1. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    EPUB Conversion Redux

    Discussion in 'Software' started by SapereAude, Jun 12, 2021.

    I had a thread about this about three months ago and I considered tacking this onto the end, but I decided to start over. Here's the old thread:

    https://www.writingforums.org/threads/epub-conversions.169131/

    As described three months ago, I have experimented with multiple programs that will convert a Word .docx file to .epub, and all of them have failings. The worst by far is Microsoft's Word to ePub converter. The best seems to be SoftMaker Textmaker, a German word processing program.

    I've just encountered a mention of an ePub editor in an article that suggests using the program of your choice to create an ePub file, and then using Sigil to edit it, clean it up, and add any tweaks you might choose to add. It's supposed to work with EPUB2 and EPUB3 files, and it's cross-platform.
    https://sigil-ebook.com/

    Does anyone know anything about this program? If so, I would very much like to hear your feedback. I just downloaded it -- haven't even installed it yet, but I'm hoping to try it out soon.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2021
  2. Amontillado

    Amontillado Active Member

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    SapereAude, have you experimented further? I'd like to hear your experiences. Sigil has been around forever. I think at one point it was abandoned and then revived, but I think it's always had a good reputation.
     
  3. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    I have experimented more with the various was to convert a .DOCX file to .EPUB. The Microsoft dedicated converter remains by far the worst of the options, IMHO. Libre Office does a "fair" job, but I still think that SoftMaker Office's TextMaker (even the free version) is the best of the bunch. Still not perfect, though.

    The biggest failing is that none of them seem to properly interpret section breaks and page breaks correctly. That's where an EPUB editor comes in. EPUB is basically HTML, and I have finally tracked down what purports to be the code string that will insert page breaks where page breaks are supposed to be. I haven't had an opportunity to test that yet, though.
     
  4. Amontillado

    Amontillado Active Member

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    I've found happiness with Mellel. It will import docx, and my very light testing indicates it generally does a better job of exporting to epub than other word processors I've looked at. You get a nice way to set cover art, and you get control of the epub's "spine."

    Everything seems to miss the target with epub, though, and I found Mellel doesn't always include inline images in the epub manifest. It's easy to fix with vi, so it's not a complex problem, it's just not a complete export. I suspect that bug will get fixed soon.

    I think, based on that very light testing, I could live with Mellel's capabilities particularly if that bug gets fixed. Section breaks need to be part of the document layout, but that's probably the case in any word processor.

    If anyone is interested in Mellel, it's rugged and reliable - but does certain things its own way. You can just open it and start typing, but to get the good out of styles and document structure in Mellel you need to learn a different way of doing some tasks.
     
  5. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    I use section breaks in Word. They don't get transferred to the EPUB file, regardless of what I use for the conversion.

    What's Mellel? Is that a Mac program? I've never heard of it, and I thought I had tried just about every office suite and word processing program for Windows.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2021
  6. Amontillado

    Amontillado Active Member

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    Mellel is a niche Mac-only word processor with a following among academics. It's said to have excellent support for right-to-left languages and documents that mix RTL and LTR.

    That's not an issue for a hayseed like me.

    One thing I like about Mellel is the document format is logical. Without vendor support, for example, I wrote a mail merge script in Python that read a master Mellel document, plugged in values from a CSV file, respected styles, and wrote out fresh auto-generated Mellel documents with the variable data plugged in.

    It took me about two hours, as I recall, starting from zero knowledge and no documentation of the proprietary document format. Mellel's document format makes sense. Mellel could vanish and I could recover my work.

    The other thing Mellel is known for is performance. It will smoothly scroll top to bottom through a four million word document and find a unique word buried in the middle in an instant.

    The down side comes from how Mellel features mostly don't have side effects. That's a good thing, but it can present learning hurdles.

    For instance, in most word processors you have header styles that build the table of contents. In Mellel you can have header styles, but they are just styles. Styles are styles without side effects.

    If you want something to appear in the table of contents you use an auto-title, which is where you define what a table of contents member does.

    Auto-titles are almost like macros. They can take your header text and wrap it with automatic chapter numbers, for example. You get separate tab stops and margins in each auto-title level, and you separately control how the auto-title appears in the document, in a generated table of contents, and in the navigation pane. Of course, you can (and should) use styles in your auto-titles.

    You can also just start typing in Mellel, but it's worth it to grok how styles work.

    My other favorite word processor is Nisus. I could live with either one.
     

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