FarSightNet is the most flexible, cost-effective, interactive document conferencing tool available because it incorporates a number of powerful and unique features in one package. The following is a list of features that together make FarSightNet an exceptionally versatile tool:
Installation, Operation and Security:
Easy Installation: FarSightNet Client software is supplied as a Java "application" and as a Java "applet". The "application" is easily installed and is available as a free download. Through the Java "WebStart" mechanism, the FarSightNet application is automatically updated whenever a user starts the application while connected to the Internet. The applet version comes up in a browser window as part of an HTML page, giving a user access to a FarSightNet Server with essentially no installation. Both versions are fully featured but the applet can not access the user's local disks.

Independent Operation: FarSightNet is "self administered" – any authorized user can set up conferences without the need for involvement by STL staff or local IT professionals. It operates independently from other tools, such as course management systems in schools, or document tracking systems in law firms.

Security: As is discussed below under "Independent Data Access", the FarSightNet system can be used without sending documents over the Internet during a conference. Documents can be pre-transmitted to all participants by any available secure means, and will load automatically from each user's local disk. During the conference, coded signals rather than words are transmitted among the conferees. If voice is transmitted by a secure telephone link, no sensitive information need be sent over the Internet at all.
This feature (sometimes described as what you see is what I see - WYSIWIS) means that each user in conference sees the same view of all documents. If a particular portion of a document is visible on one screen, it is visible on all screens, and in the same context. The system automatically produces windows of the same raster size on all screens, no matter what the resolution of each screen.
Voice over The Computer Network (VOIP):
Transmission of voice over the computer network is a standard feature of FarSightNet, and is integrated into the software. In one-to-one and one-to-many conferences, this is the easiest way to provide the vital voice link. It also eliminates telephone usage charges, making it most cost-effective.
Broad Document Access:
Import any document that can be printed, including multi-page documents, documents with continuous tone images, no matter how complex the content. Everything from simple word processor documents, to high-resolution medical images, to complex architectural blueprints and engineering drawings can be viewed and annotated in conference.

Multiple Document Windows: Review and discuss material from several documents at the same time. Bring in additional material to make a point without closing out the main document or breaking the train of thought.

MultiBoard Creation: Create multiple page "blank" documents that can be used as the background for rapidly creating notes, homework assignments, tutorial material, even lectures (mimics the multiple blackboards used in large lecture halls). Includes optional "graph paper" (linear, semi-log, log, polar) for easy integration into math and science curricula. Especially important for applications in education.
Annotation Tools:
A variety of annotation tools to fit many modes of presentation and learning. All annotations can be made "in" or "out" of conference, and can be saved with the underlying document (or MultiBoard).

Annotation by freehand drawing - selectable widths and colors: Using the familiar pencil and paper paradigm, easily create complex "on the fly" annotations, such as equations, without the need of complex software.

Text Annotation: Create editable text boxes (Stickies), small or large. Cut and paste text to and from other applications at any time. Text boxes can be iconified to allow the underlying document to be fully visible at any time.

Voice Annotation: Create voice annotations tied to "Sounder" icons on any document or MultiBoard. When clicked, these play back, either in conference or in stand-alone mode. Visual annotations of all types can be tied to the voice annotations in order to provide a synchronized visual display with step-by-step playback of sound.

Marker Annotation: Instantly add stationary pointers and other user-selectable markers to any document or MultiBoard.

Sound Management: Sound annotations can be created, edited, and saved as local disk files, then loaded into other FarSightNet documents at will. Sound annotations in a variety of formats can also be saved from other applications and loaded as annotations in FarSightNet.
Independent Data Access:
Any documents to be used in conference can be distributed ahead of time to minimize network delays during the actual conference session. This allows real-time interaction, with complex content, over low bandwidth lines (e.g. dial-up connectivity).

This feature means that even off-campus students can take advantage of "virtual office hours, and that entire courses can be presented at remote sites with no additional network costs because the course content can be prepared on CD-ROM and shipped to the remote site in advance. This also opens up the possibility of extremely cost effective "remote service" where a factory engineer can assist a service technician in the field with full interaction over phone lines (the schematics and maintenance manuals can be delivered on CD-ROM with the machine.
Firewall Friendly Access:
Since the FarSightNet Server may be located outside of corporate firewalls, access is usually not an issue – anyone with Internet access should be able to reach a FarSightNet Server. Since a FarSightNet server never initiates a connection, firewalls that block all incoming connections are not a problem. For firewalls limiting outgoing connections, a FarSightNet server may be located within the firewall, providing the ultimate in security when needed, at the cost of limiting access to users also within the firewall. Of course, tunneling strategies may be employed as well.
Shared Pointer:
To enhance communication throughout a conference, each document window is equipped with a movable pointer that can be accessed by all participants. When any user moves this pointer, the motion is duplicated almost immediately on all of the other screens in conference. In addition, the name of the last user to move the pointer appears below it, to help each member correlate voice and pointer annotation. Note that these pointers are shared objects, independent of the users' cursors.
Other Interaction tools:
In addition to a shared pointer, all window scroll bars are synchronized, and if a window is moved or resized on one workstation in conference, the same changes will occur on all other screens in the conference. Finally, there are tools that allow the users to magnify a selected portion of a document, zoom the entire document, and adjust the contrast and brightness of the document display.
Private Windows:
It is possible to create additional document or MultiBoard windows that are not shared throughout the conference. These can be used as private "note pads", or can contain information that is not needed by the conference as a whole. In applications in education, these windows provide a controlled exchange of materials between students and the instructor.
Multi-Point Conferencing:
The number of computers in any one conference is not limited by the software, and conferences with up to 20 conferees can always be handled effectively. Conferences of more than 20 can be handled by appropriate servers.
Other Features:
Chat windows: Although live voice is most effective for most conferences, there can be special cases where chat windows are needed. Chat windows are provided in FarSightNet.

Attendance Roster: A scrollable list of conferees is always available on each machine in a conference.

Content creation: Although FarSightNet imports content (documents) from virtually any source, it is possible to create and substantially augment content using the extensive annotation capabilities of the FarSightNet Client. The system provides an easy path to adapt existing materials for different uses, and to create original documents rapidly, either for one-time use or re-use later. In fact, the system is easily capable of "rapid prototyping" of a wide variety of documents.

Document Transfer: Since FarSightNet can store any viewable document, with annotations, as a simple disk file, it is possible to distribute documents in a number of ways. Any FarSightNet Server provides storage for FarSightNet documents in designated folders that can be accessed later under the control of a password or by access control lists. Access can be read-only, without joining a conference, or jointly, while in conference. However, it is almost as easy to save a FarSightNet document to local disk and distribute it as an e-mail attachment. The FarSightNet Server is actually required only for live conferences.

Sequential Annotation Display: This is a special display mode which can be switched on from any FarSightNet Client, either in a stand-alone or conferenced situation. When activated, visual annotations (drawn lines, markers, and text boxes) are synchronized to voice annotations. The most common use is to present a sequence of ideas to the user. For example, a physics teacher might begin with a sketch of an orbiting satellite and add a voice annotation to state the problem to be solved. Then the teacher would perhaps write down the appropriate equation and add a second voice annotation to tell the student why that equation was chosen. Finally, in a number of steps, the teacher would solve the equation, annotating each step with a new voice annotation. Each voice annotation is automatically numbered in sequence, and appears as a "voice icon" near the corresponding visual parts (sketch, equation, solution step(s), etc.) When the student loads the file and switches to sequential display mode, all visual annotations disappear but the sequentially numbered voice icons remain. As each voice icon is clicked, the corresponding visual annotation(s) appear as the voice starts playing. This gives a student the opportunity to go through a "virtual lecture", at the student's speed, with the ability to "back up" to any point. In terms of the familiar PowerPoint or other slide presentation, the effect is that of a "build", but with coordinated voice description.

Guide Image View Mode: In any data window, the pages of a document are normally viewed in "Stack" mode, meaning that the pages are arranged like the cards in a playing card deck. A page control slider is used to move from one page to another, and if a page is too large to fit within the chosen window size, scroll bars appear automatically. Still, with really large documents, it is difficult to navigate within the page at full resolution. Zooming down is possible but, of course, resolution suffers.

Our solution is "Guide Image" view mode, which is activated by a pulldown view menu, on a window by window basis. In Guide Image mode, a "thumbnail" image at a user selectable fraction of the window dimensions, appears in the upper right corner of the window. When the user clicks in this "guide image", the scrollbars automatically center the clicked point in the main window, and an outline of the area shown in the main window appears in the guide image, as shown below.
guide image mode 1
By dragging within the guide image, the user can scroll the main image to view any portion, while tracking the location on the guide image (see below).
guide image mode 1
All of this happens synchronously on all other machines in a conference as well.

Server and Local Storage: Since FarSightNet documents are ordinary files, annotated documents can be stored locally as well as on a FarSightNet Server.

Custom Importing (NEF): Through a system known as "Nonspecific Encoding Formats", documents of many types can be made "native" to the FarSightNet system on a customized basis.

Scanner Access: In future releases, direct access to scanners will be provided. For now, since most scanners come with simple applications that store images in JPEG or GIF format, importing images from scanners is already a simple process since FarSightNet can read such images directly.

Cut/Paste to/from other Applications: Text from text annotation boxes and chat windows can be captured and edited with the system clipboard, allowing text to be imported from or exported to other applications.