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What word-processing program should I use for this project?
March 20, 2014 3:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm writing a book that will contain around 200 photographs and their captions. What program should I use to write it? Microsoft Word is annoying when it comes to photos (and everything else). I like Scrivener but am not sure it's the best for a photo-heavy, text-light project. I'm on a Mac.
posted by The corpse in the library to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Do you need it to be free? If not, look into Apple's Pages (part of Apple's office suite) or Adobe PageMaker.

If you already have PowerPoint, it might be worth trying to write your book on that! It does well with images and layout. You can export into PDF for final printing.
posted by redlines at 3:54 PM on March 20


I am a MOUS in Word, I can probably give you a short list of tips to nerf it's naughtiness & do what you desire. Version? Skill level?
posted by tilde at 4:00 PM on March 20


How are you planning on publishing?
posted by radioamy at 4:13 PM on March 20


Is this for final page layout and printing? Or just to get the ideas on the page before editing, publishing, etc?

The best option would be Adobe InDesign, but it's not cheap. There is also a bit of a learning curve, especially if you have never used Adobe products or other similar publishing packages.
posted by wsquared at 4:17 PM on March 20


Seconding InDesign. The most charitable way I can describe it would be "a difficult version of PowerPoint" but it's an industry standard and isn't too bad if you've used other Adobe products in the past.
posted by raihan_ at 4:21 PM on March 20


InDesign CS live or whatever their monthly subscription is probably going to be your best bet.

Search for InDesign book templates to save yourself the job of re-inventing the wheel and doing your own mechanical layouts for the book. You can, of course, modify said layouts to your needs.

If you want free/open source Inkscape is serviceable. Write your actual text in Word first, then flow and format your text with pictures in Inkscape. (Also search for book templates for Inkscape, too.)
posted by loquacious at 4:34 PM on March 20


InDesign. You can do a monthlong free trial, then do a monthly subscription if your project is not finished. Sign up for lynda.com and do an InDesign tutorial to get the hang of things.
posted by imalaowai at 4:38 PM on March 20


I use blurb.com for projects like this! They have lots of pre-fab layout templates just for this purpose and their book printing prices are very reasonable. The Mac program they offer is easy to use, too.
posted by Hermione Granger at 4:57 PM on March 20 [2 favorites]


I'm writing a book that will contain around 200 photographs and their captions. What program should I use to write it?

Do you have a publisher yet? If so, what do they advise?

A pagelyout program sounds like the way to go. Scribus is a free alternative to the expensive pro programs, aka QuarkXpress and Indesign.

But really, it depends on what you want to do with this book, which will define how and where it's printed, whether its a physical or online object.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:05 PM on March 20


How do you feel about learning LaTeX?
posted by supercres at 5:07 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


If you already have PowerPoint, it might be worth trying to write your book on that! It does well with images and layout. You can export into PDF for final printing.

Having done electronic prepress, I'd strongly advise you not to do this without talking whoever is going to print your book.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:09 PM on March 20


I'll happily pay for a better program. I'll be running it by the publisher, but I'd like to hear other ideas anyway in case there's something better than what they're used to. I don't need to do the final layout. I've used Adobe mumble before but it was years ago and I don't even remember what it was -- whatever the standard was in magazine publishing. I don't want to learn LaTeX right now.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:48 PM on March 20


I use InDesign all the time, but it's professional software and has a learning curve. It isn't a word processing program, by the way, but a page layout program.

Apple's Pages is a lot easier to learn, and has an extra advantage, which is that its files can be exported to iBooks Author and output as an ibook with little extra work. So if you're hoping to distribute your book in this format, it's a good option.

Definitely ask the publisher what kind of file they want, though. If you're not doing the final layout, you're best off figuring a workflow to make everyone's jobs simpler.
posted by zadcat at 7:56 PM on March 20


I have prepared 7 books for publishers but not your publisher (or unlikely), and I always receive an email afterwards thanking me for following their requirements exactly. Their requirements (to my surprise) are usually in .doc (not .docx) format and always !!! stipulate leaving the images out (though appropriately named) but including (insert image abc about here) and the the caption. In other words, no pictures in the document. The publishers I've worked with also like the chapters as separate files and I do give in, but I also include one file with everything in one spot.

If you are talking printer, that's another matter, but publishers will have very clear ideas about what they want, and may refuse to publish if the document isn't provided that way
posted by b33j at 2:47 AM on March 21 [4 favorites]


If you're writing something long, I strongly suggest separating the content from the presentation.

Write the text in any program you feel comfortable in. Leave markers for the figures - something as basic as [[[PHOTO: P and Q doing X in Y]]] and write in the figure captions the same way, so that later on you (or your publisher) can search for the string "[[[PHOTO" and insert the photos as appropriate.

TeX/LaTeX is one way to do this, yes, but by no means do you need it. There are many other schemes that allow the separation of content from presentation - HTML, of course, or Markdown to pick another example - but plain text may be best.

For your own sanity, do NOT write the content of a book in InDesign! Or Powerpoint! (Jeez, people! Are you serious?) Just first write it in plain text, with Scrivener if you want, on a chapter-by-chapter basis. (Or use any other editor. TextMate? BBEdit? Emacs?) Worry about the formatting afterwards, in consultation with your publisher. They'll probably want you to put it into Word, alas - but copy/paste or "Open with" is easy once the content is ready.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:10 AM on March 21


Also, have you seen what word does to the resolution of images? Just, no. Give them text files and image files according to their instructions.

Of course if you do not yet have a publisher and wish to impress one with a finalised product - that's a different question.
posted by b33j at 6:28 PM on March 21


I'll be running it by the publisher, but I'd like to hear other ideas anyway in case there's something better than what they're used to.

Don't try to outsmart the publisher. Listen to what they need and talk about it if you think there's something better. But when they say do X, don't do go off do Y, when it comes to formatting the doc for printing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:05 AM on March 22


Yup, yup. This isn't my first book. The final version will be in the form the publisher wants.

I'm thinking more about how I should handle working on it myself, before I hand it in. Two hundred photos is a lot to keep track of, and I've never worked on a book with this many illustrations.

I'll find out more about the publisher's specifications and recommendations next week, but I appreciate hearing suggestions.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:09 AM on March 22


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