Friday, 23 November 2012

What You See Is ... Just The Demo

Apologies to readers expecting the usual  whimsy. I'm seeing if the strange popularity of my Wachet auf! blog is due to its giving information about lexicographical progress.

There is a story, going the rounds in the early years of this century (before I, as the immortal bard so nearly put it, 'was from the IT world untimely ripped'), about a man doing a pact with the devil on the basis of a preview of Hell, which was not so bad after all; more of a holiday camp. After various Faustian misdeeds he dies and goes to Hell - the fire and brimstone sort. He complains that this was nothing like what he'd been led to expect, and Satan's answer is 'Well, that was just the demo.' This story comes to mind whenever I see a product that claims it's 'WYSIWYG'.

Anyway, the nearest to true WYSIWYG I've met (and don't talk to me about Interleaf...) is a tool called 'HoTMetaL [geddit?] Pro' - produced originally by Softquad but now in an unsupported limbo. It ran happily on Windows XP, and Windows NT when I first used it, but on Windows <hawk-spit> 7 it limps along with various patches and downloads and workarounds, without a help library. This is the tool I work with when first progressing from handwritten notes for the next release of my When Vowels Get Together. It is sort of 'WYSIWYG Plus' - you can see the code, WYSIWYG, and various other views. And it does lots of checking of code and internal and external links (by now I'd know a lot more about what extras it has to offer, if only the help file worked on Windows <hawk-spit> 7).

However, the thrice-blessed Kindle Direct Publishing provides various documents supporting self-publishing that refer only (in detail) to their own engine which produces an EPUB file on the basis of the HTML generated by the latest flavour of Word - not the tool that, faute de mieux, I am used to (Word 2003 - I know, I know, I should be using Open Office anyway). Now, I know a little (I've said in an earlier blog 'perhaps two modica') about HTML, so I'm blowed if I'll wrestle with a new version of Word just in order to generate the sort of HTML that KDP wants - in a single HTML file FFS!

The problem is that KDP's conversion engine adds things like a 'Logical TOC  (NCX)' - which you can't do with pure HTML. (The quote is from the Amazon  Kindle Publishing Guidelines, and the particular feature is mandated in section 3.3.1 - there are various other mandatory requirements though.)

The answer to this problem is Sigil, which is also a WYSIWYG HTML editor - though not as friendly and multipotent (I wouldn't go so far as to call it 'omnipotent') - but it also generates EPUB files; also, it accepts as input both pre-existing HTML files and XHTML files - though it only generates the requisite meta-data (for EPUB files acceptable by KDP) when the input is XHTML.

Now, here's the sneaky bit. I am conversant with HTML, and I know a tiny amount about XML, but XHTML is a closed book to me. Sigil produces XHTML as soon as you open it (a blank in the WYSIWYG view, but in the code view the headers and footers necessary to produce a conformant blank page). Having used good ol'  HoTMetaL Pro to generate and validate HTML, I cutNpaste it into the (XHTML) code view (having removed the old headers). At the moment of transition, there's a horrible clash of code that makes Sigil complain bitterly; but I hold my nerve, and it's all right in the end. Then I can add  all the bits and pieces that KDP expects in an EPUB file.

Where I am at the moment with -EA- spellings is starting to move from handwritten notes to  HoTMetaL Pro. I am painfully aware of the slowness (sloth?) of progress, but I hope this gives some idea of the process. (Suggestions for improving the process are welcome; after much trial and error I've found a rather labour-intensive method that works, and rather than researching a more elegant solution I'm just putting my head down  and doing it. It is, in the words of a colleague on an OU course I once did, 'a JFD situation' - just do it. The F is silent.)
 Normal navel-gazing will be resumed in the next episode of Harmless Drudgery.

 Mammon (When Vowels Get Together V4.0: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs – AA-AU, EA-EU, and  IA-IU, and – new for V4.0 – OA-OU.  If you buy it, contact  @WVGTbook on Twitter and I'll alert you to free downloads of the forthcoming volumes; or click the Following button at the foot of this page.)
And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: nearly 32,400 views**,  and  4,400 downloads to date. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with 1570 views/700 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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