About

I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 35 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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Writing computer programs is important and takes great intelligence and skill. But it is really child's play compared to everything else that a good programmer must do to make a software system that succeeds for both the customer and myriad colleagues for whom she is partially responsible.

Robert L. Read



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 6/2/2024

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Posts - 2654
Comments - 2677
Hits - 2,672,192

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Entries/day - 0.35
Comments/entry - 1.01
Hits/day - 349

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 6:01 AM Pacific


  08:46 PM

This is mostly a note to myself so that I don't have to look this up the next time I have to do this. The task is to have a quick way to get directly to the Customize Keyboard dialog box in Microsoft Word:

You use this dialog box to assign new (custom) keyboard shortcuts to Word commands or to macros. The usual way to get to this dialog is through the File menu:

  1. Choose File > Options.
  2. Click the Customize Ribbon tab.
  3. Click the Customize button next to Keyboard shortcuts.

This works but is tedious. Instead, you can assign a keyboard shortcut to get directly to this dialog. The trick is to use the Customize Keyboard dialog to assign a shortcut to the ToolsCustomizeKeyboard command:

Don't forget to click the Assign button!

Credits: I learned all of this from Stefan Blom's answer on a thread on the Microsoft Community site.

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  12:04 PM

The surest way to cast a critical eye on the amount of stuff that you have is to prepare for moving. The prospect of boxing up all that stuff and hauling it and finding a place to put it at the new domicile can lead a person to wonder why they even need all that. This is particularly true when you're downsizing from, say, a four-bedroom house with a double garage to, say, a two-bedroom condo with a single outdoor parking space.

We did this some years ago, which resulted in a huge yard sale and a sometimes-painful culling of all our stuff, especially books. But we did it, and in our little place we're a wee bit tight, but we manage.[1]

Chapter 2. Over this last winter, we spent about six months in San Francisco for my wife's work. During that time we lived in rentals. When we drove down, we took what we needed in one large suitcase and two small ones.[2] We bore in mind the sensible travel advice that you don't have to bring everything with you — your destination has drugstores and clothing stores (and for me, hardware stores, ha).[3] So while we were in SF, we made trips to Target and Daiso and other locales where we could fill in any missing stuff.

This worked well. Our rentals had laundry facilities, of course, so I was able to cycle through my limited wardrobe. And we were indeed able to get the additional things we needed — my wife needed some work clothes, for example.

But we bore in mind that these acquisitions were either temporary (to be left behind at the rentals or donated) or we'd have to haul them back with us. This mentality helped frame the question of whether to buy stuff: for everything that we acquired, what were we going to do with it when our stay in SF ended?

(One place where this kind of failed was with books — between visiting a gajillion bookstores and going to weekly library book sales, we acquired more books than we probably should have. I ended up shipping books back home via the mail before we left.)

Chapter 3. Back in Seattle! After unpacking the suitcases, I went to put away the wardrobe that had served me well during our extended leave. But when I opened my dresser drawers, I was kind of shocked: I have so much stuff. I had been living with a collection of, like, 9 or 10 shirts. But at home I have two full drawers full of neatly folded t-shirts. Why? Why would I need a month's worth of t-shirts? I had the same experience in my closet — why do I need all these shirts/pants/sweatshirts/coats?

Well, I don't.

So another culling has begun. These days, when I pull out a shirt, I might look at it, and say yeah, no, you go in the Goodwill pile. This process is not as concentrated as if we were moving again, but it's steady and I'm determined to keep at it until I'm down to a collection of clothing that I actually use. Ditto kitchen stuff, linens, office supplies, leftover project hardware, and all the other stuff that just accumulates. (Books, mmm, that one's hard.)

Taking a break from our stuff, and living adequately with less of it, has really helped us look at it again with a bit of a critical eye. I suppose "Do I really need this?" isn't exactly a question about "sparking joy", but I hope it will be just as effective.

__________

[1] Full disclosure: we also rent a 5x10 storage unit.

[2] We took our cats, so there was some extra stuff also.

[3] Although one of our kids went to a destination wedding recently and reported that the resort/venue was charging outrageous prices for sunscreen.

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  10:34 PM

Recently I was at a grocery store in our neighborhood that still does a lot of business in cash. As I was waiting, I watched the cashier ring up the customer in front of me. The cashier deftly took the customer’s bill—a $50, I think—and counted out change. When it was my turn, I said “It looks like you’ve been doing this for a while”. “Oh, yes”, she said. “35 years”.

During my college years (1970s), I had a kind of gap year during which I worked for Sears, the once-huge department store. I was hired as a cashier, and the company put us through an extensive training program for the position.

For example, that’s where I learned something that I saw the grocery-store cashier do: when you accept a big bill from a customer, you don’t just stuff it into the tray. You lay it across the tray while you make change. That way, if you make change for a fifty but the customer says, “I gave you a hundred”, you can point at the bill and show that that’s what they’d given you.


Before my time

My cashiering days were at the beginning of the era of computerized cash registers (no big old NCR ka-ching machine for us). Although our register could calculate change, they still taught us how to count out change manually. (One method is to count up from the purchase price to the amount the customer gave you, as you can see in a video.)

We also learned to handle checks, which included phoning to get an approval code for checks over a certain amount. We learned to test American Express travelers checks to see if they were authentic. We learned to handle credit cards, which we processed using a manual imprinting machine that produced a carbon copy of the transaction.

We also learned to be on guard for various scams, such as the quick-change scams that try to confuse the cashier, as you can see in action in the movie Paper Moon.

There was of course lots more—cashing out the register, doing the weekly “hit report” of mis-entered product codes or prices (this was also before UPC scanners), and many other skills associated with being at the point of sale and handling money.

During my son’s college years (late 2000-oughts), he also worked as a cashier, in his case for Target and for Safeway. I quizzed him about his training. He remembered that the loss-prevention people at Target warned them about the quick-change scam, and it even happened to him once while he worked at Safeway.

But he doesn’t remember much training about how to handle change; at a lot of places, coin change is automatically dispensed by machine into a little cup. He does remember learning how to handle checks.

Most of their training, he remembers, was about how to use the POS terminal[1]—how to log in, how to enter or back out transactions, etc. A POS terminal is, after all, a computer—they were being trained in how to manipulate the computer, and less so than in my day about how to handle cash money.

Shortly after I had my grocery-store experience with the experienced cashier, I was in line at a local coffee shop. The customer ahead of me paid in cash. When I got to the counter, I asked the amenable counter person, “This is going to be a sort of weird question, but how much training did they give you in how to handle cash?” “Little to none”, was her report.

And Friend Alan recounted this experience recently on Facebook about a cashier trying to figure out how to even take cash:

It might seem like old-school cashiering skills are becoming anachronistic. It’s not unusual in my experience that small shops and pop-up vendors only take cards, using something like Square. Frankly, I was surprised that the coffee shop with the informative counter person even took cash.

Moreover, we customers are more and more becoming our own cashiers. Many stores nudge customers toward self-checkout kiosks, in part by reducing the number of cashiers so that it’s faster to use the self-checkout.[2] The logical conclusion to this effort is the cashierless store (aka “Just walk out store”), where computers just sense your purchases and charge you.

Still, it’s not like cash is going to go away. Even in the age of debit cards and Venmo, people will still want to use cash for various private transactions.[3] Moreover, not everyone has a bank account, or wants one. Although individual merchants might decide to go card-only, many will still find it to their benefit to take cash.

That probably will continue to include the grocery store where I met the experienced cashier. For the sake of that store, I hope that she is able to pass her experience and training on to other cashiers who work there.

__________

[1] The initialism POS is a good shibboleth. Do you immediately think point of sale? Or do you think part of speech? Or maybe piece of sh*t?

[2] We now fill our own carts, check our own prices, empty the cart at the checkout, scan our items, bag our own stuff, and serve as our own cashiers. Some users (example) therefore find it insulting that we also now have to meekly stop and have security check our receipts and purchases (“I'm not interested in proving that I did your job for you”.)

[3] For the time being, dispensaries in states where pot is legal are usually cash-only businesses because marijuana is still illegal per federal law and credit-card companies don’t want to get involved in that gray area.

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  11:49 AM

We’re staying in San Francisco for a few months, so we’re in a rental. It’s nice enough, but there are little things here and there that feel like they could be improved. (For example, no rental I’ve ever been in has had enough lighting.) One such thing in this rental is the kitchen faucet:

I hand-wash dishes, so I like to have a sprayer attachment for the kitchen faucet. I reckoned that hey, they’re not expensive, I’ll just get one and attach it myself.

Well, not quite. I took the aerator off the existing faucet and went to a plumbing supply place, where I explained my quest to the woman. She got out one of those gauges that they use to determine size and thread count, but to her surprise, mine didn’t fit any of them.

Hmm. We went to find another guy who tried the same thing. At that point I mentioned that it’s possible that this faucet is from IKEA. Ah. “My condolences,” he said, adding that he couldn’t help me with metric sizes and threading.[1]

Being an old guy, I remembered that when I was a kid, we used to have a little shower-head-looking attachment for our kitchen sink. It just slipped over the end of the faucet. Did he have any of those? He did know what I was talking about but told me that those were long gone.

Well, not quite. I went online, and dang, there was the very thing I’d remembered:

Not only was the device still available, the web even told me that it was in stock at a hardware store within walking distance.[2] Price: $4.99.

And so I went to Cole Hardware off Market Street. The outside looked unpromising, but they’d somehow crammed a complete, old-school hardware store into a space that’s the size of a bodega—two floors’ worth.

I wandered up and down the tightly-packed aisles till I found the plumbing stuff. I had to get down on the floor and root around in the back, but sure enough, there it was: the Slip-On Wide Sprayrator (“For mobile home kitchen sinks,” wut). To my professional amusement, the instructions for installing it are wrong—they show you how to screw it on, whereas the entire point is that you don’t:

Whatever. I had to enlarge the hole a little bit, but it did in fact slip on, and I now can enjoy the benefits of a sprayer while I wash the dishes:

I enjoyed the entire experience so much—success in finding a nearly ancient piece of plumbing technology, plus my visit to Cole Hardware—that I got myself a hat that features a skyline made of tools:

At this point, it would probably be wise of me not to study our rental apartment too closely. As much as I’m now feeling empowered, I should probably rein in any further urges to improve the place.

[1] Based on my limited sampling of AirBnBs, IKEA is the primary source of furniture and fixtures for rentals.

[2] If you like to walk and are a person of leisure, such as myself, everything in San Francisco is within walking distance.

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  02:12 PM

After I published my book, I was chatting with fellow word enthusiast Tim Stewart, who was one of the first readers. At one point he noted that there are a lot of references to various religious texts, and he gently asked “Do you have a background in Christianity?”

It was a keen observation. Per a casual count, I mention or cite the Bible about ten times, and I have references to the Lindisfarne Gospel, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. I also have a reference to the Quran.

I can see why someone might conclude that I might have studied these texts in a religious context. But no. I was raised outside of any faith. In fact, because I didn’t go to Sunday school (or equivalent) and hadn’t read any religious texts growing up, I’ve often thought that I’ve been at a disadvantage when it comes to Biblical knowledge.

I apparently recognized this early on. When I was in high school, I took a class that was named something like “The Bible as Literature.”[1] I don’t remember much about that class, other than that I did a presentation on representations of the Madonna in art—something that seems like the type of knowledge one can have without having any religious motivation.

Such Biblical learning as I have came about more indirectly, when I got to university and started studying old languages. Literacy, hence written materials, for old languages often coincided with the Christianization of the people who spoke (wrote) those languages. A particularly salient case (one that I wrote about elsewhere) is that of the Gothic language: effectively, the only real text in that defunct language consists of fragments of a Bible translation.

In fact, it was a class in Gothic that sort of kickstarted my Bible-reading. Most old-language classes consist of studying grammar and then reading texts. Exams in those classes then usually consist of being given a passage and having to translate it.

I remember our first midterm exam in Gothic. The prof handed out the text to translate, and someone in class muttered (or perhaps even shouted) "The Parable of the Talents!" It clearly was helpful to that student to know the outlines of the text already. But because I was so ill-read in the Bible, this clue did me no good at all.

This was decades before the internet, so we had to look everything up in books. Consequently, the next day I went to the university bookstore and got myself a pocket edition of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, which I carried around in my backpack for the next couple of years.

There are of course many translations of the Bible into English, but the KJV was useful to me for two reasons. One was simply that I had a new(-ish) English version of things like the Parable of the Talents in English. But it was also useful because its antique-ier grammar often reflected more closely the grammar of the dead-language texts that we were reading.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m taking a class in Old English right now, and it has again been helpful to have some knowledge of the Bible. Although there is a pretty good corpus of Anglo-Saxon writing, there’s still a lot of Biblical themes. In fact, in our class I’ve already run across my old friend the Parable of the Talents, and I’ve also encountered the Old English versions of the Parable of the Ten Virgins and the Parable of the Weeds, along with a couple of other glancing references to the New Testament. In each case, I’ve found the relevant passage in the KJV (online these days) to help me decode what I’m reading.[2]

But the content and the language of the KJV has proved helpful not just when I want to study old languages. At one point in my education, I remember hearing that it’s not possible to read Milton without having a substantive knowledge of the Bible. I don’t particularly yearn to read Milton, but it’s true that stories from the Bible infuse our literature. So my instinct in high school to take a class in Bible as literature was a good one.

And there’s more. To borrow an idea, see if you know the source of these well-known phrases:

He gave up the ghost
There is no new thing under the sun
A man after his own heart
Don’t cast your pearls before swine
The writing on the wall
Many are called, but few are chosen

Since I’ve loaded the dice here, you won’t be surprised to learn that these are all from the Bible, specifically from the KJV.

The writer Cullen Murphy performed an exercise once in which he took these phrases and several more and sent associates out into the streets to ask people where the phrases were from. People knew the phrases, but they frequently didn’t know the source, although he got a lot of amusingly incorrect guesses.

The language of the KJV has resonated with English speakers for centuries, obviously, as evidenced by how much of it we’ve incorporated into our daily speech. Dozens (hundreds?) of phrases we use all the time were crafted by “certain learned men”[3] in the creation of what in 1611 was known as the Authorized Version.

Tim Stewart, my correspondent in this discussion about the Bible, put it all this way:

On one level [the KJV] is a religious text, of course, but it's also a cultural touchstone. As random data points, in both the movies Day After Tomorrow (2004) and V for Vendetta (2005), there are nonreligious characters who have short scenes where they appreciate and nearly reverence the King James as a piece of literature and an artifact of human civilization. The King James Bible continues to attract interest and spark joy not merely for its religious content but for its enduring textual and linguistic beauty, not even to mention the way its phrases and its phraseology have insinuated themselves into 400 years of English-language literature.

As I say, Tim’s question about my faith was not an unreasonable one—as I glance through my book, it does at times seem to be a bit heavy on the citations from religious sources. But the answer really is that my dabbling in old languages has inevitably familiarized me with various religiously themed texts.

And more generally, of course, I'm an English speaker. So I’m heir to the richness that the KJV and the Bible in general has contributed to our language and culture.

__________

[1] Can high schools still teach a class that uses a religious text, even if it’s for non-religious study?

[2] A funny side note (sort of) about studying Old English: a standard reference work is An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary by Joseph Bosworth, revised by Thomas Toller, first published in 1838. In many cases, when you look up an Old English word, the examples for the definition are in Latin—because the Old English cite is a translation of a Latin text and the student of the time was probably expected to know Latin and/or to be familiar with the Latin sources.

[3] Or borrowed by; the KJV also used language from some earlier English-language editions.

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  09:46 AM

Today is my first day of retirement. I’ve e-signed all the paperwork; there was a (virtual) going-away party; my computer no longer accepts my work login. I spent September “on vacation” with the idea that my last day would be at the beginning of October so as to extend my healthcare coverage another month.[1] And so it has come to pass.


Grad school, 1980

I spent just over 41 years in the tech industry, which was sort of accidental. I had moved to Seattle in 1979 to go to grad school at UW. At the end of my first year, one of my fellow students asked “Hey, do you need a summer job?” And so I ended up working for a company that provided litigation support: outsourced computer-based facilities for law firms. For us, this mostly consisted of reading and “coding” documents (onto paper forms) for things that the lawyers were looking for.

The woman who ran the company had an interesting approach to hiring the minions for this job: she hired only graduate students, it didn’t matter what major. Her theory was that graduate students had shown that they knew how to read carefully and critically. We read depositions, real-estate sales documents, all sorts of stuff. Most of it wasn’t that interesting, and our role was very specific, namely to look for keywords or particular numbers or other small details. As it happens, this was good training for my later career, though of course I didn’t know it then.

When my TA position ran out at UW, I went to work full time for that same company. The timing was fortunate. The IBM PC had just come out, and law firms were interested in what they could do with this new device. Our company quickly created a couple of document-management products, and I ended up doing support and training and even some programming.

From there, my career was similar to that of many others. I moved from this startup to another to another. One of the companies afforded me and the family an opportunity to spend a couple of years in the UK.


With my daughter at Stonehenge in 1990

At some point I moved from being a kind of roving generalist into being a documentation writer. This was back when we still included printed documentation with a product and had to worry about page counts and lead time for printers and bluelines.

In 1992 I got a job with one of Paul Allen’s software companies (Asymetrix), and when that company started teetering, I moved to Microsoft.

I spent 17 years there in all. I had a brief period in Microsoft BoB, a product that was mocked out of the marketplace (but that imo had a lot of very good ideas behind it). I spent the rest of my Microsoft career in the Developer Division, working on a bunch of products that had the word “Visual” in their name: Visual Foxpro, Visual Interdev, Visual Basic, Visual Studio.

About halfway through my Microsoft stint, one of the editors retired, and I made a pitch to the manager of the editing team that she should bring me on as an editor. She took this chance, and so I embarked on a formal career as an editor; I alternated between writing and editing for the rest of my time.

When Microsoft had exhausted me, I followed some former colleagues to Amazon as a writer in AWS IAM, a cloud authentication/authorization technology. Unlike some people, I had a good experience at Amazon. Even so, when I was offered a chance to work as a writer at Tableau, I took that. And from there I again followed more colleagues and moved to Google, where I spent just over 6 years editing solutions and related materials, and trying to figure out how to leverage the work of about a dozen editors across a team of hundreds of writers.

Blah-blah. :)

I appreciate that there was a lot of luck in my career. I was in the right place (Seattle) at the right time (start of the PC industry). I had just enough background, namely a smattering of experiences with FORTRAN and BASIC. Opportunities came up at the right time (a summer job, a retiring editor). People repeatedly gave me chances or offered opportunities or made career-changing suggestions. My friend Robert (also a writer/editor) and I have over the years kept coming back to this theme: how just plain fortunate we've been in our careers.


Portrait by friend Robert

I have no regrets about my career. Way back when I was an undergraduate and taking a class in BASIC, the prof casually asked me whether I’d considered a computer science major. Oh, no, was my answer—my math debt was so vast that I would have spent years of coursework just to meet the math prerequisites. And so I pursued the humanities and am very happy to have been able to do so, and I like to think that I was able to blend what I learned in school with what I learned on the job.

The tech industry has its issues, no doubt. But for me, at least, it also offered an opportunity to work with many, many smart people who were doing interesting things at world-class companies. Above all—and this is a cliché, but it’s still true—I’m going to miss working with the people.

People ask what I’m going to do in retirement. I kind of kid when I tell people that the first thing I’m going to do is learn to not work. But there’s a grain of truth there. I have many interests, but which ones I’ll really get into, and whether there are other, new interests that I’ll develop, remains to be seen.


Retired and traveling

[1] That the US healthcare system is so tied to employer-provided coverage is a travesty, with all that that implies for people’s decisions about working, but I suppose we can talk about that another time.

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  08:16 AM

Twenty years ago today, I posted the first entry on this blog. As I’ve recounted, I wrote some blog software as an outgrowth of a book project I’d been working on. The book purported to teach people how to program websites, and a blog seemed like a good exercise to test that.

It’s hard today to remember how exciting the idea of blogs was 20 years ago. Before then I’d contributed some articles to a couple of specialized publications, and I was proud to see those in print. But dang, with blogging, you could sit at your desk and draft something, press a button, and presto, anyone in the (connected) world could read it instantly.

In the early days, there was handwringing and skepticism about blogs. “The blogosphere is the friend of information but the enemy of thought,” according to Alan Jacobs.[1] And in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, Joseph Rago dismissed blogs as “written by fools to be read by imbeciles.”

Despite these Insightful Thoughts from pundits, somehow blogging survived. (haha) In my world—software documentation—blogs turned out to be perfect for a niche that otherwise could be filled only by conference presentations, or occasional articles, or books. Blogs became a way to get news and information out fast. They were also unfiltered, as compared with company-created documentation: authors could provide personal and opinionated information. And in blogs like The Old New Thing (about Windows) and Fabulous Adventures in Coding (about programming languages), to name only two, readers got all sorts of insights into how and why software was developed as it was.

And it was all free!

Once blogging overcame the initial doubts, people and companies were keen to learn how to do it. In the mid-oughts, I was teaching classes in Microsoft Word and in editing at the local college. The woman who ran the department called me up one day and said “I think we need a class about blogging.” So I put together a curriculum and taught that class for a couple of years. Which naturally I blogged about.

A bit ironically, in my own blog I didn’t follow some of the advice I was dispensing. My subject matter was (is) all over the place, as the Categories list on the main page suggests. I also was not very disciplined about adhering to a strict schedule, about planning my posts around specific dates or events, or about optimizing for SEO. (In my defense, I’ve never thought of my blog as a commercial project, so I wasn’t very concerned about maximizing traffic, building a corporate or personal brand, etc.)

And here it is, 20 years on. Counting this entry, I’ve made 2,648 posts. A rough count tells me that I’ve written almost 900,000 words. The pace on this blog has slowed considerably, but the process has been valuable to me in many ways:

  • Blogging is writing. Putting together all those blog posts has given me lots of practice and I’m sure it’s improved my writing skills.
  • It’s a resource. Countless times I’ve reached back into the blog to look something up that I wrote long ago.[2]
  • It’s helped people. Perhaps the high point was when some Microsoft documentation pointed to one of my blog entries as the quasi-official story on something. Per my reckoning, the blog has gotten about 2.5 million hits, so hopefully some folks have gotten some value there.
  • I "met" many people via blogging, and some of those in real life, even.
  • It’s helped me in my career. I’ve used the blog to (in effect) draft things that were later turned into “real” documentation. I’ve used blog entries as writing samples when applying for jobs.

But over time, a couple of things changed. One was that Google killed Google Reader, a tool for tracking blogs, citing declining usage. This seemed to indicate that the popularity of blogs had crested, but I think that that change itself also contributed to making it harder to keep up with blogs.

The real change, of course, was social media. In particular, Twitter, which sometimes has been referred to as a “micro-blogging platform”, really took the air out of blogging. (For example, you're probably reading this because of a link on a social media site, not because you saw the post in your aggregator app.)

Although Twitter isn’t a good way to capture long-form posts, its immediacy became the default first-reaction medium for breaking news. And it was a perfect way to post from a smartphone; Twitter’s original 140-character limit was dictated by the constraints of the SMS protocol that was used with phones. Some will remember that as with blogging, early Twitter faced skepticism—“Why would I want to know what someone had for lunch?” for example—but it, too, found its footing.

But, gee, what goes around. In 2012, right about the time that Google Reader went away, the Medium website was launched. “Williams, previously co-founder of Blogger and Twitter, initially developed Medium as a means to publish writings and documents longer than Twitter's 140-character (now 280-character) maximum.” (Wikipedia) And there’s also Substack at al., platforms that let authors publish newsletters, as they call them, and push them to your email. Maybe I’m a bit cynical, but the difference between a blog entry that appears in your aggregator and a newsletter that appears in your inbox seems pretty small to me.

Although the software that originally inspired this blog (Web Matrix) is long gone, the blog persists. For about 19 years, I’ve been telling myself that I’ll rewrite the code to modernize it. We’ll see.

It’s had a good run, this blog, and I think it still has value to me and who knows, maybe to others. I’ll check in again in five years. :)

[1] He updated that thought a few years later.

[2] The funniest example of this was just recently. I was having an issue with the blog, so I did a search on the error message I was getting. Google pointed me to an entry on my own blog that outlined the fix.

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  04:34 PM

Part 4 of a series about what I did to self-publish an ebook and then a paperback version of it.

This is the final part, which is about creating a manuscript for print and then publishing the book on the Amazon site as a (print-on-demand) paperback. This entry covers a lot:

About formatting for print

When you format for print, what you see is what you get. Unlike an ebook, your choices about typeface, font size, paragraph spacing, etc. are reflected directly in the final product. And you need to worry about page layout: page breaks, page numbers, headers and footers, etc.

When I was formatting the paperback version of the book, I pulled books off my shelf and studied their formatting and layout. There's a whole art and science to book layout, of which I know some rudiments. I reckoned I could do worse than try to copy how they did things in professionally formatted books.

Because someone asked me about this, I'll note that the book uses only two fonts. Body text is Times New Roman. I used a sans serif font (Calibri Light) for headings, headers/footers, and a few other purposes, as I'll explain. My choices here were all conservative and possibly even boring. I don't know enough to try to be creative in this sphere.

The Kindle paperback template

One of the formatting decisions for the paperback edition is to choose the book size ("trim size"). Amazon has Word templates that you can download for different trim sizes. The templates include sections that have predefined margin sizes and that are set up to have right/odd pages (recto), left/even pages (verso), and gutters. When they say "template," however, they don't mean a Word template—a .dotm file—just a .docx file with predefined settings and some sample content.

I made a copy of Amazon's 6 x 9in.docx template, which is a standard size for trade paperbacks (in the US, anyway). Their template has different sections (in the Microsoft Word sense of "section")—a section for the title page, another section for the copyright page, and sections for the table of contents, the acknowledgements, and of course a section for the main text. The point is to allow you to control pagination and headers/footers separately for each of these sections.

Once I had the template, I copied the contents of my original manuscript (not the ebook manuscript) into the section of the 6 x 9 doc that was for the body of the book. Then I did the title page in the title-page section, and so on. Then I got to work at formatting this manuscript for a print book.

If you've been following along, this means I now have three versions of the manuscript (original, ebook, print). As I was fooling around with book formatting, I found more content issues, so I had to make changes in all three versions of the document.

Paragraph formatting

It's common in books for text to be justified. In running text, there aren't blank lines between paragraphs. The first line of a paragraph is indented unless it follows a heading or other break in the text. Books also have page headers and footers.

To implement all this, I tweaked and amended the formatting of the Word styles I was using. Here's a diagram that captures a lot of this, with descriptions afterward.


(Click to embiggen)

A. Body text

I adjusted the settings for the Normal style for book layout: I set alignment to justified and I indented the first line. I also set line spacing to 1.12 to give the text a little breathing room but not too much.

For the typeface, I chose Times New Roman 11 pt, and I used the font-formatting option to set kerning for 11 points and larger. My thinking here is that the tool probably has more smarts built into it than I do about text layout, so I should take advantage.

B. Widow and orphan control

You don't want page breaks to leave individual lines dangling at the end or beginning of a page, aka widows and orphans. As with book design generally, there's a craft to this. I enabled the Widow/Orphan control setting for the Normal style. (Probably not what a professional book designer would do? I don't know.)

C. Body text after headings

I had to create a new style (Body after heading) that was the same as Normal except that the first line wasn't indented. I then had to go through and manually apply that style to any paragraph that followed a heading, a diagram, a blockquote, an example, or a list.

D. Headings

For headings, I used the contrasting, sans serif typeface (Calibri Light), bold. I ended with Heading 1 at 18 points and Heading 2 at 13 points.

For the heading paragraphs, I enabled Keep with next and Keep lines together, but I disabled widow/orphan control. I also set some space before and after the heading-style paragraphs.

E. Page headers

For print, you also need page headers. The Kindle template is set up to allow different headers on odd (recto) and even (verso) pages. As noted, it also lets you set different headers and footers for different sections.

In the body part of the book, for the headers on even (left) pages, I used the name of the book. For the headers on odd pages, I used the STYLEREF field set to Heading 1; this shows the text of the current Heading 1 paragraph. (See Rhonda Bracey's explanation.) As you can see from the diagram, the result was that when the book was open, the title was on the top left and the current entry was on the top right.

There are no headers or footers for the introductory sections of the book (title page, copyright page, TOC).

For the page headers I used the contrasting font (Calibri Light) and set it to 10 pt instead of the 11-pt size that's in the body text.

F. Page footers

I used the page footers for page numbers. I set up page numbering to start at 1 in the main section of the document. You can't see it in the diagram, but for the preliminary pages in the book (table of contents, intro), I set up page numbering to use small roman numerals (i through iv). The section for the title page and copyright page has no page numbering.

In the original manuscript, the "Related terms" list at the end of each entry was a Heading 2 paragraph followed by a paragraph styled Related terms list. (Earlier explanation) I'd created this style to be able to control its formatting separately from the spacing (etc.) of the Normal style. For the print book, I thought having an H2 + a separate paragraph took up too much space in the book. I ended up removing the text "Related terms" as a separate heading and I just added it to the beginning of the list. This was a manual process, with an assist from find-and-replace.

This is what it looks like in the ebook manuscript:

And this is what it looks like in the print manuscript:

H. Footnotes

I changed the settings for the Footnote style to use be 9.5 points. However, I didn't use footnotes in the print book the same way I had in the original manuscript, as I explain next.

Rethinking footnotes

As noted before, I had a lot of notes/footnotes in my original manuscript. For the ebook, I'd done work to make these into links to end notes at the end of each entry.

For the print book, given especially the small format (6x9), the footnotes took up a lot of space at the bottom of the page. (IOW, they didn't look as clever in the print book as I'd thought when I wrote them.) Also, I needed footnotes for a different purpose.

So I removed almost all of the informational footnotes. Instead, I integrated the footnote text into the body text, sometimes parenthetically.

A big dilemma was what to do about links. The ebook had links to outside sources, and it had many, many cross-links within the book to related terms. I ended up doing several things. This included adding a paragraph in the introduction that spelled out my conventions, which I'd also had to do in the ebook.

For external links, I went through one by one, copied the URL of the target, and put that target URL into a footnote. In a few instances, the URL was so long that I used a URL shortener. After I'd added a footnote for an external link, I removed the Hyperlink style of the original link. This was a manual process.

In case you're wondering, I experimented with putting the URLs directly into the body text. Not only did this look awful, but it messed up the formatting (justification) in the paragraph.

The original looks like this in the ebook manuscript:

And it looks like this in the paperback manuscript:

I also removed some of the external links altogether. Some number of the links felt like they weren't all that necessary—more CYA than FYI. The rough rubric I used was whether I thought that the intended reader for the book would find the external source interesting enough. I did this pretty quick, so I probably made a few bad calls, dunno. This means that there are some small content differences, citation-wise, between the ebook and the paperback.

For internal links—cross-references to other entries in the book—I created a new style called Cross-reference. This new style uses the contrasting font (Calibri Light) and has no color or underlining. Since I'd already removed all the external links, I changed the remaining instances of Hyperlink style to use the Cross-reference style. (You can do this in the Styles pane, as Rhonda Bracey explains.)

The result was that something that originally looked like this in the ebook:

… looks like this in the print book:

I'm reasonably happy with this solution.

Hyphenation

When text is justified, you can get some weird spacing in a paragraph unless you enable hyphenation. So in Word, I enabled automatic hyphenation. Word did a pretty decent job of hyphenating words.

What about indexing?

An ebook can get by without an index if you accept that searching the ebook is a workable substitute. Print books ... well, they should have an index, right? I did not create one/have one created. My very weak justification is that my book is in some ways an alphabetical reference, so if I want to look up, say, "biscuit conditional," why, it's right there in the table of contents. But I do recognize that there are many terms in the book that don't have headwords and that the book definitely would benefit from a real index. Perhaps for the next edition?

Checking the layout

Ok, whew! After I'd made these adjustments to the formatting for the print book, it was time to check everything. I saved the document as a PDF file (the format that Amazon wants) and then paged through it. I did all of these checks:

  • Make sure new each new section starts on an odd (recto) page. Not each entry, but each section (TOC, Introduction, etc.)
  • Check for bad page breaks e.g. leaving a heading by itself, or awkward gaps between entries. I fixed some of these with small adjustments, such as slightly resizing images, or adding or removing small amounts of space around images, block quotes, or cites. This is part of the craft of book design, and there's much here for me to learn.
  • Check for widows and orphans.
  • Check for bad hyphenation. I attempted to review every instance of auto-hyphenation in the book. In the end I found only, like, 4 words that were awkwardly split. Interestingly, while checking, I discovered that Merriam-Webster and American Heritage sometimes have different ideas about how to hyphenate.
  • Check that the TOC page numbers were correct. I had to remember to refresh the TOC every time I did anything that affected page flow.

This was an iterative process—if a change affected page flow, I had to recheck everything that followed the change. I don't know how many times I went through the book, but it was a lot. And naturally I still missed stuff, because self-editing is hard.

Configuring KDP for publishing the paperback

After all this reformatting, I was ready to set up the print book on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I created a new project and chose the option to create a paperback. Some of this process is similar to how you set up a Kindle ebook—do you have your own ISBN? What price do you want?

But the print version has a couple of additional options and steps. What color paper do you want? Should the cover be matte or shiny? These choices seemed straightforward to me.

They also ask about Territories, which has something to do with distribution rights. I went with the default ("All territories"). They also ask about Primary marketplace, which is basically which national flavor of Amazon you want to use for your book—for example, Amazon.com versus Amazon.co.uk. This is interesting for international sales and for calculating prices and royalties. I have no advice for you, though.

A few print options required some work.

Cover art

For the ebook, you have to provide just a cover image. But for a printed book, you have to provide the entire cover: front, spine, back. Ideally, they want a PDF or TIFF file that has text and art for this three-sided cover. They have a template for this.

Fortunately, they also provide the Cover Creator tool. The tools let you enter text for the summary (back cover), author bio (also back cover), and for the spine (title and author). You also upload the cover image. The tool has a certain number of knobs and levers, like font choices and a few layout options. It's okay; I wasn't super pleased with the resulting cover. If you have the skillz, you can probably create a much better cover with e.g. Photoshop. This is what the cover looked like in Cover Creator when I was done:

Upload and preview text

For the text, you upload a PDF file that you create from your Word document. They then really want you to preview the book layout. You might think that you'd already done that in Word and then perhaps after you created the PDF file. But the KDP preview is definitive—it shows you exactly what your printed book is going to look like. I'd encourage you to flip through your entire book yet again, again looking for weird page breaks, odd formatting, or whatever.

If you spot something (I did, multiple times), you can fix it in the Word file, re-save as a PDF, re-upload the PDF, and re-preview the book. This sounds tedious, and it is, but in the greater universe of book publishing, it's actually kind of amazing that you can do this from the comfort of your computer.

Ready? Not quite yet

Once you've set all the options and you've signed off on the preview version of your book, you're ready to go. Oh, wait! Not quite.

Before you finish-finish (contrastive-focus reduplication, it's in the book), you should proof your book. Order a proof copy and wait impatiently until it arrives. Then scrutinize it page by page, line by line. I guarantee that you'll find things you want to change. (If you're me, you'll still miss stuff.)

With your marked-up proof copy in hand, go back to the Word file for your print version and make the fixes. (You might even need to go back to the KDP version of your Word doc.) Then do all the review stuff again (don't forget to update the TOC) and save it as a PDF. Check the PDF. Re-upload the PDF to KDP and preview it there again.

Ok, now for real

When you've decided that your post-proof Word file is as perfect as you can make it (perfect used in a non-absolute sense, it's in the book), you're really ready. After you've uploaded the perfect version of your PDF file and previewed it, click Publish Your Paperback Book. Shortly thereafter your book will appear on Amazon.

Because the book is published on demand, and because they have to mail you the thing, it takes a while to get a copy. I think I waited about two weeks for my copies, but YMMV.

Linking book formats

A final note: when you have both a Kindle version and a print version of your book, you can link them in KDP. I believe that the effect is that Amazon has one listing for your book but shows both editions. Seems like a no-brainer, but you do have to explicitly do this.

Lessons and what's next

A few thoughts about what I'd do differently next time, and some things I might still do.

  • (Possibly) Test the entire process first by publishing a shorter, easier book. I would have learned a lot by writing and publishing, say, a 30-page giveaway book.
  • For some things, it would have been useful to start with the print version and then adapt that for the ebook version. Either way, though, there would still have been manual work in converting one to the other.
  • Stay my hand with the footnotes. Those proved to be a lot of work, and as noted, in the print edition I ended up incorporating many of those notes back into the text anyway.
  • Edit and proof even more. I went over the manuscript and the proof copy many times, and I still find stuff, oh well.
  • Get someone to design a better cover. Especially I'd get someone who can create a PDF file with the front, back, and spine laid out per the KDP spec.
  • Get my own ISBNs. That way I could publish the book on different platforms, not just Amazon.
  • Professional book design?
  • Index for the print version.

After thinking about it for a while, I think I'd do the same thing again that I did with links. For the ebook, I'd keep external and internal links and mark external ones. For the print book, I'd convert external links to footnotes and convert internal links to special formatting for print. I'm interested in other people's opinions about how to handle this.

Someone asked whether the book is available other than through Amazon, since some people don't like that platform. At the moment, no. I think I can make the book available on other self-publishing platforms based on the existing ebook and paperback manuscripts that I have. I'll need to investigate. Is the book available in a bookstore? Sadly, no.

And someday, I suppose, I'll get around to releasing the second edition. :)

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  03:15 PM

Part 3 of a series about what I did to self-publish an ebook and then a paperback version of it.

I mentioned earlier that I published using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). To do that, you create a KDP project in Kindle Create (KC), as I covered in Part 2. You create one project for your Kindle ebook. If you want, you can create additional projects for other formats, which I'll get to in Part 4.

To get through the KDP publish process, you need to create and decide on a few things. Here's what I cover in this entry.

The book description

You must provide the text that Amazon uses on their site to describe your book, up to 4000 characters. It's probably a good idea to have that text ready to go when you start your KDP project. Here's where the description text shows up in Amazon:

ISBN

All books can have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN). (I could call this an ISBN number, which would be a redundant acronym phrase, as covered in my book, haha.) In the US, you can buy ISBNs from Bowker at $125 a pop or $295 for 10. Because each edition of your book—including ebook vs print—uses a different ISBN, the package deal seems like it could be useful.

Amazon says that Kindle books are not required to have an ISBN. Because I really wasn't sure what to do, I skipped the ISBN for my Kindle edition. For other formats, like paperback, Amazon will give you a free ISBN, and that's what I did for the print edition.

Important point: if you want your book to be available anyplace other than through Amazon, you must provide your own ISBNs. If I were doing this all over, I'd probably buy my ISBNs independently so that I could use them as I wanted.

You can read more about how ISBNs work and whether and how to get them in Publishing: Everything the Indie Author Needs to Know about ISBNs for Self-published Books.

Cover art

Even though you're publishing an ebook, you need to have cover art. The cover appears in your Amazon listing and in readers' Kindle libraries. Ideally, you'd probably hire a professional for your cover art. (I didn't, and it shows.) KDP wants you to upload a .tif or .jpg file that's (ideally) 2560 pixels high by 1,600 pixels wide. There's a page on the KDP site that provides some more details about cover art specification.

I got help from one of our art- and tech-savvy kids. I created the speech-bubble word cloud on wordcloud.com and exported that, and then Art Kid imported that into Canva.com and we did the rest there and then exported a high-quality JPEG file. (She was taking my lead, so the amateur-ish nature of the cover is not to be blamed on anyone but me.)

Anyway, have your cover art ready to go when you start your KDP project.

Configure KDP for publishing the ebook

When you've got your manuscript and other prerequisites sorted out, you go to the KDP site and sign in with your Amazon credentials. Then click the big yellow Create button to begin your project. This starts a multi-page configuration process.

You upload your cover art and content on the second page. For the text, you upload the .kpf file that you created with Kindle Create.

After you've uploaded the manuscript, you can preview the book. Even though you might have previewed the book in Kindle Create, KDP really wants you to preview the book during the configuration process. Launch the previewer and have a look. If you want to make changes, you go back to Kindle Create (or all the way back to your Word doc), make the change, and then re-upload the .kpf file. When you're happy with the book, then—gulp—click the accept button.

Keywords and categories

You can specify up to 7 keywords that describe your book. This is basically SEO-lite, I guess? I used the keywords language, vocabulary, and linguistics.

You also have to enter "browse categories" based on the existing categories that Amazon uses on its site. Because my book was about language, I ended up using these two categories:

Nonfiction > Language Arts & Disciplines > Linguistics > General
Nonfiction > Language Arts & Disciplines > General

I admit that I don't understand how the categories that KDP was offering map to categories I see on the Amazon site itself. That said, you do have to pick two from the categories they offer, so one does one's best.

Pricing

The last page of the KDP configuration is about sales and pricing: where to sell the book, how to sell it, and what to charge for it. This is confusing, because they give you a range of prices and royalties, and unless you've already studied up, you might not know how your choices here affect the availability of your book. I chose $9.99 because I got the sense that that's what Amazon was trying to get me to do. :)

Ready? Go

After you've finished the KDP configuration, you click Publish Your Kindle ebook, and you're done. Within a pretty short time (a day? less?), your book will be live on Amazon as a Kindle book and you can tell all your friends.

Up next, Part 4: Formatting and publishing the paperback

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  03:10 PM

Part 2 of a series about what I did to self-publish an ebook and then a paperback version of it.

When I began working on creating a Kindle version of the book, I duplicated my manuscript—I had the original Word doc and then a Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) version of the Word doc, where I made all the Kindle-specific changes that I describe below. This meant that if I decided to make a content change, I had to make it in both documents.

Here's what I cover in this part:

Some Kindle basics

It helps to understand a couple of things about how Kindle works. (I'm not an expert, so bear with me.)

  • Readers can pick a preferred typeface, font size, paragraph spacing, paragraph alignment (left, justified), and some other layout features. Being able to change these settings is one of the great features of reading ebooks, actually. This means that although you can set these things in the manuscript that you upload, readers might change them. That said, you can control a few formatting settings, like relative font size.

  • A lot of Kindle e-reader devices don't support color, so color by itself isn't going to be significant for readers using those devices. You'll want to try to be sure that everything in your manuscript also works with a non-color display.

  • People can switch between dark mode (light text on dark background) and light mode. One person noted that this was an issue with graphics—if someone is reading in dark mode, a light-colored graphic really pops out, sometimes in unpleasant ways. Spoiler: I have no solution to this issue.

When I wrote my original manuscript, I did a few things that I had to ponder when converting to Kindle (and later to print):

  • I had a lot of links to websites, i.e. external to the book.
  • I had a lot of internal links, i.e. cross-references to other entries in the book.
  • I had a lot of footnotes. Some were asides, some were additional information, some were … well, anyway, I had a lot of them.

I realized that a lot of people would be reading their Kindles offline—that is, in airplane mode. I wanted to make it clear to readers when a link was external, so that they didn't click it and then get the "You're offline, do you want to turn off airline mode?" message over and over. Therefore, in my KDP manuscript, I added a caret (^) to every single external link, like this:

I did this by hand, but the process was a little easier because in my Word file I used the Link Checker tool from AbleBits. Among other features, this tool produces a list of all the links, so that helped me home in on the external links.

Because the convention of using ^ after a link to mark it as external wasn't necessarily obvious to readers, I added a section in the introduction to the book (and only the ebook) that explained this convention. I did this although I don't think people read introductions, and I also feel fairly strongly that formatting shouldn't require explanation.

Footnotes introduced a different problem. The conversion tool for Kindle (see later) can handle footnotes fine. In fact, better than fine; it can generate footnotes that include Wikipedia-style back links to return you to where you clicked the footnote.

However, the converter turns footnotes in your Word file into endnotes in Kindle. Because I had over 100 footnotes (probably unwise), it would have meant an enormous section at the end of the book, and I didn't want that.

So I created chapter endnotes, in effect. In the Word doc, at the end of each chapter (i.e. each entry), I added the words "Note 1," "Note 2," etc. and then the text of the corresponding footnote. I restarted the note numbering for each entry, and I manually made sure the numbering was sequential in the text and in the footnotes. Then I used Word bookmarks and internal links to manually create the links to these chapter endnotes. I also manually created the backlinks to return to where the footnote was marked. This sounds confusing, but here's an example:

Needless to say, this was a lot of work, and somewhat error prone. More than once I questioned the wisdom of my approach and of footnotes generally. Nevertheless, that's what I did. (I can explain this process in more detail if you're interested.)

I'm pleased to say that this worked great. It imported perfectly into the Kindle book and has exactly the effect I wanted.

The Kindle Create tool

Amazon has a free tool that's a huge help for creating books: Kindle Create (hereinafter KC).

The tool lets you import a .doc/.docx file, fix up the formatting (with some limits), preview the result, and then create a file to submit for publishing. Although you can edit and format most text, you can't edit everything—for example, at the time I was using the tool, you couldn't make any changes in lists.

The tool also lets you create a title page, a table of contents (TOC), an Acknowledgments page, About the Author page, and so on. I had already created those in my original manuscript, so I didn't really take advantage of those features.

Importing and applying styles and formatting

The KC tool supports a modest selection of styles, which they call elements. These include Chapter Title, Subheading, Block Quote, and Body Text. These are fine for a lot of uses, such as novels.

Headings as chapter titles

When you import your Word file into KC, KC recognizes text that's styled as a heading (any heading, not just Heading 1 paragraphs) and marks those headings as Chapter Title elements. When the import process finishes, KC offers you suggested chapter titles that shows you everything that it thinks is a chapter title:

You really want to scrutinize this list and unselect the elements that are not real chapter titles. You should do this right at the beginning, because it's easier to do this now than to fix up the formatting later. When I did this, some of the non-heading paragraphs were marked as Chapter Title elements, I don't know why. I just unselected those as noted here.

All other text

As far as I can tell, anything other than a heading style from the Word file is imported as Body Text.

However, KC imports the formatting (as opposed to the style) of text in your Word document, up to a point. Kindle renders body text using the reader's choice for typeface and font size. Beyond that:

  • Character formatting. KC imports italics, bold, color, underline, and other basic character formatting. It retains font sizes that you've applied, but not typefaces/font families. For example, because KC doesn't import font families, I don't know how to get it to import a monospace font like Courier or Consolas.

  • Paragraph formatting. In my manuscript, the body text was aligned left; in other words, I didn't explicitly set alignment to center, right, or justified. When KC imported the text, paragraphs were justified, which is the Kindle default. (As noted, Kindle readers can change this.) During the import process, KC retains paragraph formatting such as line spacing and indentation. If you've aligned paragraphs center or right, KC retains that. If a paragraph has a non-default font size, the import process retains that, too. For example, I set the font size for my blockquote paragraphs to be 1 point smaller than for body text, and the import process respected that.

  • Page breaks. Page breaks are retained.

  • Links. Links in the Word file are imported as links in the Kindle format.

After you've imported the Word file, you can (mostly) manually edit and format text in KC. The formatting options are fairly rich: you can set font (including font face), color, bold, etc. For example, if you want to set some text to monospace, you can do that in KC with manual editing. For paragraphs, you can set indentation, spacing, and justification.

You can also "cascade" your format settings for the element you're playing with. (This is like CSS, or in Word, like making a change in Word to the style definition for that text.) For example, by default, KC renders all Chapter Title elements (headings) using all caps. However, you can select a heading (element: Chapter Title) and then set casing to UPPER CASE, lower case, Title Case, or None. I did this—I selected a heading, set casing to None, and then made sure that the Cascade formatting changes for elements option was selected:

This told KC to leave the casing of my headings as I had set them in the manuscript. Because I enabled the "cascade" option, it made this change to all my headings.

I mostly did not make text or formatting changes in KC (except for headings, see previous). Instead, when I wanted to change the formatting, I went back to the KDP version of my Word doc, changed formatting there, and then created a new KC project and re-imported my text. I ended up doing this many times—4? 6? 10? I forget. I did it however many it took me until I'd ironed out all the issues I found in KC and until could import a clean doc. I did this because I knew I was going to need to do further work in Word later and I wanted the changes to be in the Word doc.

Tables

My manuscript had several tables in it, but I'd read repeatedly that ebooks don't handle tables well. For small tables, I converted them to graphics. Here's an example of a small table that I converted to a graphic—I just took a screenshot of the table in the original manuscript:

A lesson I eventually learned here is that before you take the screenshot, make sure that the text of the table is perfect. And make sure that spell-check and grammar-check haven't left squiggly lines under words in your table.

For large tables, I didn't try to create graphics from them. Instead, I converted them into lists. In HTML terms, I emulated a description list, though I did that manually, not through styles.

Here's what one of those tables looked like originally:

And here's what I converted it to:

To do this, I created a special paragraph style for the terms and descriptions so that they'd be indented and so they'd have a smaller font size. I had to manually convert the original table to this new set of styles. But once I'd done that, the KC tool respected these formatting choices when it imported the text.

Still, lesson learned: if you know you're going to publish in an ebook format, stay away from tables.

Graphics

I had read that KC could import embedded graphics directly, and that was my experience. fwiw, I had only JPEG and PNG graphics.

KC imports any alt text that you've assigned to graphics in the Word file. But you can also write alt text in KC if you didn't do it in Word.

In KC, you can resize a graphic using t-shirt sizes: Small, Medium, Large, or Full. If you choose Large or Full, the graphic is centered. If you choose Small or Medium, you can also specify whether you want text to flow to the left or right of your image.

As I noted earlier, someone pointed out to me that graphics will pop out at them uncomfortable way if they're reading in dark mode. As of now, I have no answer to that issue.

Previewing in KC

The editing layout that you work with in KC is a pretty good approximation of what the text will look like. But KC also has a Preview mode that lets you get an exact sense of how the book will look like in different form factors. You can choose to preview in Kindle E-Reader, Tablet, or Phone device types.

When you're done with KC

When you've got your text done in KC, you save your project as a .kpf file. That's the format you use for the next stage, which is to set up your Kindle book for publishing.

Up next, Part 3: Publishing the ebook

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