, and will provide a lightweight “edit-anywhere” version of the desktop application. The web-platform will be built for a large population of needs, but our first user-case study will be the Editing Modernism in Canada Project (EMiC). Rather than following past practices of transcribing texts and marking up transcriptions in the creation of electronic texts, EMiC and its partners will pioneer image-based editing, semantic markup, analysis, and visualization of texts in a field of emergent practices in digital-humanities scholarship. Instead of producing reading environments based on linear-discursive transcriptions of texts, EMiC will produce in collaboration with its partners techniques and technologies for encoding and interpreting the complex relations among large collections of visual and audial objects in non-linear reading environments.

    Our rationale for a web-based browser application includes facilitating RESTful architecture and interoperability with other systems via API (including, for example, Scripto, developed at the Centre for History for New Media at George Mason University). The IMT web-platform will allow a user to load images and XML documents into a browser window (either locally or via URL). The drawing and linking of the polygonal <zone>s now supported in the TEI schema are made possible with the HTML5 <canvas> element. As in the desktop application, it is assumed that the user will perform most TEI markup with an XML editor (such as oXygen), but the application will also support lightweight XML editing. The most powerful feature of the web-based application will be the potential to feed linked XML documents and images directly into a collection-builder such as Omeka to facilitate scholarly edition building and electronic publishing via a suite of tools.


    Carlin, Claire, Eric Haswell and Martin Holmes 2006 “Problems with Marriage: Annotating Seventeenth-century French Engravings with TEI and SVG, ” Digital Humanities 2006 Conference, July 2006 (link) (link)

    Carlin, Claire and Martin Holmes 2008 “Domestic strife in early modern Europe: images and texts in a virtual anthology, ” Digital Humanities 2008, 26 June 2008 (link)

    Timney, Meagan and Dean Irvine Forthcoming: 2011 “A New Build: Digital Tools for Archives, Commons, and Collaboration., ” Archival Narratives for Canada: [Re] Telling Stories in a Changing Landscape, Kathleen Garay and Christl Verduyn Fernwood Publishing