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Old 03-24-2003, 05:15 PM
Philip Colmer
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Default Introduction to Creating Reader Documents - Part 1

Have you ever wondered what is involved in creating a Microsoft Reader eBook? Or why you might want to create an eBook? Well wonder no more! In this two-part article, the basics of the whys and wherefores of Microsoft Reader eBook creation will be uncovered.

How do you create files that can be used with Microsoft Reader? Why would you want to create files for Microsoft Reader? This two-part article will try to provide some answers.

This guide will look at two methods for creating your own Reader files, using Word documents as the source material. Each of the two methods utilises freely available software, with differing levels of complexity and quality of output.

Before going any further, though, it is important to make it clear that this article is not a comparative review of different electronic book formats, nor is it a comparative review of different tools.

That said, let's get started!

Why use Reader documents?
The Pocket PC, by default, supports two native document formats - notes and Pocket Word. Documents in these formats are editable. This means that if you want to distribute a read-only document, you won't want to use one of these formats.

On the other hand, PDF - probably the most popular and traditional "read only" format - sometimes isn't particularly suitable either. The reason for this is because PDF files are essentially electronic versions of the printed page - they will typically be A4 or Letter sized pages which can make them tricky to read sensibly on a Pocket PC.

Although Reader pages are designed to look and act as much as possible like traditional printed book pages, they can be viewed on pages from as small as 3" x 4" to as large as 9" x 12". In addition, the user can change the size of the text used by the book and the content will automatically be re-paginated to suit.

So, if you want to distribute a price list, a white paper, a diary, or any other sort of document where the width of the page is not particularly important and you don't want people to modify the contents, you might want to consider creating a Reader file.

Tool #1 - Read in Microsoft Reader Add-in for Microsoft Word
This free piece of software adds the required functionality to Microsoft Word. It will work with Word 2000 and Word XP.

It can be downloaded from Microsoft's Web site and there is a link to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on that page as well.

After you've downloaded the software (820KB), you need to quit Word and then double-click on the file you've just downloaded. The usual set of Microsoft installation windows then appear.

The installation process does not give you any options about where to install it, what to install, etc. Since this is an add-in for Word, it will automatically get installed in the right place. One thing to note about the installation is that on multi-user systems, it is only visible under the account used to perform the installation.

After installation of the software is complete, the installer will display the release notes before finally reaching the end of the installation process. The release notes are also available from the Help file for the add-in.

So what do you get after it has been installed? Initially, all you will see is a new Reader icon on the toolbar and a Read option on the File menu.


Figure 1: The Reader icon on the File menu

Clicking on the Read option or the Reader icon in the toolbar brings up the conversion window. The add-in will try to populate as many fields automatically as possible, as shown in Figure 2. The information is taken from the properties of the Word document, so if this is going to be your tool of choice, it may help to get into the habit of using the document properties if you don't already do so.


Figure 2: The conversion window

From this window, you can change the title information, the formatting options, where to save the finished document and customisation of the covers. The cover customisation allows you to supply your own images for the Pocket PC and Desktop versions of Reader.


Figure 3: Cover graphics

Although the notes in the Cover Graphics window say that the two Pocket PC images are used for Reader 2.0, they are only used by Reader 1.0. This is because Pocket PC Reader 2.0 only flashes up the cover image as the book is opened. The Pocket PC library doesn't use any thumbnail graphics and the user interface for the front of the book doesn't use the book graphics anymore. However, you should remember that Reader files are not just intended for use on the Pocket PC. They can also be read on the desktop and now on Tablet PCs. This means that if you are creating books for a wider audience, you should ensure that you have included all of the relevant images - even if you don't think someone with Pocket PC Reader 1.0 is going to read your book.

The default settings for the conversion tool, as shown in Figure 2, will provide reasonable results, so long as you have followed the guidelines given in the Help documentation. In summary, these are:
  • Try to use styles, e.g. Heading, List, etc, instead of font changes. This will help the tool to achieve a better translation from Word to the format needed for Reader files.

  • You should try to restrict your font usage to Berling Antiqua, Frutiger Linotype and Lucida Sans Typewriter. As with the above tip, this will result in a much cleaner conversion. If you want the add-in to try to stick to the formatting you've used, you can deselect the "Convert to Microsoft Reader Formatting" option, but the resulting book file will be larger and may not format properly.

  • Images are usually displayed on their own line and may be scaled down in size if larger than about four inches wide. It should also be noted that some versions of the Reader software suffer from a memory leak if there are too many images in a document.

  • Tabs and extra spaces are converted into solid white space and their use is discouraged. If you want to have some control over layout, tables are recommended, but do take into account the next tip...

  • Basic tables should convert successfully, but nested tables will not.
    It should also be noted that older versions of Pocket PC Reader do not support tables.
There are some features in Word that are unsupported in the conversion. Some of these make sense, such as headers and footers, whilst others do not, such as widow/orphan control. However, these restrictions occur because, although Word is very powerful when it comes to the laying out of content, Reader files are not - their structure is more like early Web pages, with very little control over the content layout. This is primarily because the content has to be scalable for different display sizes & user-controllable font sizes.

It is somewhat annoying that, although the add-in converts a Table of Contents in Word to a series of links on the first page of the book as it should do, the final book doesn't recognise the fact that there is a table of contents. This means that if you want to go back to the table, you must go back to the cover page and then to the first page. This would appear to be a bug in the add-in.

Coming in Part Two ...
We'll be looking at a second tool for converting your Word files into Reader eBooks and comparing the results from each.

In the meantime, why not download the Word plug-in and have a go at creating your own eBook?
 
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Old 03-24-2003, 05:42 PM
piperpilot
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I've used the Microsoft Reader Add-In several time to take work documents home with me to read, either on the subway or in the comfort of my home, and I found it to be quick, easy to use and so much better than trying to read a document in Word. Of course, you can't make changes to the document, but for those occasions when you only want to read something, it's the best way to go.
 
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Old 03-24-2003, 06:07 PM
Ed Hansberry
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It is very simple, but has one super-annoying feature. It constantly has the need to modify your normal.doc template every time you Word 2002. The Reader plugin for Word 2000 didn't do this.
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Old 03-24-2003, 07:12 PM
hawkeye
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Default Word Add-in Works Great

My main use for the Word Add-In is converting long internet articles into a format easy to read on my 3670. I'll use the print option on any lengthy web articles (gets rid of ads, etc), copy everything into Word, then use the add-in to convert to a .lit file. This lets me read the article in my leisure on my 3670 in a clean, easy to read format.

I'd love it if more sites offered a .lit or any e-book format available for download on their articles!!!
 
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Old 03-24-2003, 07:27 PM
piperpilot
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I'm using Word 2000 at work and, like you said Ed, I haven't had any problems with the normal template when I use the add-in, although I have a general problem with Word trying to modify the normal template that has stumped our IT folks. Whenever I try to close down Word, I have to jump through all kinds of hoops to do it. I think it takes 4 or 5 clicks. Do you think it could be related.
 
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Old 03-24-2003, 07:37 PM
Ed Hansberry
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Quote:
Originally Posted by piperpilot
I'm using Word 2000 at work and, like you said Ed, I haven't had any problems with the normal template when I use the add-in, although I have a general problem with Word trying to modify the normal template that has stumped our IT folks. Whenever I try to close down Word, I have to jump through all kinds of hoops to do it. I think it takes 4 or 5 clicks. Do you think it could be related.
Uninstall the Reader addin and see if the problem goes away. It did when I uninstalled it.
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Old 03-24-2003, 07:45 PM
piperpilot
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Hansberry
Uninstall the Reader addin and see if the problem goes away. It did when I uninstalled it.
That was the problem! I can't tell you how annoying it was simply to try and close down Word. Now I guess I will save a copy of the add-in and just load and unload it whenever I have a specific need for it. Thanks for the tip :mrgreen:
 
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Old 03-24-2003, 08:50 PM
Jonathan1
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2 Cents on e-books and MS Reader:
I started off using the Reader plugin for Word back when it was first released. I have created many an e-book with this applet. The plugin is slick, fast, has quite a few options, and above all free. Four great features that make it a winner.
The problem isnít with the plugin. Itís with MS Reader itself. At least there is when you start embedding pictures and other various things into the documents. Also when your page count starts to creep up into the 500 Ė 1000+ range flipping to various pages in the book is slooow and seriously detracts from the e-book experience if you have to wait for the e-book reader to paginate.
I decided to give Palm Reader a try but to my dismay they donít have any easy, and free, software to make e-books. The only software available from Peanutpress is a $30 product. Itís difficult to go and shell out $30 when MSís software is free all around. (i.e. Both the plugin and the reader itself are both free.) Begrudgingly I ended up shelling out the cash last November. Long story longer: Itís worth every penny and best of all the e-books are fast. I have a 1,200 page web based story along with its various in story illustrations that I converted over last month. (Took me a week of cutting and pasting from the web.) Flipping from page to page is fast. As is jumping from section to section.
As much as FREE is a wonderful word it doesnít help if the app itís designed for is slow. And free doesn't help if you are trying to cater to a larger audience which may very well go beyond the Windows platform (e.g. There is no MS Reader version for Apple, Palm, or Linux. Which PeanutPress is working on on the last one.)

Yes MS Reader works well for small to medium sized documents, and free is free. But at the end of the day, IMHO ,Palm Reader and its $30 e-book maker blows MS Reader out of the water. But that comment does have to be tempered by the fact that as a quick, dirty, and FREE way of taking a document with you. Itís a perfectly good utility so your mileage may very on your opinions of MS Reader. Mine just happens to be about a 1/4 mile to the gallon. :razzing:
 
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Old 03-24-2003, 09:08 PM
Ed Hansberry
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan1
I decided to give Palm Reader a try but to my dismay they donít have any easy, and free, software to make e-books. The only software available from Peanutpress is a $30 product.
http://www.handebooks.com/howto/peanut.html

Free ebook converter for Word - I've never used it. I have the $30 publisher. You can also do it manually since it is just a markup language, but takes a bit of getting used to.

Also, some of the problems you describe are a problem with the converter. I can convert a document using the Word plugin and get a huge dismally slow .lit file and then convert the same text using ReaderWorks or whatever the name of that converter is and it is much smaller and pagination is much faster. I only noticed this on large ebooks though - something that would be 500+ printed pages. FOr small books, this Word macro is pretty nice... though I recommend Repligo for small things since its reader is lighting fast.
 
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Old 03-25-2003, 02:01 AM
baralong
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Default A few reader questions

I hope this isn't too off topic but...

The thing about reader that realy bugs ne (apart from activation) is the amount of wasted space on the screen. It seems that it only uses 60% of the available area. If it had a full screen mode or a way to adjust the margins it'd be an improvement. On my ppc you could cut the margins by 20 pixles in each direction without getting rid of the title bar, still allowing for the page number and the title/menu.

I'd rather a hack/addon (like multiIE or Pocket Plus) than install a different reader.
 
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