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Characterising Electronic Document Use, Reuse, Coverage and Multi-Document Interaction

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/ProceedingsConference contribution


Publication date2008
Host publicationNZCSRSC '08: New Zealand Computer Science Research Student Conference 2008
Number of pages8
Original languageEnglish


What documents do you use? How much of your document are others likely to read? How much time do you spend using documents? Desktop electronic document manipulation is one of the most common activities performed by computer users, yet there remains little empirical research into how documents are used in common document navigation systems.

This paper presents a 14 participant, 120 day study that logged user actions in MicrosoftWord and Adobe Reader, with the aim of characterising document use. The study found that Microsoft Word documents are likely to be significantly shorter but have longer periods of interaction compared to Adobe Reader documents. Word documents averaged 6 pages in length and Reader documents 38 pages. Documents that were ten pages or less made up 80% of
those that were opened.

Approximately half of the documents viewed were reopenings of ones previously used, however history mechanisms were poorly utilised. Document coverage in Microsoft Word was approximated by a normal distribution, while Reader document coverage decreased in a linear fashion, the further one moved toward the end. The time spent with multiple documents open decreased exponentially as the number of documents open increased. We briefly discuss the implications these findings have for the design of document navigation systems.