Monday, March 24, 2003
Posted by Philip Colmer in "SOFTWARE" @ 09:15 AM
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.
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?