Documents that do more

In this day and age, printed documents are just not enough. Whether you want to repurpose material for the Web, create PDF files or change something into an e-book, PC World is here to show you how.

Desktop publishing is no longer just about producing paper documents. You can redesign the same material for the Internet, e-books and multimedia. This reuse of layout and content is generally described as repurposing.

A quick comparison illustrates how simple repurposing can be. A paper publication such as a page of PC World consists of text, pictures and graphic elements including white space. An e-book goes out of its way to imitate its paper equivalent, although there may be less text on the page and the graphics are usually pared down to keep file size small. A Web page contains the same elements but usually adds menu, buttons and hyperlinks for navigation.

Conversion considerations

Before you decide how to convert a document, you need to consider its target audience and complexity. A mainly text-based document such as a report or essay requires minimal conversion and in its most basic form can be supplied as a Word or ASCII text file. All you need to do is upload it to your Web site. Your readers will download the file and view it with their own text viewer or word processor so you don't need to worry about formatting.

A document containing graphics or pictures and typographic changes such as headlines and call-outs may need to be saved as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file. This can be as straightforward as saving or printing to a different destination. If you have Acrobat Distiller, you can print straight to Acrobat from popular programs such as Word. Other applications like Adobe InDesign can produce PDFs directly. To prepare an e-book you could, alternatively, use an e-book publishing program.

The final step is to convert the document into Web pages that are accessible via a Web browser. This is more complex, but the easiest way is to use a DTP program that can produce HTML directly.

Taking a view

In its default mode Word creates DOC files, but if you switch to the Web Layout view from the View menu it starts producing HTML instead. Some of the characteristics change, too. For example, text wraps to the width of the page, as it does in a Web browser, rather than to the set width between page margins.

You can add all kinds of 'furniture' to a Word Web page but the most relevant is hyperlink navigation buttons. These take you backwards and forwards through the document from within a Web browser (see "Adding HTML navigation with Microsoft Publisher" on page 38). Any text or object on a Word page can be turned into a hyperlink, which links to a heading or bookmark within a Word page.

Desktop doesn't mean paper

Most budget DTP programs and some higher-end professional ones now support electronic publishing. Microsoft Publisher (around $275; www.microsoft.com.au) will rework a document initially designed for paper for HTML output. You can add hyperlinks, hotspots and furniture such as checkboxes, option buttons and lists.

The more expensive, professional DTP programs, such as Adobe's InDesign and FrameMaker (around $1299 and $1420, respectively; www.adobe.com.au), have more powerful built-in features. InDesign can directly produce tagged PDF files suitable for use as e-books, as well as HTML and XML files. Adobe FrameMaker, like Corel Ventura (around $1250; < a href="http:www.corel.com.au">http:www.corel.com.au), is best known for long paper documents but can produce PDFs, HTML and XML.

QuarkXPress 6.0 ($2699; www.quark.com) can export directly to both PDF and HTML, and produces two-position rollovers and shaped image maps, otherwise known as hotspots.

From books to e-books

Creating e-books need not be difficult or expensive with the right software. MobiPocket Publisher (www.mobipocket.com) is free for personal use and helps you collect all the elements needed to produce an e-book to the Open e-book standard.

Any e-book requires fundamentals such as cover, title page, and table of contents, and MobiPocket Publisher helps you create these. You can import files as ASCII text or in Word or PowerPoint formats. You can even encrypt your e-books to sell over the Web with a reduced risk of piracy.

Depending on the format of the e-books you choose, you may be able to read the electronic publication on your PC and PDA. You can pass it around on the Internet by uploading it or attaching it to an e-mail.

Design restrictions

Web documents and e-books do have some constraints if you want your readers' software to reproduce them correctly. Colours, for example, are severely restricted. A Web-safe subset of 256 colours is available in most DTP programs, and it's wise to stick to it.

Similarly, most Web sites use a limited selection of 'common denominator' fonts for the main body of text. Fancy headlines and logos are normally downloaded as graphics. HTML will reflow text depending on the width of the browser it's viewed in, so you can never be sure what effect this will have on your layout.

A program capable of supporting the CSS-1 standard will give you more control over the look of your document. CSSs (Cascading Style Sheets) fix HTML and XML pages so they don't reflow in a different width of Web browser. Only browsers such as Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator after version 4.0 are likely to support CSS-1.

HTML supports three graphics formats: GIF, JPEG and PNG. Others, such as TIF, will be converted to one of these three when you create your HTML file or flagged as an error by your document creation program.

With the choice of graphics comes the problem of resolution. A graphic designed for printing will have a relatively high resolution of 300dpi (dots per inch). Displaying it on screen needs no more than 100dpi: 72dpi is often taken as the norm.

An image's size is directly proportional to its resolution. A 300dpi picture has nine times as many dots as a 100dpi one and potentially will take up to nine times as long to download. Some programs that design HTML will automatically reduce image resolution, but it's worth checking the size of the files you produce and making any necessary adjustments.

One page beyond

You don't even need a word processor or DTP file to work from. With the latest OCR (optical character recognition) technology, such as OmniPage Pro 14.0, you can scan a printed document and produce HTML, XML or PDF files directly.

If you have a scanner with a sheetfeeder, you can batch-process the recognition and con--version of the printed copy. The program can reproduce the origi-nal layout with remarkable accuracy. OmniPage can also produce Microsoft's LIT format directly and create, from the paper original, an e-book that can be read in Microsoft Reader.

Great conversion

It's possible to create an electronic document using almost any word processor or DTP file intended primarily for print. With a third-party conversion app such as Acrobat Distiller, or a document creator designed for both kinds of output, you can switch between formats with little physical effort but a lot of software muscle. And remember, by far the easiest way to design a document for paper and electronic repro-duction is to consider the requirements of both media from the start.

Creating a PDF file with Acrobat

  • Adobe Acrobat is one of the simplest ways to repurpose a document originally designed for paper reproduction. Version 6.0 (about $485; www.adobe.com.au) integrates well with Office applications so you can initiate conversion directly from the Acrobat buttons or the menu bars in Word, Excel, or Outlook. There are three buttons and options: straight conversion, convert and e-mail, and convert and send for review. Click here to see a screen shot
  • The conversion process is auto-matic. Acrobat goes through the document and reproduces the format with the same fonts and graphics as the original file in a form which is viewable but not directly editable. At the end, it launches Acrobat and displays the document. At this point, you should check pages for inconsistencies. Click here to see a screen shot
  • The converted document is passive. You can move from page to page but to make it interactive you need to add links, either to other points in the document or to external references that provide extra information. Adding links is easy: highlight the text or hotspot as the source of the link and Acrobat opens a dialogue box for the action you want it to take when the link is clicked. Click here to see a screen shot

Adding HTML navigation with Microsoft Publisher

  • If you're converting a multipage paper document to HTML, one thing you'll need is navigation. Otherwise, your Web browser will be able to access only the first page. To create buttons, start with any suitable graphic and overlay it with the button's text, which could be as simple as < and > arrows to move a page backwards or forwards. Click here to see a screen shot
  • Once you've defined your buttons, place them on every page you want to navigate to and from. Use the Hotspot tool to drag a rectangle around each button. The Insert Hyperlink dialogue box opens and you can choose the destination of the link. For simple navigation of a linear document, this will be to other pages. Or, you can create buttons to link to other files or URLs. Click here to see a screen shot
  • Having defined all the links, choose Web page Preview from the File menu to load a temporary HTML document that you can then upload to your site. To make changes, edit the Microsoft Publisher file and reconvert it. Click here to see a screen shot

Making an E-Book With MobiPocket Publisher

  • To produce an e-book for the MobiPocket or Microsoft Readers, you need to bring together a cover page, table of contents and any graphics. If you don't yet have a graphical illustration, the program can create a simple cover with just the title and author. The MobiPocket Import Wizard can import plain text files and Word or PowerPoint documents. Click here to see a screen shot
  • If the file doesn't have a table of contents, Mobi-Pocket Publisher can look for chapter titles from which to build one. View the source HTML file to check the codes for which to search. Once you have prepared the essential components, including the content file, select your target reader and set the converter going. Click here to see a screen shot
  • Once the e-book file is created, load it into Microsoft MobiPocket Reader or copy it to your PDA. You can also use the separate MobiPocket Emulator program - like MobiPocket Publisher, it is free for personal use - to see how it will look on a variety of handheld devices, including those based on Palm OS and Microsoft's SmartPhone. Click here to see a screen shot

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Simon Williams

PC World
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