AWP Review

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This is a review of the Atlantis Word Processor, hereafter called AWP, and is particularly targeted at its ability to create eBooks. This review (unless identified separately) is based on version which was released May 29, 2013. Version 1.6.6 and version 2.0 are also covered.


[edit] Overview

Atlantis Word Processor is a general purpose Word Processor with specific support built-in to create ePub formatted eBooks. AWP is a try before you buy application with a 30 day trial period. It can be downloaded here. It is only available for Windows. However, it will run under wine see Linux install Atlantis with wine.

AWP can be used to create and ePub by creating or importing a word processing file which can be in RTF, ODF, TXT, DOC, or DOCX format. You can edit the file in AWP and format it the way you want it to appear in the ePub using styles and paragraph formating. You can add footnotes (will be converted to endnotes and include backlinks), build a TOC, or let AWP build one automatically. In a single save process that can include adding some extra metadata you can create a fully functional ePub that will pass ePub check while taking advantage of formatting contained in the document.

[edit] eBook formats

Internally AWP supports ePub version 2 features. In addition it can automatically spawn a copy of KindleGen to make MOBI compatible files from the ePub. AWP can also be used with a "virtual PDF printer" to make a PDF document. Unfortunately it does not support any special PDF features like creating a live TOC (PDF Bookmarks).

AWP can also save TXT and HTML files which some eBook readers can read but these are not really eBooks.

[edit] Creating ePub

[edit] Preparing the document

While it is certainly possible to use AWP to write a book from scratch, most of the time I usually start with an OCR of scans of pages or an unproofed electronic copy I found somewhere. I either read it in or paste it in a new document. Early on in the process I include my set of standard styles. This can be done either by starting initially with a template file with the styles in it or by importing the styles from an earlier file, a choice after you select styles from the format menu.

My first steps are to clean up the document prior to eBook creation. Atlantis includes 3 tools to make this job easier.

  1. Spell check - running a full spell check is my initial method to check for typos and scanning errors. AWP also can use a thesaurus that is a free download but I digress as this is for writing not checking.
  2. AutoCorrect - This is a very powerful tool to correct errors and change preferences in a document. It is an all in one tool to fix everything you don't like. It can make curly quotes, emdashes, and loads of other changes in mass to the document. You can control which things you want and how they should work with a "AutoCorrect Options" command. Visit this first to see just how many things you can fix this way. AutoCorrect can also be used to correct as you type which can be handy when you have to edit the document.
  3. A find and replace command - used to look for a fix things that are not fixed up to now. With the new release of 1.6.6 there are some major changes in the find and replace by adding wildcards and more special search features such as regular expressions which are similar to the MS Word version of RegEx. If you prefer the original simple find and replace it is still there as well. Even the simple search will find some variations in special characters. For example " will find standard quotes or either curly quote and - will find hyphens, mdashes, and ndashes. Note also that the find form is not modal. You can click on the page and fix things manually and then click back on the form and it will continue a search from wherever the cursor is. This can be handy if you spot something that needs fixing while using search to go through the document.

Like most word processors this one includes the ability to provide a set of styles for paragraphs and titles. I keep a set of my favorites to apply in mass to the document. This will automatically set up and fix most of the formatting issues. In the ePub the styles will end up in a CSS file, but only the ones actually used in the document.

AWP will build a side TOC on the fly as you add Heading1, Heading2, and/or Heading3 styles to your headings. Once you are done with that you can also build an inline TOC if you wish. You will want one if you are also making a Kindle version. It turns out this is practically automatic. Just click the TOC command in the menus and fill in the form. Your new TOC page will have links built-in. Extra text in the inline TOC is also possible.

Finally you are likely to need to proof read the document. I do a preliminary look that the document in AWP for obvious changes that need to be fixed and then I make the ePub. I proofread the ePub noting the errors as I go. It is much easier to read in an eBook reader than a computer screen and I return to AWP and fix any errors I find. Note, I do not fix the ePub; I fix the AWP word file and then generate a new ePub. Generally I will update the AWP file multiple times as I am proofreading and then generate a new ePub to check.

[edit] Making the eBook

There is a special eBook save menu that starts the creation process. Clicking save as eBook will open a form that can be used to provide the metadata needed for the eBook. (After the first save all of this data will be remembered.) A title and id are required but AWP itself will provide a unique id, title, author. Of course, these defaults can be changed to the correct values. If the document properties are filled in these will be used. An author and other fields not required by the standard. A cover can be added at this point if you wish. It will be prefilled in if known to AWP. Font selection based on the document can be ignored (which is generally what you want), selected with a fall-back, or embedded font files can be added (You can select which font files to include). A setup option can be used to override page margin settings that are in the document but should be different in the ePub, or not used at all (depending on the reader defaults). The document may be previewed as an ePub using Adobe Digital Editions if it is installed. Tapping save is all that is required to generate the ePub. If KindleGen is installed it will be run using the ePub to create a Kindle file as well.

The resultant ePub is very clean and will pass ePub Check. An ePub consists of several files in a zip file with an ePub extension. The metadata is in one file, the toc a second, a CSS file for formatting, and the text is in one or more html files. Each image is in a separate file and referenced from the html.

There is extensive use of CSS which is based either on the styles in document or if these styles are overridden in paragraph format changes these changes will also be in the CSS. The changes in individual paragraphs are collected into the minimum set of CSS entries for the whole document. The CSS names are made up and do not correspond to the style names, unfortunately. A separate CSS file is made for the cover image if it is included.

The HTML file or files uses class tags to reference the entries in the CSS file as expected. Special characters use named entities inside the file when possible. Separate HTML files are created for top level TOC entries or if the file size exceeds 300K. The file names are made up by the program as a numbered sequence. Data is coded in UTF-8.

The structure of the ePub places all the files in a OPS folder with images inside a images folder within the OPS folder. The META-INF folder is present and contains the container.xml file as required by the standard. All in all the structure is simple and easy to follow if you need to do any further editing of the ePub.

[edit] Features not in AWP

Features that are not in AWP cannot be in the eBook or must be added after the ePub creation using other tools. Atlantis provides a free tool called Tweak EPUB that can be used to access and modify individual files within the ePub.

  • Versions prior to 2.0 do not support tables. Table content will be preserved as independent paragraphs.
  • AWP does not support wrapping of text around images. Thus the float left and float right properties of ePub for images cannot be created by AWP.

[edit] Issues

[edit] PDF

The documentation for Atlantis talks about saving to PDF format but this is not actually how it works. You actually print to PDF so you will be missing any active links and the TOC (PDF bookmarks) you might otherwise have. The resultant eBook will be a dumb page for page copy of the AWP pages.

AWP puts a tiny bit more space between lines that does Word (using Word XP 2002 for the test). Thus the pagination will not be exactly the same. The effect of this is that the number of pages in the PDF eBook may be a few more pages than a PDF created by word and thus any page number references might be off. How many pages is hard to predict since some page changes are forced while others are caused by the text overflowing the length of the page.

[edit] HTML

AWP cannot import HTML or interpret it in any way, but there is a feature to create an HTML page for viewing with a browser. It will work fine with a browser. You will need to determine where any images are to be stored. CSS is used minimally inside the HTML file to define a base paragraph style with modified styles inserted in the paragraphs themselves and repeated in each paragraph that is different from the base paragraph style. If you were planning to use this as a starting point in some other document format I would suggest that you make an ePub and then take it apart to use as the HTML source. It is much cleaner and more compact.

[edit] Tips

  1. The 1.6.6 version supports export widow/orphan control to the ePub file. This is done, potentially, on a paragraph by paragraph basis. There are three settings for this in the paragraph styles, a blank (off), a checkmark (on) and a blue box (inherit this from the base paragraph setting). I would suggest using inherit this as the default you want and then force it when needed. Note that ADE based readers assume widows/orphans are set to on so you will need to override this in Atlantis if you want them off. Set the base paragraph setting (usually called Normal) to override this or edit this in the ePub after its creation and set the body tag.
  2. KindleGen will automatically run if it is stored in the same place as AWP. However, in Windows 7 you have to approve it when AWP tries to run it. I leave this unapproved and only allow it when I need it. This way I can rebuild ePub files without having to generate the Amazon file every time.
  3. The Atlantis web site has a forum that can be used to find tips or ask questions about how to use AWP. It is there I learned about running the spell checker without having to use the form which can make it easier to fix OCR problems like a word having an extra space in the middle causing it to be treated as two words.
  4. When doing research for an eBook it is tempting to just copy/paste the text from a web page for use in a book. This will always get the actual text but may be missing the formatting and other features such as italics. It turns out that the copy clipboard actually contains more than you might think. In addition to the text itself it also contains formatting information. The form of the formatting depends on the browser. For Firefox and other Mozilla based browsers it is in HTML which AWP cannot interpret either by pasting or by importing. For Internet Explorer (IE) it is in RTF format which AWP can use directly. For this reason IE should be used if you want this data. It is possible to add a feature to Mozilla based browser to redisplay a page using the IE Engine so using this feature you can copy/paste text with formatting. Another choice would be to paste the information directly into Word and then recopy and paste from Word to AWP.
  5. Tables are now supported in the 2.0 release. This feature can be used to provide columns and text beside images.
  6. HR, horizontal rule lines are now supported as of July 2018.

[edit] Summary

The gist is that for the features that Atlantis supports it does an excellent job in creating an ePub 2 eBook. It keeps all the formatting, etc. and keeps everything in a minimal CSS file where it is easy to check and ensure that it is all good. You can use it for professional publishing as the ePub will pass ePub_check programs and you can use it to create a Kindle file when augmented by Amazon's KindleGen program which can be attached to Atlantis when installed in the same folder.

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