Word Microscope -- Your Comments and Our Plans

Many thanks to everyone who has set us thinking more deeply about what we're trying to achieve, and has helped us make many improvements in the program. Hearing about what could be improved is always helpful, even if we can't put it into practice straightaway.

There's a lot of interest in a Mac version (and, more recently an iPad version). We've intended to create a Mac version of Word Microscope from the start, but it needs a lot of investment in time. We're planning a way forward, but haven't yet begun in earnest, so we've no date for it yet. On the plus side, Neil and Louise now own a Mac, so we're getting a better feeling for the Mac character and its idioms.

Many past suggestions have been completed and are available in the latest PC version, available via the Word Microscope home page.

See the Version History for what we've changed so far, and what improvements to expect in the next public release.

The Word Microscope Release Notes also show some of our future plans.

Things we aim to improve as soon as we can...

Simple changes

Some suggestions are quite simple:

  • add a link to the Big Suffix Checker flowchart from Real Spelling (done!).

Small bug-fixes

We've fixed all of the simplest reported errors we know about -- please tell us if you find any more!

Things we'd like to address, but we're not sure when...

Simple changes

Some simpler suggestions are taking longer than we expected:

  • add a keyboard short-cut for Undo, eg. Ctrl-Z on PC;
  • perhaps add a short-cut to insert a cell in the Active Word Sum;
  • ..and perhaps other natural short-cuts;

Small bug-fixes

The following errors have a lower priority, because they occur relatively rarely or have limited side-effects:

  • an unintelligible pop-up menu can come up when you right-click a cell that has the editing overlay open;
  • Skopo doesn't recognise a suffix followed by a connecting vowel, eg. in <con + sci + ent + i + ous> (done!);
  • Skopo fails to recognise the <-on> suffix when evaluating word sums in the Ideas Probe (done!).

Copy and paste

We'd like to improve opportunities for copy and paste, eg. from the log.

Note that for the moment, it's worth trying Ctrl-C (copy) and Ctrl-V (paste).

Remembering which cell is in focus

Currently, WM forgets which cell is in focus after you make a change. We want to improve this, to reduce the amount of mouse-clicking you need to do and to make short-cut keys more efficient.

Word Sum Logic

We're very keen to improve editing word sums. For example:

  • provide a check list before posting a word sum;
  • provide easy-to-find links to suffix-checking tools;
  • perhaps add a 'quick word sum' facility that mimics the word sum input method of the Mini Matrix Maker.

Morpheme Bank

We're very concerned that the Morpheme Bank suggests a more authoritative reference than it should do, and that users will treat it as such. Against that, there's a strong user view that it has practical value. It may also make Skopo's reference lists more explicit.

There's a question over whether it should contain only morphemes, or some more general complex word units that respect morpheme boundaries, eg. the suffix-like unit <ify>.

We'd also like you to be able to collect up your own morphemes over all your past investigations.

Matrix appearance

The Word Matrix seems to be a big draw for users, so appearance is important. We're aiming over time to improve this:

  • firmer grid lines in the printed matrix;
  • more compact matrix on screen; or perhaps more similar to the Mini Matrix Maker;
  • give users more control over formatting and style;
  • discourage page breaks in the middle of a printed matrix.

Editing the Findings Log

We'd like to give more control over the Findings Log, eg:

  • add your own notes;

See the hints page for possible ways you can edit the current log in your favourite editor.

Adding join changes and element meanings

We'd like to enable you to add your own join changes to word sums and add meanings to elements, starting with the working base. (Skopo recognises most join patterns.)

Edit an existing cell into two sub-elements

We'd like to make it easy for you if you realise that a unit like <ation> can be further analysed into smaller parts <ate> and <ion>.

Drag and drop

Dragging and dropping cell contents has occasional problems, not least because the effect has diverged from cell editing, so it can lead to some unexpected behaviour (done!).

(We've now modified this to make it more consistent.)

Web and Mac dictionary

It's no longer possible to go to a web dictionary in the new version of WM, as there wasn't an obvious single choice. We'd like you to be able to add your own dictionary link if you wish to.

When we move to Mac, we'll try to use the Mac dictionary directly.

Things we probably won't do, unless more users request it...

Undo/redo buttons

The current icons aren't clear enough for some users, but we'll hold back from any change for the moment.

Twin bases

The twin bases listed in the Morpheme Bank could be paired (done!).

Safe example words

The Ideas Probe has a pre-set list of 25 randomly displayed 'safe example words', as well as generating any one of thousands of 'dangerously random' ones.

We've no plans to extend the safe word list with our own choices, but we can add new words if you have your own safe favourites to suggest.

Separating bases from affixes in the word matrix

Real Spellers often put a base in a separate compartment from an affix in a word matrix, considering it to be clearer visually. Word Microscope will continue in allowing them to be mixed, which leads to more compact matrices.

It would be possible to change this if users felt clarity was being sacrificed for brevity.

Copyright © Neil Ramsden 2013.
Last updated 19 Nov 13 E-mail comments to mail@neilramsden.co.uk