WordPress Desktop App

Have you noticed the message in your WordPress desktop inviting you to try the new editor? I tried it and it is very nice. It’s free and available for Windows, Mac and Linux computers and it will work on both WordPress.com and self-hosted sites that have Jetpack installed. You can download the app at WordPress. You will need a WordPress.com login to use the app and you’ll find the link to create your login at the Desktop site.

The Desktop app is especially useful if you have more than one WordPress site. I have three sites of my own and I manage several more for associations. While the mobile app made it easier to manage multiple sites, the desktop app makes it a real breeze.

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The Reader view in WordPress desktop app for Mac.

It’s not just an editor either. The Reader pulls in the latest posts from every WordPress site you follow. This includes both WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress sites using Jetpack. The Reader displays an excerpt of each new post. Click the title to display the entire article. You’ll notice the very simple comments form at the bottom of the article. Since the app already knows who you are, you just add your comment. WordPress does the rest.

With the Reader you can organize the sites you follow into lists (similar to categories in Feedly). You can also “follow” a tag to display posts assigned that tag – whether you follow them or not. I’m guessing this only displays posts from sites that are either hosted at WordPress.com or have Jetpack installed, but it’s still pretty interesting.

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Reader displaying posts with the genealogy tag.

Even if you aren’t using the desktop app, WordPress bloggers may want to start including “blog-centric” tags in each of your posts to help people using the app – or the online WordPress.com Reader – discover your blog. Note the Follow icon in the heading of this post from Kindex Your History. It appeared in my Reader when I clicked on the genealogy tag in the sidebar.

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Although I do like the minimalist editor, it does take some time to get used to it. For example, the three-dot icon at the far right of the editing toolbar displays the extended tools and the link icon at the left of the title is used to edit the post’s URL. Don’t be alarmed when the options items in the left sidebar disappear. They didn’t disappear, they scroll out of sight as the post your working on gets longer. Scroll to the top of the screen and they’ll all reappear.

Remember too that this is an editor – not the administrator’s workarea. This app won’t let you tweak a theme or add a widget. It’s for reading and writing. In fact, I’m using it to introduce my society’s new writers group to the joys of blogging.

Oh, I’ve started including “genealogy”, “family history” and “digital storytelling” as tags in each new post I publish. That should make it easier for others to find my blogs in the Reader.

Personal Publishing – Scribd

The family stories I want to tell are full of pictures and charts and other types of graphics. While I can include them in books formatted for Kindle and other e-reading devices, I don’t have the control I want for page layout. It’s even worse for the Digital Storytelling and tech guides I want to write. I keep falling back to Scribd as my publishing platform for fixed layout publications and Scribd keeps improving – both its tools to help me publish and share my work and its apps to make the reading experience even more enjoyable.

With Scribd, you create your publication with tools you already have and know how to use. Scribd can upload Word and PowerPoint files, but for best results you should first convert your document to PDF to insure formatting and fonts will remain as you designed them.

It costs you nothing to build a document library on Scribd. You can even take advantage of Scribd’s store to sell your publications and/or offer them as part of Scribd’s Premium Reader Service and receive a royalty when subscribers read your works. An agreement with the Harper Collins publishing house has made this subscription service even more attractive to readers which could help attract family to your content too.

Scribd is a very social platform supporting comments, sharing and even embedding options – similar to embedding a YouTube video – so you can even display your publications on your blog.

Are you concerned about the longevity of the content you publish here? I cannot predict the future, but I can tell you what Scribd has done in the past. The Scribd platform was originally designed using Adobe’s Flash technology to display the books and documents it manages. When Apple refused to support Flash on its new iPads, Scribd rebuilt the platform to use HTML5 instead. And, they converted all the content already posted here to the new format. This was a very smart move as HTML5 is gaining traction as THE platform for digital publishing.

Online data libraries like Scribd (for documents), Flickr  and Instagram (for photos) generate their revenue because of the content their users post there. They have a vested interest in not only protecting your content, but also taking advantage of the latest technology. Yes, there are blips and glitches in their systems, but they invest much more time, money and effort in taking care of their collections that any of us every could with ours. Don’t make them the only place you store your precious stories, photos, videos and such, but do take advantage of them as an alternate storage option as well as a method for presenting your content.

The photo gallery below offers a look at the Scribd platform. Click on any thumbnail images to view it full size. If you pay a visit to the Scribd site, make sure you stop by the Moultrie Creek page.

Build a Digital Photo Album

Families who are fortunate to inherit a lovingly-crafted photo album are truly blessed. We have any number of ways to create today’s version of those vintage family treasures. In this reprint from an article published in Shades of the Departed magazine, I demonstrated how to build a photo album that you could carry with you at all times – using your iPad.

Here’s the finished album exported to movie format and uploaded to Vimeo. Movie export is not available in the iPad version of Keynote. I synched the album file back to my desktop and used the desktop version of Keynote to do that – oh and added a bit of music too.

Flipboard Magazines in Your Browser

You can now enjoy Flipboard magazines on your desktop using your browser. You’ll need the address to at least one magazine to gain access to the platform, but from there you can wander around and find any number of other magazines to enjoy. This short video gives you a tour of the features available within your browser and how to discover and share the amazing content you’ll find in Flipboard. Need a place to start? Try visiting my DIGITAL Storytelling magazine.

Publishing Tools – Legend Maker

Normally, the book-building process has two distinctive tasks. First, there’s the writing task where the text is written, reviewed and edited. Once that is finished, the layout effort begins. You may not think there’s much layout necessary for text-only books, but you would be wrong. Margins, fonts, hyphenation, footnotes, bibliographies and many other components are considered to insure the best reading experience possible. And, when images, graphs, charts and other graphical elements are included, things get even more complex.

It gets even more interesting now that ebooks are added to the mix. Even though ePub is a recognized standard for ebooks, each major bookseller is adding their own twist – usually in the form of Digital Rights Management (DRM). And then there’s Amazon with a format all their own. Often an automated process is used to convert the original manuscript to formatted text acceptable to each of the booksellers, but the results of these conversions can range from pretty good to amazingly awful. Manuscripts with more complex formats that include images, footnotes and other elements are the toughest to convert and, for family history publishers, it’s difficult to find an affordable way to construct a well-designed ebook.

Fortunately for Mac users there’s Legend Maker [Mac – $24.99]. With LegendMaker, you write and edit your book using familiar software like Pages, Microsoft Word or Scrivener. The only requirement is that you must be able to save the manuscript in rich text format (RTF) – something just about every word-processing app supports. Once the manuscript is finalized, you will add “tags” to the document to provide the necessary instructions so that LegendMaker can convert the RTF document to a beautifully-formatted ebook. Tags are quite simple. First, there are bookmark tags similar to the one shown here:

bookmark:The Buccaneer Lodge

The bookmark tag tells Legend Maker that this is the beginning of a new chapter or section so it can be added to the book’s table of contents with a link to this location in the text. The text shown after the colon is the text that will appear in the table of contents. In most cases, the very next line in the manuscript will be the actual title of the chapter – formatted as you want it to appear in the body of the book.

Because ebooks are built on HTML, the images are maintained as separate files much like they are in a blog. Your book’s project folder contains both the RTF file for the manuscript and the image files for those images you are including in your book. The Legend Maker manual includes details on size and formats for those image files. To define where an image should appear in your manuscript, you add an image tag similar to this one:

image:photo.jpg

The image file – photo.jpg in this example – must be in the same folder as the manuscript file. This tag will position the image centered on its own line. The limage:photo.jpg will position the image to the left of the screen and wrap text around it. The rimage:photo.jpg will position the image to the right and also wrap text. There are also tags for including audio and video files in your book.

Creating a footnote (endnote actually) is amazingly simple. The citation is typed immediately after its reference, surrounded by double broken brackets.

. . . can be found in Pioneers of Southern Literature.<<Pioneers of Southern Literature. Nashville, Tenn: Pub. House M.E. Church, 1899. Print.>> You will also notice that . . .

Now, at the point where you want the endnotes collected, you include a bookmark:endnotes tag on its own line. Legend Maker will collect the footnotes in your book and place them at this point. Each footnote will end with a ♠ character which is a link returning the reader back to the point in the book where the footnote was referenced.

The Legend Maker user guide provides detailed information on formatting your text, images and other media to create a beautiful book. Take advantage of your word-processor’s style functions to support those guidelines and you will create a custom-crafted book that will look great in any e-reader. Once the manuscript is tagged and all the image/media files are properly formatted and included in your book’s project folder, you’re ready to turn Legend Maker loose to convert the book into ePub and Amazon formats. Legend Maker will walk you through the process, asking for the necessary metadata details so your book will meet bookstore requirements.

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Here’s an example of the ePub version of my The Future of Memories book which was formatted and converted using Legend Maker. As you can see, the formatting included in my original manuscript was transformed beautifully into the ePub version.

While the formatting and layout of any book can be a long and tedious process, Legend Maker’s tags are easy to remember and use and the result is a hand-crafted book that reflects your efforts much better than any “meat grinder” process ever will. It’s well worth the effort.