The big 4

I’ve been in the business of trying to work out how to get Publishing (capital ‘P’) into the web. From the start, there have been some ‘big ticket’ items that have needed to be solved. Some are more urgent than others, but by and large we are cracking these nuts one by one. I have considered for a long time the big 4 to be:

  1. MS Word to HTML conversion
  2. an open source web-based word processor
  3. paginated output via the browser to print-ready copy
  4. in-browser designer

1,2 an 3 are the ‘now’ critical items, number 4 is necessary but a little further down the line. Thankfully, at Coko we are solving these first 3 problems. To solve (1) we are building XSweet, a comprehensive (open source) XSLT conversion suite for converting MS Word to HTML. We are also building Wax to solve (2), Wax is an open source web based word processor based on the Substance.io libs. And for (3) we are using Vivliostyle for in-browser rendering. Number 4) is still on the cards.

Interestingly, the pagination technology (3) might need re-evaluating since pagination will eventually be required for the editor and the in-browser designer.

While pagination inside a web-based processor is not critical for publishers, it is critical for authors and small offices etc and if we are going to get publishers to use a web-based word processor then it would be better that they share infrastructure rather than sit on their own island of technology ie. eventually we need authors to use these tools too. By sharing infrastructure I don’t mean they need to use exactly the same tools, they just need to use compatible tools. So, eventually, we need to migrate authors into the web. It is not critical now, but over time, as the workflow for authors and publishers inevitably becomes more integrated, it will turn out to be necessary.

For in-browser design we need pagination support also so we can work off a single source for the content and then design in the browser to output to the various formats publishers need. Think Gimp or InDesign in the browser. It’s not as far away as it might sound, but to do this we need to be able to paginate inside the browser and have that update with live style changes to CSS.

So far, we are solving the big ticket issues 1-3, but for the next stage of changes we may need to change the tools we use for pagination so we can live-update content and styles and reflow in an editor and in-browser designer. That may mean we to start looking for a different pagination solution.

6 thoughts on “The big 4”

  1. Hi Adam,

    You have said “but for the next stage of changes we may need to change the tools we use for pagination”
    So, can I use WAX editor in production environment? I will need pagination.

    1. Hi Asif,

      Interestingly, I have just jumped off a call talking about exactly this… right now the editor does not support pagination, but we are working towards it…if you feel like sharing some more of your use case perhaps we can think around ways o tackle the problems you have…

  2. Hi Adam,

    Sorry for the late reply.
    Its good to know that pagination is in the works. I want to be able to “view” the document in “Page Layout” with horizontal and vertical rulers, just like in MS Word. Ability to set page sizes (Letter, Legal, A4, etc…) and margins. Change page orientation. Insert page break/blank page. Page Numbers in the Footer/Header. Adding a “Cover Page” so the Page numbering starts from the 2nd page will be good to have.

  3. Another thing that I would like to accomplish is to insert data/values from external source/database into the document. For example, I have a person’s name in a database and want to insert it in the document, I would right click in the WAX editor and click on a menu item called “Insert Name ” (ofcourse I will have to create the menu first), it would insert the values (or the field label) as a “text block”, like in MS Word>Insert Tab >Text Section>Quick Part> Fields.
    This way if values in the database are updated, it will be reflected in the document.
    The text styling should be just like the other text, nothing special that distinguishes this text from the rest unless set manually.
    Text Block: one backspace/delete keystroke deletes the complete name, not one character at a time.

    1. So, inserting names will be part of the development requirements when we come to extending wax for journals. So it will be there but not yet. Pagination is something we are investigating now, but as yet I am unsure how long it will take to achieve as it might not be trivial. If we can get pagination to work however, we will be able to do the other things you outlined (paged based attributes like page numbers etc). I hope that helps give you some clarity on where wax is and where it is going.

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