Auto-Adjusting Plain Text's Font, Leading, Etc. to Fill Certain No. of Pages?
January 27, 2004 7:48 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know of an easy, free way to take a plain text document and automatically adjust the font, font size, leading, etc. to match a predetermined number of pages, when the page size and margins are specified? I ask because I am currently required to purchase specific copies of works in the public domain. This way the whole class is on the same page. I'd rather save the $15 bucks and download from Gutenberg, if possible.
posted by Grod to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
Make a PDF of it? Should be able to convert it to Postscript using free tools, or just buy one copy of Acrobat and you'll still save a bundle over buying a whole classroom's worth of books. I can't imagine any student is running a platform that doesn't have an Acrobat reader that can print.
posted by anildash at 7:52 PM on January 27, 2004

I am the student. Sorry, I guess I wasn't clear. I frequently format Gutenberg documents with nice, postscript fonts, (Garamond Pro being my current favorite--it actually looks almost like Garamond should, and for screen reading Jenson Pro Opticals--Open Type--gives a nice book feel to a text) and print to pdf for my own use. But I'm taking a class now where the teacher expects a very close reading, and wants everyone to have the same copy to facilitate discussion. I'm a cheap bastard, and don't wanna buy what's freely available if I can avoid it.
posted by Grod at 7:57 PM on January 27, 2004

Wouldn't work anyway, since the publisher of the paper book might drop a line or two here and put in an extra line or two there in order to avoid widow/orphan problems, and you won't know how the publisher is hyphenating.

Probably the best you could do would be volunteer to convert the gutenberg plaintexts to pdf for the prof, and ask everyone to use those, at least in future classes.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:04 PM on January 27, 2004

I hate to say it, but I could have sworn that I saw a "Make Fit X Pages" feature in my MS Word program.

I avoid Word like the plague, so I'm not certain... but it may be worth the effort.

What I don't understand is why you want to force the document to be X pages? Isn't it more important that everyone be on the same page? If everyone uses the same original, then the pages will be the same... why not pitch using your original to the class?
posted by silusGROK at 8:05 PM on January 27, 2004

Damn, yeah, I forgot about the real nitty-gritty of book layout. But a realatively close aproximation, say within two lines or so, should still be possible, shouldn't it?
With perl and the panose ids from all installed system fonts, it should be possible. That was actually a question, as my understanding of perl is almost zilch.

ON PREVIEW: RE: My original. It wouldn't be popular, and most of the class has already forked over the $15 or so dollars.
I do plan to slowly introduce the English department to resources like Gutenberg, if possible.
posted by Grod at 8:12 PM on January 27, 2004

in Quark it's totally doable (if you have quark)...maybe in word too if you spent time at it. Borrow a copy of the exact book, measure it, set up document size, margins, figure out the font size/leading, and go for it--you'll be close enough.
posted by amberglow at 8:32 PM on January 27, 2004

you might want to also figure out average number of words per line, and lines per page to get closer to the printed copy.
posted by amberglow at 8:33 PM on January 27, 2004

a haber rule or a ruler with points/picas could be a worthwhile investment if you'll be doing it a lot--you can measure font size and leading with it. (or you can just print out samples and hold it against a printed page) : >
posted by amberglow at 9:01 PM on January 27, 2004

oh, i just looked online and they changed the name of them--this is what i mean
(now i'm done) : >
posted by amberglow at 9:10 PM on January 27, 2004

Often the editions the teacher selects have footnotes, commentary and other niceties that make it easier for the prof to prep for the class. But if that's not the case, bring your laptop to class and just do a quick search for the required text when it is read. And find/buy/make some really good annotation software so you can get to your notes easily. And please introduce your department to Project Gutenberg. At one school I attended, teachers got a kickback for coursepacks, so the books could be available for those students who didn't want to print them out on their own.

One advantage to printing your own copies is that you can leave huge margins for notetaking. Yum.

I suppose they could stick the whole text in a Wiki and have the class collectively annotate it. That'd be cool.
posted by mecran01 at 9:55 PM on January 27, 2004

the way this is handled in printed books (for example a translation, where you want to know what the corresponding page is in the original) is to note the original page number(s) in the margin.

in other words, you don't need to have the same number of pages, you just need to have some way in your copy to find the page everyone else is at. i don't know if this simplifies the problem, though.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:29 AM on January 28, 2004

andrew cooke seems to have the right attitude. If your concern is only page reference:

1) borrow a copy of the assigned version of the book
2) load up the gutenberg version in your editor of choice
3) go through the paper copy, searching for the last word on each page; for each one,
4) Insert a break and a page number in your electronic copy.
5) BAM!

Shouldn't take too long, and you can worry about any prettiness after, if necessary.
posted by cortex at 4:07 PM on January 28, 2004

One or another TeX flavor should do this.
posted by majick at 7:32 PM on January 28, 2004

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