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The degree to which a hypertext system supports varied navigation methods is a good indicator of its overall flexibility. The amount of support varies widely among available hypertext systems. To further complicate comparison, some may not automatically provide a tool, but instead allow for its construction using simpler elements or a scripting language. For instance, an index for a particular book may be built by simply listing all of the desired terms in a node titled "Index" and making them source anchors. However, this is a time-consuming task which an automatic indexing tool could eliminate.

Most hypertext packages implement a subset of the following navigation tools. Note that many of these features have been designed to meet the needs of researchers and pedagogues; even rudimentary navigation tools (such as a history or index) may be unnecessary in a fiction.

  1. Local Map
  2. Global Map
  3. Search
  4. Filter
  5. Index
  6. Bookmark
  7. Breadcrumbs
  8. Footprint
  9. Tour
  10. History

The need for adaptive, intelligent assistance in navigation becomes great as the complexity of the network increases. An expert system can provide help in constructing coherent reader-based narratives.

Hypertext system designers and authors must be aware of how the rhetorical devices of a hypertext network differ from paper text. This is most important when considering which navigation features to use (and how they will be implemented) as they greatly shape a reader's experience.

Navigation features are discussed in Bernstein's "The Bookmark and the Compass" and Nielsen's "The Art of Navigating Through Hypertext."