On formatting poems for e-readers — Part II. Editors.

Click here to return to the preceding posting.

This posting describes a technology for preparing poetry for e-readers:  Editors, including WYSIWYG [What You See Is What You Get] editors.   The editors are used to enter a text and lay it out on the page.  Once text has been entered into an editor, it must be converted into an appropriate format for display in an e-reader.   Conversion routines will be the subject of the next posting.


HTML EDITORS.  Some web-hosting services provide editors in which one enters a text as one wants it to appear and the editor directly produces the corresponding HTML code to display the text in a browser.   This blog posting is being written using such an editor.  As I mentioned in the preceding post, Verizon provides a different editor for its web-hosting service.  The Verizon editor has the advantage that it more faithfully displays an inserted MSWord document.

Advantages. These editors give good control of HTML texts for display in web browsers, and many of them also offer an editable view of the resulting HTML code.  To obtain special effects, one can edit the HTML code directly.  Some of these editors check spelling.
Disadvantages. These editors only support HTML, which is suitable for display in a web browser, but is not supported on many e-readers.  To get the full benefit of such an editor, one needs to master HTML coding.

Microsoft Word (MSWord). This is the most widely used editor for text.   It is paragraph-oriented — its basic unit of editing, formatting, indenting and line-wrapping is the paragraph.  To get the best results from MSWord, one should use it as intended, defining and using appropriate paragraph styles.  Each paragraph in an MSWord document gets a style, whether you like it or not.

Advantages. Because MSWord is so widely used, many authors and publishers will already own it and already be familiar with its use.  It does a good job of accepting as input documents written with other word-processing systems.  Many conversion routines accept MSWord input.  Some of them accept only MSWord input.  MSWord makes it easy to insert accented characters.  It checks spelling.  It provides good control of indents through the paragraph indent parameter in the paragraph control.  MSWord provides built-in facilities for creating documents suitable for many e-readers, including documents in the PDF, RTF and DOC formats.

Disadvantages. If you don’t already own MSWord, you will have to pay for it.  Because it is paragraph-oriented, it is relatively difficult to achieve some formatting effects.  Like other word-processors, MSWord embeds invisible control characters in its text to control line indentations, fonts and other display features.  MSWord does not do a good, thorough job of letting the user know which control characters are embedded.  In the course of an editing session, unwanted control characters can be hidden in the document.  They may have no visible effect on the document when it is displayed in MSWord, but when the document is converted to an e-reader display format, these hidden control characters can cause the conversion routine to produce grotesque effects, as shown below in the result of converting one MSWord document to RTF format using the Smashwords service.  If you are not careful in the management of paragraph styles, they cause unintended effects, including the deposition of invisible control characters for effects you don’t want.

Word Perfect. Word Perfect has been around for a long time.  It is character-string oriented — its basic unit of editing and formatting is a string of characters of any length.   It once had a commanding market share, but it has largely been displaced by MSWord.  Nonetheless, many experienced authors, particularly in the legal profession, still find that Word Perfect is their favorite word processor.  It is my favorite.

Advantages. MSWord can automatically convert Word Perfect documents to MSWord format.  It gives excellent control of many formatting features.  Perhaps its most attractive feature is Reveal Codes, which allows a writer to see and control all the hidden formatting codes embedded in a document.  When something goes wrong and strange effects occur, this feature can be invaluable in uncovering the causes.  It can even be put to good advantage in finding out what is wrong with an MSWord document:  Open the MSWord document in Word Perfect, use Reveal Codes to find and remove the hidden codes that are causing trouble, then convert the document back to MSWord format.  Warning. When you use some advanced word-processing features, such as outlines, tables of contents, or indices, neither MSWord nor Word Perfect may do a good job of converting the document from one format to the other.

Disadvantages. Because MSWord has captured most of Word Perfect’s former market share, you are less likely to own Word Perfect already than to own MSWord, and therefore you are more likely to have to pay for it.  Because Word Perfect has a small market share, many publishers and many conversion routines for preparing e-reader displays will not accept submissions in Word Perfect format.

Open Office. This system is available free from http://www.openoffice.org.  It offers much of the functionality of Microsoft Office.  It does a reasonably good job of converting documents between its own format and MSWord format.

Advantages. Open Office is free, and has lots of functionality.  It has built-in capabilities to save documents in MSWord format, PDF, RTF, HTML and Pocket Word format (for display on Windows Mobile devices).

Disadvantages. As far as I can tell, Open Office does not have any analogue of Word Perfect’s Reveal Codes feature.  Many publishers and many conversion routines do not accept submissions in Open Office format.


TeXnicCenter. This editor is available free from http://www.texniccenter.org.  Prior to a final processing step, the control characters, which will be invisible in the final result, are shown in the editor, but line justification and pagination are not.  It is part of a system based on the LaTeX document markup language widely used for preparing documents for print.  It was used in the preparation of Farewell Rio for print publication.

Advantages. TeXnicCenter and LaTex are available free.  They give excellent control of the printed format of a document, and have better facilities for arranging text on a printed page than most word processing systems.  In particular, they do a superior job of producing text that is justified at both margins and where each full page has exactly the same length (top to bottom) as every other.  They are particularly well-suited for producing PDF documents.

Disadvantages. Since this is not a WYSIWYG editor, there is a marked discrepancy between the appearance of the text you enter and the appearance of the final result.  Skilled use of TeXnicCenter and LaTex require more technical knowledge than most word processors.  The documentation for these products is comprehensive, but scattered across multiple sources, and written at a technical level.

The next posting in this series will discuss e-reader formats and conversion routines.


About corcovadopress

I am the manager of Corcovado Press, which publishes works in English on Brazilian themes. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
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