Manuscript preparation is a two step process consisting of entering and editing the text, followed by mark up (specifying the function of each text paragraph). The mark up is often performed at the same time as entering the text.
Entering and editing text
It's important at this stage to consider the import process into the page layout program. If the author and the layout person can agree on some rules as to how the text should be entered much time can be saved. If not, some kind of text preparation has to be done before importing.
The author should also run a spell checker on the document.
Text mark up
The author should preferably tell what kind each paragraph (and optionally words or even characters) in the document is. Note that this is not a question of form but of function. How this step later translates into a layout is a task for the graphic designer (and the page layout software).
There are two different paths to follow. You can either tag the text with paragraph prefixes (and optionally suffixes) or using styles defined in the text editor/word processing software.
If text is entered using a word processor with some kind of WYSIWYG capabilities, it's very useful if the layout person can provide a template. She can include predefined styles for paragraphs, lists etc.
If using software to produce images for the product, there are two different kind of graphics: bitmap graphics or vector graphics. Note: Image production is not about adjusting digital photographs for printing (see Step 2: Image preparation).
Bitmap graphics are especially suited for photographic quality images and natural media images (digitally painted pictures where the software tries to mimic the behavior of traditional media).
Bitmap software should preferably be able to handle all the actions described below (see Step 2: Image preparation - Bitmap image editing) but minimally let you:
- work in the correct resolution (often 300 dpi for print)
- save in a non-destructive format (non-compressed or lossless compression)
- set the color space (for correct color reproduction)
Vector graphics are useful for logotypes, maps, diagrams and technical drawings. Vector software should have:
- geometric tools: lines, circles, squares
- basic vector graphics editing capabilities
- curve-creation and editing
- path operations including boolean set operations on objects
- text tools
- support för a standardized and widely used vector graphics file format, for example SVG or EPS (preferable SVG as it is an open standard format)
- the ability to handle different color spaces
- the ability to auto-trace bitmap graphics and create a vector representation
Entering and editing text, mark up
If you want to use a word processor, there are several free word processing applications available, allowing the user to input and edit text. Among the most widely used are:
A pure text editor is also an option (especially if using paragraph prefixes):
- gedit - which has many useful plugins and is included in a lot of Linux distributions (Ubuntu is one example)
- FocusWriter - which tries to create a distraction-free environment for writing
The word processor or text editor should have a spell checker.
Image production: Bitmap graphics
GIMP is feature-rich, has color management but no native color separation. The last is not a problem if we let the page layout software do the color separation at PDF creation time. GIMP only supports 8-bit color channels although 16-bit support is on the way.RAW photographs can be opened with the UFRaw plugin.
If necessary, GIMP can color separate using Separate+.
Krita of Calligra (former KOffice) is feature rich, offers color separation and 16-bit color channels, but is heavy and has no multi document support. It also focuses more on painting than image manipulation.
MyPaint is an application for natural media painting, not photo editing. MyPaint has no selections and no transforms.
CinePaint supports 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit color channels and uses LittleCMS för color management. It is an early fork of GIMP but the development is sporadic and it is not easy to install.
Image production: Vector graphics
Inkscape is a SVG editor with tracing and some limited CMYK handling .
Karbon is the vector drawing application of Calligra (former KOffice). No support for tracing but it handles CMYK.
LibreOffice Draw/OpenOffice Draw has basic vector functions and SVG support. The SVG support is not reliable. No support for tracing.
Inkscape. It has a rich feature set including tracing.
Text file formats
Save documents containing style information in a standard format, preferably Open Document Format for Office Applications (ODF), using the extension .odt.
If text is entered in a text editor (and tagged), save as a text file with UTF8-encoding.