Apple’s Pages word processing app [Mac - $19.99, iOS - $9.99] is a pretty amazing app, supporting both word processing and layout functionality in an intuitive and beautiful package. Now, thanks to the folks at Smashing Magazine, it’s my go-to tool for building ebooks. Just recently I stumbled on their How to Produce an eBook with Apple Pages and it provides step-by-step details on how to build a PDF, Mobi (Kindle) and ePub edition from one Pages document. This book is short and sweet with plenty of screenshots providing examples of how it all works. They tell you how to format your text and images so they will display correctly in each of the formats and provide tips on covers and other necessities for a well-designed book.
If that wasn’t enough, they included the workflow they use to build Smashing Magazine ebooks from the blog content on their site. Think about it . . . they collect related articles from their site to build a book on that topic. Do you think this might also be useful for genea-bloggers? I’m already sketching some plans for a couple of Gazette publications.
You’ll find How to Produce an eBook with Apple Pages at Moultrie Creek Books.
Publishing our family histories is a goal for many of us. There are many resources to help research, organize, write and edit those histories, but one necessary skill many of us lack is construction. This step is necessary if you are planning to publish your history yourself. By construction, I mean the layout skills necessary to format and style your publication and build the footnotes, tables of content and indexes needed to make it a finished work. Although most of today’s word processing applications have the features needed to perform these layout chores, you may not be aware of their existence let alone how to use them.
With a few exceptions, the layout effort happens after the manuscript is finished – written, proofed and edited. Yes, images and graphics are selected during the manuscript phase, but size and placement are part of layout. In publications with complex layouts full of images, graphs, tables and other precise components, one tiny edit can cause a lot of layout adjustments. For this reason, book designers seldom begin their work until everything else is ready.
What kind of word processing skills do you need to construct your own family history? Here’s a basic list:
- Styles. A style is a saved collection of formatting options – font family and size, color, alignment and white space are just a few examples. Your word processing app lets you save any number of styles for things like titles, headings and sub-headings, captions, paragraphs, bulleted lists and much more. Once you’ve set up your styles, all you have to do is select the text to be styled and choose the appropriate style. Styles not only insure formatting consistency throughout a long document, they save you a lot of time and effort. And, should you decide that lime green isn’t the right color for the 74 major headings in your publication, all you have to do is edit that heading style and your word processor will immediately update those 74 headings for you. Whether you’re working on a publishing project or not, you should make styles your word processing BFF.
- Templates. A template is a blank document file that has page sizes, margins, styles and other formatting settings ready for whatever purpose this document is used. Most apps come with a large template collection ready for you to use. The Lulu.com self-publishing platform has downloadable templates for each book size it offers. You can modify existing templates to add or edit any formatting or style options. You can even include boilerplate text – like the legal front matter found in books or the “About the Author” text – to save yourself work.
- Section breaks. Longer, more complex documents have more demanding requirements. You may find you need to insert a table or chart as a landscape page within a portrait document. You may also want to customize the page numbers to show both chapter and page. You can do these things, but you will need to take advantage of special functions like section breaks.
- Table of contents generator. Most word processing apps include the ability to automatically generate – and update – your table of contents for you. In order to do this, you must use styles to format headings and sub-headings within your document. You then tell the table of contents generator where you want the table of contents to appear in your document and which heading styles to include in it. The generator goes through the entire document and finds those styled headings, calculates which pages they are on and builds the table of contents for you. And, when you make editing changes that change where those headings are located, either the generator will automatically update the pages numbers for you or, worst case, you click a button to force an update.
- Footnotes and endnotes. Citations are usually added at the point of the reference using a command (like Insert > Footnote in Apple’s Keynote app). The word processing app will then place it wherever you prefer via your document settings. Your available options will depend on your app. Keynote allows footnotes at the bottom of the page and endnotes either at the end of a section or the end of the document.
- Bibliographies. If you are already using a bibliographic application like EndNote, check to see if your word processor works with it. Not all apps provide bibliography support and you may need to build yours manually.
- Index generation. Once again, not all word process apps support index generation. Even when they do, you will need to manually mark each text entry you want included in your index. Like the table of contents generator, you will identify where you want the index to appear in your document and the index generator will find all the marked references and calculate their page numbers. It will also update those page numbers when additional editing moves things around.
None of these features are difficult to learn, but you will want to get comfortable using them before you begin a large writing project. Experiment with each feature, playing with options and learning how you can make them work for you. Even so, if you’re like me, it will take a working project to really discover how these tools function. Once that first project is complete, you’ll find new projects much easier to manage. Tackling a big project has enough hassles. If you know how to use your tools, they can make your project easier and your final product much more professional.
There’s a whole lot of Kindle going on in my family. Even before Christmas arrives it looks like just about everyone owns either a Kindle or an iPad with the Kindle app installed. Since Kindles can also read PDF documents, this opens up a whole lot of family history opportunities for me. The challenge will be designing my projects to be read on the small Kindle screen.
Unlike e-books, PDF documents don’t flow to fit the screen on the device. PDFs are paged documents and the whole page is resized to fit the screen. This means a PDF document designed for 8½ x 11 paper will be reduced to fit the 6-inch screen. Yes, the reader can zoom in to read a section, but all that zooming and scrolling can quickly become quite irritating. Why not design your document for the small screen from the beginning and make it easy for everyone?
Both the new Kindle readers and the iPad have screens sized with a 3:4 ratio in portrait view. The Kindles’ screens are 600 x 800 pixels and the iPad is 786 x 1024 pixels. If you format your projects around the Kindle’s smaller screen, you’ll insure your work will be very readable on either device. My first project is a sample book which I will pass on to each of my sisters for reviews. I have a couple of friends with Nook readers and I’ll probably ask them for help too.
For my template, I set my page size at 6″ wide by 8″ high with .25″ margins. I’m guessing a larger font like Palantino at 12pt or even 14pt will be a good choice for my body text and something like Bodoni 72 Smallcaps will work for my headings. Why these fonts? I chose these fonts because they are also available on my iPad and chances are good that I’ll be working on projects both on my iPad and on my desktop. This just makes things easy for me.
I will be using color photos and design elements in my project so that it will provide the best experience possible on each reader’s device. But, because many of those readers are using monochrome e-Ink Kindles, I’ll keep the designs simple. Instead of patterned paper mats behind photos, I’ll stick with the simple photo-style frames my word processing app provides. I won’t try placing text over an image either since chances are good that will result in a muddled mess. However, I can still add some style to my project by putting text inside shapes, by using some of the more decorative fonts or by including some typographic embellishments.
I recently sent a simple test document to my sister who’s had a Kindle since day one. She had a problem with the font (Techno Pro) being difficult to read – it was too “thin”. The photos appear much darker on the monochrome screen. Once we find the sweet spot for document formatting, I’ll save the results as a template so I can easily create and share family stories.
Now I need to work on getting the rest of my family Kindle users to give me the secret squirrel email address for their Kindles so I can send stories straight to their readers. Hmmm . . .
I love fonts and have a huge collection. But as I transition to publishing both family history and “for sale” publications online, I’m getting quite an education in the fine print of font licenses. What is a font license? It’s the terms and conditions stating where and how you can use the font you just bought or downloaded. No, you do not own that font. You have been licensed to use it – subject to the terms of said license. Confused? Don’t feel alone.
Recently I was getting ready to buy one of the glorious fonts at OldFonts.com, but fortunately before I forked out $40 for my font I actually read the terms of the license. Their license agreement does not allow embedding fonts in PDF files. This means I can’t distribute an electronic PDF publication (either a document or a scrapbook page) that includes this font, because it must be embedded in the PDF file so people who don’t have the font installed on their computer can view it as I created it. As much as I love that font – I was willing to pay $40 for it – it’s of little use if I can’t use it in my family history projects.
Now that I’m paying more attention to the licensing agreements attached to both purchased and free fonts, I’ve found that there are significant differences between them. I’ve purchased many scrapbooking fonts with “personal” licenses which are much more limiting than “commercial” licenses. So, how do I keep track of which fonts are which and what limits I have in using them? With the help of a font manager application.
A font manager program serves many purposes – license agreements just add another reason you need one. If you’re like me and have collected thousands of fonts, there’s no way you can install them all and then wade through them from the font picker in your word processing or image editing software. And then there’s the performance issues of having tons of fonts installed on your computer at the same time . . .
A font manager helps you organize your font collection, install and uninstall fonts on a project by project basis, browse your collection to find the perfect fonts for a project and compare similar fonts to select the one that will work for your purpose. A good font manager will provide a means to organize fonts by type – serif, san-serif, script, etc. – as well as categories that make sense to you – wedding, handwriting, holiday, baby, and such. Take advantage of these organizational capabilities to include license categories – no-embed, personal, unrestricted, etc. – so you will see at a glance which fonts can be legally used for a specific project.
Another useful feature found in most font managers is the ability to see what specific text looks like from one font to another. Sure, all of them give you the ability to see the complete character set, but only looking at your specific text will show how those characters interact with each other in each font.
The font manager shown here is Font Case ($56, Mac). Other Mac font managers include Font Sleuth ($15) and Font Explorer X Pro ($79). Windows font management applications include Printer’s Apprentice ($25) and Typograf ($35). Extensis offers Suitcase Fusion 2 ($99) for both Mac and Windows.
Fonts can make or break the design of a writing or scrapbooking project. Being able to organize your font collection so you can easily find the perfect font – both visually and legally – will make your creative life even more enjoyable. Oh, and if you’re looking for well-designed fonts with commercial licenses that include embedding, take a look at the MacFonts (cross-compatible with Mac and Windows) collections.
We all know the advantages of outlining to organize our thoughts. It’s especially useful when starting a writing project since it provides a simple view of the topics you plan to cover and the order you’ve arranged them within your project. There are many great outlining applications available to help you pull your writing project together, but before you begin hunting, take a look at your word processing software first.
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