Saturday, December 26, 2009

Font embedding in eBooks

If you compose or read eBooks exclusively in the English language, you will probably never notice a limitation present in the eBook readers like Adobe Digital Editions and Sony eBook Reader. Their built-in fonts are sufficient to display English texts correctly, but they miss some of the glyphs necessary for the display of extended Latin characters, and especially non-Latin characters.

Let's take an example. Here is a Greek text fragment as it displays in Atlantis:

If you save it as eBook in Atlantis, then open the resulting EPUB file in Adobe Digital Editions, you will see something like this:

This might be all Greek to you :) ... but you will have noticed the question marks within the words. Being unable to display some of the Greek characters in this text, ADE simply replaced them with question marks. This is because the ADE built-in fonts do not include the corresponding glyphs. So if your eBooks contain Greek, Polish, Baltic, Cyrillic or Asian characters, most likely they won't display correctly in the currently available eBook readers.

You might say "what if I embedded the appropriate fonts in my EPUB files?" This is OK because the EPUB standard supports font embedding in eBooks. In other words, you can include the necessary font files within the eBooks themselves. In this way, the eBook readers won't miss any character glyph.

Font embedding in EPUB files can be done manually. A number of tutorials are available on the Web. But the procedure is quite tricky and time-consuming, especially to inexperienced users.

This is when Atlantis comes in very handy! Atlantis is now able to embed fonts in eBooks automatically. The "Save as eBook" dialog of Atlantis has a new check box to "Embed fonts":

When this option is enabled, Atlantis automatically embeds all the necessary fonts in the saved EPUB files. You don't have to worry any more. EPUB readers automatically use any embedded fonts to display the eBooks.

Let's take our example again. This time we have saved our Greek document as EPUB from Atlantis with the "Embed fonts" option enabled. Here is the same text fragment viewed in Adobe Digital Editions with embedded fonts:

As you can see, the question marks have disappeared. All the characters are displayed correctly.

Atlantis normally embeds all the fonts used in the original document. But if you click the "Exceptions..." button right below the "Embed fonts" box:

you can instruct Atlantis not to embed specific fonts:

If you embed fonts in your EPUB files, their display in the e-readers will be as faithful as possible to the original document display. This might sound great. But there are a few snags. You should take them into account before deciding to embed fonts in your eBooks:

1) The two major eBook readers – Adobe Digital Editions and Sony Reader – support font embedding in EPUBs. But if your eBooks are meant exclusively for another eBook reader, embedding fonts in them makes no sense since these other eBook readers currently do not support font embedding.

2) Embedded fonts can significantly increase the size of your eBook files. Generating an EPUB file with the "Embed fonts" box checked might add megabytes to the size of the resulting eBook file. So if there are limitations regarding the size of your eBook files, font embedding might not be an option.

3) By embedding fonts in your eBook files, you force the eBook readers to use the embedded fonts rather than their built-in fonts. In this way, the eBook will mimic the original look of your document. But fonts which are good for monitors with big screens, might worsen readability of your eBook on portable devices with small screens. In addition, your eBook with embedded fonts might look quite differently compared to the display of other more "traditional" eBooks with no embedded fonts. This might also inconvenience the readers of your eBooks.

On the whole, it is preferable to avoid font embedding in eBooks whenever possible. This is why the "Embed fonts" option is initially off in Atlantis. We recommend that you use font embedding only when your documents contain non-Latin characters, or when it is impossible to reflect the book style without its original fonts. But as always, it is up to you to decide which move is more appropriate.

You can already try this new font embedding feature. It is included in the latest beta version of Atlantis Word Processor. You can download it from the Betatesting page of the Atlantis site, and install it to your PC.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

The Atlantis Word Processor team is sending the warmest Christmas wishes to you and your family.

May joy and happiness always be with you!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Beta versions: Easy upgrading

Checking for updates to Atlantis Word Processor and updating it is as simple as 1-2-3. You run the "Help | Check for Updates..." menu command from Atlantis itself and follow simple onscreen instructions.

But things were not that simple and convenient when it came to beta versions of Atlantis. Beta versions of Atlantis could only be updated manually. Interested end-users were supposed to make regular visits to the Atlantis Betatesting page, and download the new beta builds manually.

We have now simplified matters for our betatesters:

1) Individual beta builds of Atlantis always have a specific code number. That code number is displayed in the right topmost corner of the online Betatesting page:

But up to now that specific beta number was never displayed in the "Help | About..." window. Actually it was not even possible to tell when a given copy of Atlantis was beta.

The "Help | About..." window of Atlantis betas now displays these specific version numbers, and signals a beta version:

The Setup files of Atlantis beta versions now also display this information:

2) The "Help | Check for Updates..." dialog of Atlantis betas will allow you to upgrade to new beta builds of Atlantis:

Clicking "Yes" will allow you to upgrade your beta version of Atlantis without visiting the Betatesting page manually. You only need to follow the onscreen instructions.

3) Previously when the betatesting phase of a particular version of Atlantis was over, that version was released as a public version. But there was no automatic way to replace a beta version of Atlantis with the corresponding public version of Atlantis. Not anymore. The "Help | Check for Updates..." dialog of the beta versions now suggests such a move.

4) Finally, the "Help | Check for Updates..." dialog of public versions of Atlantis now informs you about any new beta versions of Atlantis:

All the changes mentioned in this post apply to builds of Atlantis released after December 18, 2009.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Perfectionism in action

Many will find this trivial. It is a cosmetic improvement indeed which many would not even notice. But this post is meant to show that we do pay attention to details. Minor inconveniences are still inconveniences. Minor glitches are still glitches. No matter how small is a problem, it is always better to fix it than to live with it.

So what is that improvement? As you most probably know, when you place the mouse pointer over a hyperlink in a document of Atlantis, a popup hint is displayed with the hyperlink address. Previously, the popup hint slowly followed the mouse pointer as you moved the mouse pointer over the hyperlink:

Such "walking" hints served no actual purpose. In the next version of Atlantis, starting from Atlantis 1.6.5 currently under betatesting, these popup hints will remain at their initial location. Like this:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tweaking ePubs (4): Choosing a text editor

We discussed earlier in this blog the tweak_epub utility that you can use to make minor changes to EPUB files. This utility automatically used the standard Windows text editor Notepad to edit the files contained in EPUB packages.

A number of people using this utility said they would like to be able to choose a different text editor. This is now possible in the new version of the tweak_epub utility. Click this link if you want to download it:

When you run the updated utility, you'll see a new button, "Choose Editor...":

Press this button to choose another text editor. Note that you have to select the executable file of the text editor. Executable files have the ".exe" extension. For example, the executable file of the Windows Notepad editor is "notepad.exe".

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Release of Atlantis 1.6.5 (beta)

Atlantis Word Processor 1.6.5 is now available for betatesting.

You can download this new version of Atlantis from the Betatesting page.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Keep those hands on the keyboard (4): The Alt+NNN method

As you probably already know, there are many ways to insert symbols in documents in Atlantis.

If you can remember the numbers assigned to specific symbols in the Unicode standard, inserting a symbol in a document in Atlantis is most conveniently done with the Alt+NNN method:

1. First, toggle the keyboard Num Lock key on.
2. Press and hold the Alt key down,
3. Type the Unicode number of the symbol on the numeric pad of the keyboard.
4. Release the Alt key.

Here are a few symbols that you might find useful:

Let's suppose that you want to insert a "numero sign". All you need to do is press and hold the Alt key down, type 8470 on the numeric pad, and release the Alt key. Atlantis will automatically insert the corresponding symbol from the most appropriate font.

Of course, any other Unicode symbol can be inserted with this Alt+NNN method. The Unicode numbers of symbols are shown in the "Insert | Symbol..." dialog of Atlantis.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Document formats: Winter cleaning

Besides support for a new document format ODF, the upcoming version of Atlantis Word Processor 1.6.5 will also include changes to its import/export filters.

Atlantis previously offered two separate formats for MS Word DOC documents through its Open/Save dialogs:

Indeed there is a significant difference between the DOC format used by MS Word 6.0/95 and the DOC format of higher versions of MS Word starting Word 97. But since the DOC format of MS Word 6.0/95 is now 15 year old, and it is hardly ever required by users, we decided to merge the two DOC formats into one in the list of supported document types:

What does this actually mean to Atlantis users?

Atlantis will still be able to open any DOC document of MS Word 6.0 (or higher). But saving DOCs in the old format of MS Word 6.0/95 won’t be possible anymore. If you open a DOC file of older format in Atlantis, and resave it in Atlantis, it will automatically be saved in the newer DOC format of MS Word 97 (and higher).

Atlantis 1.6.5 will also show a minor improvement to the Save as eBook feature. Previous versions of Atlantis saved superscripted and subscripted texts to eBooks with vertical offset only, without reducing the font size of these super-/subscripted texts:

Atlantis 1.6.5 will now apply a reduced font size to super-/subscripted texts:

In this way, the resulting EPUB file will mimic the look of super-/subscripted texts from the original document in the best possible manner.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

OpenDocument in the pipeline

We are currently working to implement support for the OpenDocument (ODF) format in Atlantis. This document format is supported by a number of word processing applications. But it is mainly linked to the office suite.

The ODF format can be used to store not only text documents but also spreadsheets, presentations, etc. Since Atlantis is a word processor, it will obviously only be concerned with text documents in the ODF format. Text documents in the ODF format normally have the ".odt" file extension.

So how comprehensive will ODF support be in Atlantis?

At this point we will not be adding ODF export capability to Atlantis.

What does this mean to Atlantis users?

Atlantis will open and display existing ODF documents, but you won't be able to create or re-save ODF documents as such in Atlantis. In other words, you'll be able to modify the contents of existing ODF documents, but you'll have to re-save the changed documents in any other document format supported by Atlantis, namely the RTF, DOC or DOCX format.

You might wonder why Atlantis won't save documents in the ODF format.

There is a single reason to this: the ODF document model is incompatible with the document model used in Atlantis.

Many word processing features work very differently in Writer (the word processor from the suite) from the way they do in Atlantis. For example, support for automatic lists, tables of contents, headers & footers, newspaper columns, and especially document sections and fields in Atlantis and OpenOffice Writer has been implemented quite differently.

Will Atlantis be able to open (i.e. import) ODF documents at all? Yes, because there are ways to convert the "incompatible content" of most ODF documents to an Atlantis-friendly format. Quite tricky transformations of the original content will have to be performed in order to convert some ODF features into elements that Atlantis can deal with. Some of the original elements and formatting of the ODF documents will be replaced with similar elements and formatting available in Atlantis so that when opened in Atlantis, ODF documents will look as closely as possible to how they look in OpenOffice Writer. In this way, you'll be able to open any ODF document in Atlantis, copy its contents and insert them into "Atlantis-friendly" documents.

You might say "if there are tricks to convert any ODF document to the Atlantis internal format, why not implement similar tricks to convert Atlantis documents to the ODF format?” From a solely technical point, this would be possible. But from a practical point, this does not make much sense.

Let's imagine that Atlantis is capable of saving documents in the ODF format (i.e. it can export to the ODF format). Each time you save an Atlantis document as ODF, Atlantis internally changes its document elements and structure to make them compatible with the ODF format. Such a transformation entails losing some of the original Atlantis formatting and structure. If you reopen such an "Atlantis-exported" ODF file in Atlantis, a new internal conversion of format has to be performed once more towards an "Atlantis-friendly" format. Such repeated conversions of internal format inevitably entail loss and distortion of information. Consequently, it will be impossible for Atlantis to reproduce the exact state in which original documents were before they were saved as ODF. Atlantis users will ineluctably be surprised at the way the documents they "saved as ODF" actually will look when reopened in Atlantis: with different formatting in many cases!

This is how we currently see things. But we might reconsider our decision if Atlantis users interested in the ODF format still think that ODF export might be useful to them.

A new version of Atlantis Word Processor 1.6.5 with ODF import support (the "Open ODF document" feature) will soon be available for betatesting. Your comments and test documents regarding this feature will be most welcome. Plus we are open to discussing implementation of ODF export capability in Atlantis.