Storyspace Reader: a tutorial, 1

Reading hypertext is very different from browsing web pages, or reading a book using iBooks or Kindle. Hypertext can have a very simple structure, but it can offer sophistication at a level which you are only likely to encounter in advanced games or virtual reality.

Book readers normally have few, simple controls: turn the page forward or backward, go to the table of contents or index, and so on. Because you are in control of much more in a Storyspace hypertext, there are more controls, and many more features in Storyspace Reader. This does not mean that reading hypertext requires elaborate skills, or much learning. But knowing the rich features of Storyspace Reader will help you get the most out of hypertext documents.

Storyspace Reader works as you’d expect all good Mac apps to work. Open the app, use the File/Open command to select the document you want to read, and it opens in its own window, ready to go.

Unless the hypertext document has been made read-only, you will notice immediately that you can save it, although you cannot alter its structure or content. Storyspace Reader lets you customise much of the reading environment, from basics such as the window size and your current location in the document, to many aspects of its colour scheme. You can save those to your personal copy of the hypertext document.

Getting started

Open Storyspace Reader and the FallOfIcarus2.tbx document provided here in a Zip file: falloficarus

You should see a single window split into two views, with a second tab.


In the first tab, headed Map: FallOfIcarus2, you see a map of the document, shown in terms of its various component parts, wired together with links. You may need to adjust the size of the window, and to move the map around within the view to see it properly. Window controls are conventional, and moving the map around within its view also uses normal controls (two-fingered drag if you’re using a trackpad, for example).

Move the contents of the Map view so that the component (a writing space, or note if you prefer) labelled start, which should be outlined in red, is at the top left corner of the view. If start is not selected (indicated by eight small light grey squares around it), or you accidentally select another component there, simply click on start to select it again.

When start is selected, the view at the right of the window displays its contents. By convention, Storyspace documents should begin with a start writing space, which should give you some information and tips about using them.

As that text explains, to move on to the next writing space, you can press the Return key or click (tap) anywhere within that text view at the right.


This takes you on to the writing space labelled Guide, which is the focal point of the hypertext. Looking in the Map view (at the left), there are several different links which take you on to the next writing spaces.

The default, which you follow if you press Return or click on the right view away from blue text areas, takes you down to Narrative structure. Try that.


That provides a quick route which bypasses most of the content in this document. To return to the Guide, you can either click on the Guide tile in the Map view, or use the Note/Go Back menu command, which should always take you back to the last writing space which you were viewing.

Use either of those now to return to the Guide.


In the Guide, there are four different text links, shown in blue text, which work just like HTML links:

  • Ovid’s Metamorphoses – takes you on to the translated text of the story of the Fall of Icarus
  • very short summary – takes you on to a summary of the story
  • gallery of paintings – takes you to that gallery
  • separate myth – takes you to a side-story about Phaethon.

Try each of those, using the Note/Go Back command (Command-‘ shortcut) to return to the Guide.

Navigating document structure


The first of those links, which launches you into Ovid’s text, is actually a writing space which is placed inside a container, rather than at the top level of the Map view. Containers are used to organise the contents of a document, so that you don’t just see a dense forest of tiles.

At the top of the Map view, you will now see a Breadcrumb Bar, which indicates that you are currently viewing a writing space which is inside the Background container, which is part of the FallOfIcarus2 document. This helps you remain orientated, and provides an easy way to go back up to the top level, if you want to choose a different writing space there.

In that Breadcrumb Bar, click on Background, and the view at the right will change, to show the very short summary of that part of the story.


Click on FallOfIcarus2 at the left of the Breadcrumb Bar, and the view will change to show that you are back up at the top level, and can select the Guide once again.

Select the Guide, and click on the blue Ovid’s Metamorphoses text again, following that series through to the next section, Ovid 3: Building wings.


You are now, according to the Breadcrumb Bar, in the Preparations container, which has richer content than the Background container did, by way of a couple of paintings.

Not all content is necessarily connected in links: some is left for you to browse freely using the Map view. Click (tap) on the painting tile for Andrea Sacchi’s painting, and the content shown at the right will include the painting, its caption, and a description. You may wish to adjust the window size, and reposition the divider between the views: these work in the normal way.


Once you want to return to Ovid’s story, simply click on the section (in the Map view) which you wish to return to.

Work through Ovid’s account, and it will eventually take you back to the Guide, at the top level of the Map view. You can now explore the other blue text links in the same way.


The gallery of paintings provides a red tile which is an easy way to take you back to the Guide: click on that red tile in the Map view, then click on the view at the right, and you are returned to the Guide. You could also, of course, use the Breadcrumb Bar to navigate back.

You now know all the basic navigational tools which you need to read and enjoy a Storyspace hypertext document.


For the interminably curious, you may also notice a couple of other items in the Map: a tile named me, and a container named Prototypes. In this particular example document, no special use is made of me, although it does keep track of where you are, etc. The Prototypes container is only relevant to editing the document in the Storyspace app, where it provides common features for those tiles containing paintings.

Finally, a glimpse at one of the features I will be covering in the next tutorial: there are two tabs at the top of the document window. In this tutorial you have not used the right-hand tab, labelled Time: FallOfIcarus2. If you select that now, you will see a timeline view of all the paintings included in the document. Try selecting one, and the painting will appear in the right view.


Just don’t expect that sort of feature in iBooks or Kindle. Ever.