User Manual


User Manual

Getting Started / Overview

First, we recommend that you read the Overview page to get a general idea of the functionalities supported and how the HCI Browser works in practice.

Download and Install

Next, you can follow the instructions on the Download page to install the HCI Browser. As described on the download page, we highly recommend that you create a new Firefox profile to use to test out the HCI Browser.


The HCI Browser requires a directory called "hcibrowser" to be present on the desktop. This directory should be in all lower-case and should be located on the main desktop (i.e. not in a sub-folder).

There are four main configuration files that can be placed in the hcibrowser folder:

  • intro.txt – the text to show on the Introduction screen
  • pretask.txt – the pretask questions
  • tasks.txt – the main tasks
  • posttask.txt – the posttask questions

Each of these will be described in detail below. Note that all these files are text files and should be created in a text-editor such as Notepad (not a word processor).

intro.txt (example intro.txt)
Any text in this file will be displayed on the Introduction screen. Line breaks are preserved. In the current version, there is limited space on the Introduction screen and if a large amount of text is put into this file, scroll bars will appear on the Introduction screen. If this file is not present, then no Introduction screen will be shown.

pretask.txt (example pretask.txt)
The pretask.txt file is used to configure the pre-task questions. Three question types are supported:

  • MultipleChoice – displays the question text followed by a vertical list of the choices
  • LikertType – displays the question text followed by a horizontal list of the choices (note: this can be used for Likert-type and semantic differential scales)
  • OpenAnswer – displays the question followed by a text box in which the participant can type an free-text response
To understand the format of the configuration file, we will step through the example shown below. The first line of a question specifies the question type (lines 01, 08, and 17). For the MultipleChoice and LikertType questions, the next line specifies the number of answer choices. For example, lines 01 and 02 specify that this will be a multiple choice question with 3 answer choices. The next line (e.g. line 03) is the text of the question that will be displayed to the participant. Lines 04-06 specify the 3 answer choices for this question, one choice per line. The number of answer choices must correspond to the number specified on line 02 or the program will have errors. Finally, line 07 has exactly three dashes, and acts as a separator between questions. The LikertType question follows a format that is identical to the MultipleChoice described above. The OpenAnswer question only has two lines: one to specify the question type (e.g. line 17) and the next line to specify the text of the question (line 18).

Example pretask.txt file
(line numbers are shown only for illustration, do not include them)

01  MultipleChoice
02  3
03  What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
04  Vanilla
05  Chocolate
06  Strawberry
07  ---
08  LikertType
09  5
10  Ice cream is one of my favorite foods.
11  Strongly agree
12  Agree
13  Neutral
14  Disagree
15  Strongly disagree
16  ---
17  OpenAnswer
18  What toppings do you like to put on your ice cream?
19  ---

tasks.txt (example tasks.txt)
The tasks.txt file specifies the text of the main tasks to be presented to the participants. The format of this file is shown below.

Example tasks.txt File
(line numbers are shown only for illustration, do not include them)

01  How tall is the U.S. capital building in Washington, DC?
02  1
03  What is being done to help reduce childhood obesity in the U.S.?
04  1
05  What are some reported causes of global warming?
Each task has two lines. The first line specifies the text of the task. The second line indicates the maximum number of answers that can be submitted for that task. In a future version of the HCI Browser, we also plan to implement a minimum number of answers that will be specified on this line also.

posttask.txt (example posttask.txt)
The posttask.txt file uses exactly the same format as the pretask.txt file.

Running the program

After installing the extension, the HCI Browser will start automatically when Firefox is started. If for some reason the program crashes or hangs, you can exit Firefox and restart. The start-up screen allows you to enter a starting task number so that if needed, you can re-start a participant at the task they left off at after a crash.