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Tree Introduction - How to Use Overview to Explore A Document Set

It takes just a few minutes to start exploring your documents in Overview. Overview depends on DocumentCloud to store, OCR, and publish documents, so you will need a DocumentCloud account (here’s how to get one.)

1. Batch upload your documents to a DocumentCloud project

Log in to your DocumentCloud account Create a project to store all of your files, using the “New Project” button. Then select “New Documents.” Now here’s the trick to batch uploads: when the file dialog box opens, you can select all of the documents in a folder simultaneously by clicking on the first, then shift-clicking on the last (or pressing Control-A on Windows, or Command-A on Mac). You can keep the documents private if you like.

document cloud new project

2. Log into Overview and import your project

Go to and log in, or create an account. Select “import your project from DocumentCloud” and enter your DocumentCloud username and password when prompted. Your DocumentCloud projects will appear. Select the project that you want to explore, and get a coffee while Overview imports and analyzes it.

import document set

3. Explore the documents in the tree view

Overview’s main screen is divided into four parts: the topic tree, the tag list, the document list, and the document viewer.

The topic tree view displays your documents sorted into the topics and sub-topics that Overview has automatically created for your documents. The big node at the top contains all documents. It splits into several smaller nodes below, each of which contains documents on similar topics. The nodes are different sizes, because sometimes Overview finds many documents on a similar topic, while in other cases a document is so unique that Overview puts it into a node all by itself.

You can pan the tree left and right by dragging with the mouse, or moving the scroll bar. You can zoom into the tree by using the mouse wheel, two fingers on the trackpad, or dragging one end of the scroll bar. Nodes which have a small ⊕ in the center can be expanded to show children, while ⊖ hides children.

Each node is labelled by the top keywords from the documents in that node. These words tell you the topic of the node. The children of a node contain, collectively, all of the documents in the parent, but broken down into more specialized topics.

When you select a node, the documents in it appear in the document list. Each document in the list is represented by a list of keywords specific to that document. Clicking on a document on the list loads it in the document viewer.

4. Tag interesting documents

As you explore the topic tree, you’ll run across individual documents or entire nodes you want to remember. Enter a descriptive tag in the “new tag” field and press “tag.” The currently selected documents will be tagged, and a little tag color swatch will appear next to them in the document list.

adding a tag

Once you’ve created a tag, you can add the currently selected documents to it at any time by pressing the + button that appears when your mouse is over the tag name. (To tag an entire node at once, select the node and then press the +/- button.) Or press – to remove the tag.

Clicking on a tag name selects that tag, highlighting the tagged documents in the tree and loading them into the document list.

5. Work your way through the tree

When you have a lot of documents, it pays to be systematic. We recommend working your way through the nodes in the tree from left to right — biggest topics to smallest topics. Select a node, then view a few of the documents in it to see if you understand what they have in common. If there seems to be more than one important topic in the documents in that node, try opening up the child nodes instead, until you find a node where all of the documents are more or less the same. Then, tag that node with a descriptive label.

As you proceed, you may find documents in the same topic in different nodes. Overview doesn’t know what story you are working on, so it can’t always guess how the documents should be arranged. You can apply a tag to any combination of nodes and documents to create a set that is meaningful to you.

You may also discover that the documents in a node are irrelevant to your story, in which case you can tag them with “read” and simply move on. Part of the power of Overview is being able to decide not to look at an entire topic.

When you’re finished this process, you’ll have a neatly categorized tree, and a set of tags corresponding to all the interesting topics in your documents.