Hypertext is text displayed on a computer display or other electronic device with references (hyperlinks) to other text which the reader can immediately access, or where text can be revealed progressively at multiple levels of detail (also called StretchText). The hypertext pages are interconnected by hyperlinks, typically activated by a mouse click, keypress sequence or by touching the screen. Apart from text, hypertext is sometimes used to describe tables, images and other presentational content forms with hyperlinks. Hypertext is the underlying concept defining the structure of the World Wide Web, with pages often written in the Hypertext Markup Language (aka HTML). It enables an easy-to-use and flexible connection and sharing of information over the Internet.
Note how hypertext is not just flat text with highlights or paragraphs omitted during display, but rather, the text is hyper-structured with hyperlinks or other structures embedded inside a page, including hidden search words, to control the display and connection with other pages or hypertext nodes.
The English prefix hyper- comes from the Greek prefix "ὑπερ-" and means "over" or "beyond"; it has a common origin with the prefix "super-" which comes from Latin. It signifies the overcoming of the previous linear constraints of written text. The term "hypertext" is often used where the term "hypermedia" might seem appropriate. In 1992, author Ted Nelson – who coined both terms in 1963 – wrote:
By now the word "hypertext" has become generally accepted for branching and responding text, but the corresponding word "hypermedia", meaning complexes of branching and responding graphics, movies and sound – as well as text – is much less used. Instead they use the strange term "interactive multimedia": this is four syllables longer, and does not express the idea of extending hypertext. — Nelson, Literary Machines, 1992
Types and uses of hypertext
Hypertext documents can either be static (prepared and stored in advance) or dynamic (continually changing in response to user input, such as dynamic web pages). Static hypertext can be used to cross-reference collections of data in documents, software applications, or books on CDs. A well-constructed system can also incorporate other user-interface conventions, such as menus and command lines. Links used in a hypertext document usually replace the current piece of hypertext with the destination document. A less known and used feature is StretchText, which expands or contracts the content in place giving more control to the reader in determining the level of detail of the displayed document. Hypertext can develop very complex and dynamic systems of linking and cross-referencing. The most famous implementation of hypertext is the World Wide Web, first deployed in 1992.