“And Then You Crack The .epub File Open…”

I want to shed some light on the reasoning behind ePubCrawler, our InDesign-to-fixed layout EPUB conversion tool.

1. Take as much or as little as you want.

It’s totally OK to use ‘a little bit’ of ePubCrawler.

For example, if all you want is to extract the used images from InDesign in JPEG format, and rename them with more sensible image names that help you with building the EPUB: ePubCrawler will do that for you.

Or if all you need are JPEG exports of the page backgrounds, with text removed: ePubCrawler will do that for you.

Or if you want the frame coordinates expressed in percentages. No sweat!

Edit the config.ini file as needed, run ePubCrawler, and grab the bits you need, and leave the rest behind.

It’s OK – it’s meant to be usable that way!

2. Unfinished

At present, ePubCrawler is highly unfinished: there is still a lot to be done.

But that does not mean it is not useful. I’ve had reports of 10-fold or 100-fold increases in productivity by using ePubCrawler.

So, even though ePubCrawler is still rough, and does not have a pretty user interface, it can help you achieve much better productivity.

The disadvantage of this approach is that it’ll take you effort.

You need to read the documentation and the config.ini file, and watch the movies, or organise a training session with us. Nothing will make much sense until you do.

The documentation is incomplete and outdated in places. That’s all part and parcel of it. Yet, the rewards are great, so give it a go!

And we are only an e-mail away – e-mail [email protected] if you have questions, suggestions, bug reports.

3. The EPUB professional should be in control, not the tool.

I’ve attended a number of presentations on EPUB and InDesign, and invariably the presenter uses a phrase similar to “… and then you crack the .epub file open, and adjust the CSS and XHTML to your needs”.

The way I understand this is that the various existing InDesign-to-EPUB export tools do an OK job. Yet many of the EPUB professionals I’ve met are left wanting.

They have some very specific needs, and these ‘all singing all dancing’ EPUB conversions only go so far.

So, I want ePubCrawler to be a tool that, from the get-go, assumes that you’ll want to adjust the EPUB.

That’s why ePubCrawler does not even attempt to create an .epub file.

Instead it creates an uncompressed EPUB folder, and stops there. The assumption is that you want to take it from there.

4. Customizable

I want ePubCrawler to be extremely customizable.

To ‘make it go’, I’ve concocted some ‘default’ export configuration that works out of the box. That way, when people download it, it will at least ‘do something’ without the need to first configure it.

In the process of building this default, I’ve been making a lot of decisions, most of which you probably won’t like.

For example, I’m mapping text frames and image frames to <div>, paragraphs to <p> and character styling to <span>. I am using pixel values in the CSS. I am using certain formulas to calculate frame positions…

Very few of my conversion decisions are cast into stone. They’re starting points. They might or might not work for you.

If you want to change things, since version 0.2.4, pretty much everything is ‘snippetized’, or ‘formula-ized’.

If you want to map InDesign paragraphs to, say, <div> instead of to <p>, easy!

Simply adjust the contents of the snippet files $$PARA_STYLE_PREFIX$$.xhtml.snippet and $$PARA_STYLE_SUFFIX$$.xhtml.snippet, and the generated XHTML files will contain whatever you want, instead if the <p> construct I decided on.

If you want to use a different calculation somewhere, easy!

Adjust the formulas.jsx file. Add your own formulas, and use them from your own snippets.

This drive towards customizability is present at every level. It applies to pages, CSS style sheets, individual words, NavMap entries,…

You can opt to use the default, or change it to your liking.

Have a nosey in the OEBPS folder – most snippet files are fairly self-explanatory. Simply make some changes, run ePubCrawler and see what happens! Experimentation is encouraged!

5. Controllable from the layout

InDesign has a quite a different view on ‘layout’ and ‘content’ when compared with the EPUB standard.

That’s why the conversion is complex, and why you cannot have a ‘single-click’ conversion.

But nothing says that we cannot enhance InDesign and give you more control of the resulting EPUB.

So, another goal is to make ePubCrawler controllable from the InDesign layout.

ePubCrawler already relies on the content of the script labels attached to various page items.

Over time, you’ll see more and more of this. You’ll add information into the script labels attached to the page items on the InDesign layout, and this info will control how ePubCrawler behaves. Eventually, ePubCrawler will sprout some dedicated EPUB palettes to make editing this info easier.

You’ll be able to give ePubCrawler hints and instructions on how to translate individual page items.

An example that’s already available in version 0.2.4. For any text frame, on a separate line of the script label, you can add the word bitmap. The effect will be to force ePubCrawler to export that particular text frame as a JPEG bitmap instead of as text.

6. We can help

ePubCrawler can be overwhelming. If you feel the need to get a kick-start, send us an e-mail. We’re more than happy to provide on-site training, and help you set up and configure things to match your workflow.

Send us an e-mail at [email protected] for pricing if you want to get some training organized!

7. Future: flowable EPUB

More distant plans: use the ePubCrawler philosophy for flowable EPUB.

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