Saturday, August 17, 2013

Calligra Author - The Next Step

Looking  Back

Today is one year and 3 days since we announced the Calligra Author project. The aim of the project is to produce a tool that helps writers produce ebooks with extra focus on novels, which are inherently long texts, and textbooks with lots of pictures and maybe dynamic contents like videos.

In the announcement I wrote: "We will make sure that Calligra Author will be a useful tool for all phases of the writing process". We analyzed the writing process together with some writer friends and came up with 4 phases of the process: planning, writing, review and publishing.

Our goal was to provide help to the writer in all these phases, giving him/her something above what a normal word processor does. Our starting point was Calligra Words, the word processor of the Calligra Suite.

The first step was to ask writers what they needed, which we did through a thread in the KDE Forum. The result was that we decided to start with the following features:
  • Planning: -
  • Writing: word count in the status bar and distraction free writing mode
  • Review: Notes, also known as annotations and export to MS DOCX format
  • Publishing: export to EPUB2 and MOBI formats.
EPUB2 is the standard for ebooks in general and MOBI is the format that is used for the Amazon Kindle book reader.

Two weeks ago, we released Calligra 2.7 and the status is that we have finished or almost finished every one of these features. I am very sorry to say that we didn't have time to finish the annotations or the docx export before the feature freeze so these features will be released in Calligra 2.8. But they are basically done now with just some polishing to finish them up.

Features that we have implemented in addition to the originally planned ones are partial export to EPUB3, including video and mathematical formulas, and support for book cover images.

I should perhaps also mention that all of the features above (perhaps except the book covers - I am not sure) are also available for Calligra Words users since they are of a more general nature.

Looking Forward

So... Since we managed to do all we set out to do in the first year, it is time to look into the next set of features.  In short: What do you want next?

I have asked some writers I know and also come up with one or two ideas myself and here is a short list of things that are hot right now:
Scene separators
of different kinds
  • A navigator. This will be a docker in the sidebar that will show you all the headings and let you easily navigate to any place in the text. We will probably also add support for bookmarks and separators (see below) in the same overview.
  • Section separators.  Or perhaps better: scene separators.  This are those small miniature things that you put between your scenes to indicate that something changes but where you still want to remain in the same chapter as before.
    You can see some examples of what we are thinking of to the right here. These were done by Dan Leinir Thutra Jensen, who also wished the feature in the first place.
  • Autocomplete of a limited set of words. This is a specific wish from one writer who wants autocompletion of some names and long words that are easy to get wrong when you write them many times.
  • Wiki export and import. Another specific wish from people who want to edit wiki pages with Calligra Author.This one will almost certainly happen. The export is partly done already and the import is planned. We are also working on a simple wiki navigator that lets you load and save pages in the wiki without help from a browser.
  • Import styles from another document or template. This is useful when you have a book and want to change the visual appearance of the whole text. Instead of tweaking all the styles of the document you would be able to just import all the styles from for instance a nice book template that you found on the web or a friend sent you.
So, what do you want? Are there any other features that you want us to implement? If they are simple enough to do they will probably be put on the list for 2.8, otherwise you will have to wait a little longer. Let us know in the comments or on the feature request thread on the KDE forum!

Finally, you may have noticed that I haven't mentioned anything about the planning phase. I am actually looking at implementing what is done in the Plume Creator or Scrivener or a number of other similar programs.  But this is a really big feature and will not be ready for 2.8. If we are lucky it could be done in a first version for 2.9 (or is that 3.0?).

7 Comments:

Blogger RGB-es said...

Page styles + automated page breaks :)

On 2.7, if I open an odt document created on Writer that have automated page breaks associated with a heading style, those page breaks are not loaded.

In fact, the whole page style management on Words/Authors is a bit strange and not really usable.

When implementing the navigator, please do not repeat the error made by LibO: a double click moves you to the selected heading, but also close the "tree" so you need to open each level again to return to the original point.

About the separators, you'll implement them as graphics or as characters? Several fonts like Linux Libertine have really nice separator characters.

Thanks for your hard word. Calligra team, you are just amazing!

4:45 PM  
Blogger B. Malengier said...

Speach to text integration. If that could be done easily (with Simon?), I'd give Author a try!

I hear so much about authors writing multiple books per year due to speach recognition, but it seems like not a simple thing to set up in your workflow...

1:42 AM  
Blogger sidney said...

Outliner (planning), the ability to export OPML file outlines. Corkboard or mindmap views of OPML data structure.

6:33 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

To me, characterization tools are very important. I want to define as much of a character as I can, including their physical attributes and emotional condition, attitudes, unique speech affectations and habits and more. Linkiing to an image of the character. Someone said readback of text - very, very useful and there are utilities to do that for Windows but integration is nicer. Outlining is essential, and timeline tools. Scene divisions. Export to popular formats is a good thing, as is storing the novel in a format that is easily accessed if there is a problem with the software - nobody wants to lose a year or more of their work. Versioning becomes valuable given the time frame. Research tools - some applications allow storage of research links, images, and text. I guess the best thing is to look at applications like WriteItNow, Scrivener, Liquid Story Binder, WriteWay Pro, and yWriter and make an amalgam of their best features. Some formatting tools like smart quotes, paragraph styles but not to word processing level. Text zoom for us oldies whose eyes aren't what they once were. Inline comments (like in LSB) I've fond to be quite convenient. ToDo lists.

5:56 PM  
Blogger Arne Babenhauserheide said...

This sounds really cool!

(and I wish there would have been an official News item of it on calligra-suite.org)

What I personally would need the most is Emacs integration: Being able to edit the text in Emacs, but embedded in Author to get the best of both worlds. Nowadays writing in anything but Emacs feels to me like walking through molasses.

With xembed it’s also not that hard to use emacs as embedded editor (for an example see https://bitbucket.org/ArneBab/kembed-emacs )

12:17 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Don't forget writers of training, education, and technical non-fiction.
While you are pondering your planning features, remember those of us who work in non-fiction. In general, we have lots of line-art, photographs, tables and charts with their corresponding references and links. An outliner helps to move the text around, but these features often leave the artwork orphaned with broken references and links.

Another issue involves placement of the artwork relative to reference and link text, located reasonably close and properly located on the page. Once we get this right in our manuscript, the EPUB content usually breaks things until we hand-edit the XHTML.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Perhaps a different approach can help?
I don't know if this is possible, but these are my thoughts:

Say for instance - If you like to use a mindmap, a drawing or any other type of file in your planning of a novel and just right-clicking anywhere on a page brings up a menu allowing you to integrate any of these filetypes directly where you want it - AND opens up the associated proram for the specific task (krita for instance)... when closing and saving, the program will automatically insert the file, saving you the trouble of saving the file separate from your document and then open it through a selection menu (the latter should, of course also be possible).

I hope it made sense.

Cheers
Johan

10:04 AM  

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