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The traditional print publishing industry requires long production cycles before any book or publication can see print. This situation has become more acute for authors like myself who publish books on annual software releases. I hope to use this blog to publish information, updates, addenda, ruminations, and other "mid-cycle" missives. I hope you enjoy it.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Extracted Word Files

Hard as it is to believe, it is almost time to start 2011 round of books... Wait, didn't I just finish the 2010 editions? Well... uh yeah, but they got finished WAY too late this year. Maybe if we write on beta this year we can.... (I know where this is going).

A couple weeks ago, I received my first batch of "extracted Word documents." I am not sure if I written about these before, (and I am much too lazy to reread the old posts). Basically, it works like this: manuscript is written in Microsoft Word. Now this is not your run-of-the-mill Word, we have a special "authoring template." This baby's got special styles, formatting and some macros for numbering images. Great stuff. So work progresses in Word, one file per chapter. These get sent to the next person in the chain (either a co-author or technical editor). That person uses the track changes feature and makes their corrections. They come back to me, I approve/reject, then send on to the next person and so on.

All this time (usually a few months at least), the Word docs bear little resemblance to final pages. Sure they have headings and numbered steps, but all the final graphical flourish and formatting occurs outside of Word in a page layout program. When the documents finally get to this page layout stage, the compositor imports the Word files into their software (one of these days I will think to ask them what they use. I am uncetain). They do their layout and from then on, I review pages in PDF files.

However, before we can start the next edition, they have "extract" the text and images from the page layout software and create a new Word document. I have no idea what process they use for this, but I like to image little elves sitting in front of two computer screens manually transcribing from one program to the other...

When the new "extracted Word Docs" get back to me, they have been processed and formatted in the new template. This is the theory anyhow. It does not always work so smoothly. We are getting a new template this year and some of the formatting is changing. We had a meeting about it the other day. I don't know, it always seems to me like "improvements" designed to take time off the back end, always add more time for me. So while most of the new changes in the template do not concern me, I remain skeptical. Now if I could just get the silly macros to run without pulling out the incense and performing the ritual dance.


Oh, and I REALLY hate the way that macro toolbars are presented in Word 2007... but don't even get me started with that.

Well, back to work. But as noted at the beginning of the post, this year we have a lot of projects on tap and I think I need to get a lot more serious about writing on the beta... (or maybe the alpha... )

Cheers for now.

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