Ebook formatting software takes a variety of approaches. Some ebook solutions will completely reformat your book with styles it thinks are appropriate. This works better with novels, which have relatively little special formatting, but doesn’t really scale to more complex books and may not allow the level of control you need even for simple formatting.
Another approach is simply to suck in your original Word document and spit out an ebook. No or very little chance to tweak or reformat, very few suggestions for improvements – you’ll miss all sorts of problems that can occur in your document. This only works for the lowest of expectations and can’t be described as a professional approach, because as experience has taught us, most original Word (or other word processor) documents are not created with ebooks in mind and usually require some work – despite efforts by some companies to persuade you that instant, effortless conversion from any document is possible.
Our approach with Jutoh is to give you as much control as possible, retaining your original formatting but providing detailed suggestions and tools for improving your formatting, via error messages, warnings, tips and copious in-application help topics. Not only does this result in a high quality book, but it improves your formatting skills.
Let’s make this a little more concrete. The most common problem facing an author or formatter is the use of direct formatting in the original document. Direct formatting is when, instead of choosing a named style for a paragraph (such as “Heading 1” or “Body Text”), the author has instead stuck with the “Normal” style for each paragraph and applied formatting such as bold, text size, indentation, alignment directly using tools. It’s then very hard to ensure that the book is consistently formatted throughout; if you use named styles, you only need to edit the styles themselves to change the way individual paragraphs look, whereas direct formatting can, in the worst case, require every single paragraph to be reworked. In addition, it’s then more difficult for Jutoh to pull out headings to make a table of contents, as an example of one of various tasks that are made easier when specific named styles are used.
Jutoh will warn about the excessive use of direct formatting, and provides tools to help, including style replacement in the Find and Replace dialog. Unlike in a regular word processor, direct formatting is shown clearly in the Formatting Palette as styles with ‘+’ in their names.
Your document may accidentally have specific colour formatting that will cause legibility problems when the colour scheme is changed on a device. Jutoh will warn about that, and gives you the option of removing all colour from the generated book without removing it from the project.
You may be using a lot of blank paragraphs for spacing, which can cause broken formatting on some devices – Jutoh will warn about that, and tell you the various ways you could fix it.
Links within the project might be broken, which a word processor certainly doesn’t tell you about, but Jutoh does.
You might be using a non-standard body text size, which won’t be as easy to read and adjust as using a standard text size – Jutoh will warn about this.
You might be using line spacing that can cause formatting problems on some platforms – Jutoh will warn about this and give an option to remove line spacing from the generated book (but allowing you to keep it for, say, a print book).
If you are embedding fonts, Jutoh will let you know if the font won’t be used in the book due to naming problems. For fixed layout books, Jutoh will let you know about combinations of settings that devices don’t like (for example, Kindle doesn’t like a fixed landscape orientation and two pages per spread).
There are many other things that Jutoh checks, and many tools you can use to improve formatting, including the Document Cleanup tool, and Find and Replace.
Although you may at first be a little surprised to see warnings and tips when you first compile your book, this guidance pays off and you will gain a better understanding about how to format for both print and ebooks – even if you’re writing most of your book in another word processor before importing it into Jutoh.
So the basic message of this post is – Jutoh puts you in control, allowing a huge degree of formatting flexibility while advising of potential pitfalls and nudging you in the right direction. This is a big part of why our customers love Jutoh, and why in some cases, they have used their copy of Jutoh to format hundreds of ebooks!