Getting Started with Scalar

Use this tutorial and the instructions below to acclimate yourself with the Scalar interface. The Scalar 2 User Guide is another helpful step-by-step resource that is linked throughout these lessons.

Log in

The first time you log into a Scalar site, you will be asked to choose a username, enter your email address and password (of your choice), and a registration key. The registration key will be provided to you by your instructor along with the link to the class Scalar project. 

Once you have registered we will be able to add you as a user and author for the class book.

QuickStart: Registering an account and creating your first book

QuickStart: Creating a new book after registering

The dashboard 

When you enter the Scalar dashboard for the first time, you will be prompted to switch over to the updated dashboard. Click the link in the yellow box at the top of the page to access the most recent interface.  

In the dashboard you’ll see six tabs. 

  • Book Properties contains information about the structure and global displays of the book
  • Editorial allows you to enable a workflow for systematically reviewing and editing all the content in your book. 
  • The Styling tab allows you to choose settings that affect the overall look and feel of your Scalar book.
  • The Users tab allows you to view and add collaborators to your project and to control their role within the book.
  • The Utilities tab provides options for importing and exporting data. The utilities tab allows you to move your book from one scalar installation to another or, through the Scalar API, to share content and relationships in your Scalar database with other web platforms and publications. 
  • The content tab will be where you do the majority of your work in Scalar. It organizes and provides access to all of the media and pages that you construct as well as the relationships between those elements 



Content is organized and is sortable by type within the dashboard.

Pages – Where authorial content lives. Text lives on pages, and that textual content can be embedded with media items. On the Dashboard, Pages will include Annotations (which similarly can include text or visual media). 

Media – Visual media and associated metadata are stored as standalone objects in a Scalar project. This means that a media object and its associated descriptions, annotations, and data can be embedded on multiple pages or in multiple visualizations and widgets, like timelines and maps. The media object page records these relationships. Media in Scalar can be uploaded from a source file 2MB and under, but it is also possible (and in many cases preferable) to import an object from a stable web link, reducing the storage necessary for Scalar project databases. Media in Scalar can be images, videos, and even active websites. 

Annotations – You can highlight specific sections of a media file using Scalar’s annotation tool. Users will be able to scroll over an image and see pop ups with explanatory text or even additional images or videos that add depth and commentary to the media you embed in your project. Videos can be annotated to add additional commentary, draw attention to certain points, or to include citations for facts and ideas. 

Paths – Organize pages into a linear sequence. Scalar’s Path functionality allows users to link any page, media object, or annotation in a specific sequence to guide the user through the content. However, Paths can share content with other Paths, can fork, and can merge, which means that the author can develop a variety of ways for people to explore and encounter their material, or allow readers to choose their own adventure. 

Tags – Similar to Paths, Tags can be used to group any kind of content in a Scalar project together. Tags organize content non-linearly and can be used to generate visualizations, which can help both readers and project creators to discover connections between content. More on TAGS

Comments – A comments feature allows users to participate in a Scalar project. Comments are moderated, but don’t require registrations by readers so they allow real public interaction and the growth of organic communities of voices around projects. 


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