Author Archive: norton

Taking epubcheck (epub validtation tool) forward.

The epubcheck is a validation tool for ePub documents. It should determine whether the ePub under inspection conforms to the rules laid out in the IDPF specifications. In many circumstances it does just that, but it’s not always clear what’s happening, and sometimes the tool out and out fails. Of course the community is working to bring the tool forward and make it better.

Here I will give an outline of current and ongoing changes that I’m planning to make. Of course I would also like to put out a call for additional contribution/involvement in the process. There’s plenty of room for more people to contribute, whether it be in the form of development, testing, review, or documentation. Anyone looking to get involved should head on over to the discussion group.

So here’s the current changes I’ve added, and things I’ll be working on:

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The Mars Project “PDFXML Inspector” works great as an ePub editing tool.

If you’ve just created an ePub and now you want to make a small change, the normal approach is to rename the file with a “zip” extension, extract the contents, make the change, and then repackage the contents.

Fortunately, there’s a better way, but I’m not sure if it’s been mentioned.
It’s from the Mars Project over on Adobe Labs, and it’s called the “PDFXML Inspector”.

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Export ePub from InDesign CS4

With the release of Adobe InDesign CS4 you’ll find that there’s a couple of interesting new features in the Export for Digital Editions plug-in. The most noticeable are the addition of DTBook support and support for “Local Formatting”. There’s also some subtler changes, like floating anchored images and additional semantic information in the XHTML files.

So we’ll go through the major new features and what each one does:

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DocBook XSL – ePub target is ready for wider testing

If you’re using the DocBook XSL distribution you’ve probably already seen that DocBook XSL 1.74.0 has been released with ePub support. Note that the 1.74.0 release is an experimental release, and is made available for testing and evaluation. See the release notes for a note about DocBook dot-0 releases.

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File size limits in Digital Editions

While the Best Practices document (over in the Adobe Developer Connection) had the recommendation that books be broken up into chapters, it wasn’t clear when you needed to break a document up further, or when a book was small enough so that one XHTML file was sufficient.

With the recent update to the document (version 1.0.2) we’ve given you information on how big the chapters can be.

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EPUB Best Practices

We’ve created a Developer Center area for Digital Publishing. What does this mean? Well, it’s a lot of technical information around EPUB, Adobe Digital Editions, and ADEPT. Of particular interest today is also the “Best Practices” Guide. Those best practices will help publishers create EPUBs that work great across a whole spectrum of devices.

Anyway, the Best Practices, and lots of other useful information can be found over at the Developer Center:
Digital Publishing

InDesign EPUB Export and SWF behavior

By default, when you export a document or book from InDesign, each of the SWFs in the document will play as soon as the page is shown. While this might be nice for some documents you may actually want to change the default so that the files won’t play until they’re clicked.

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DocBook XSL: Development

It seemed that creating production level XSLT stylesheets that convert DocBook into ePub would help publishers who adopt ePub as their eBook format. Of course we’re developing the stylesheets as part of the open-source DocBook XSL stylesheets, which gives anyone using an existing distribution an easy migration path.

So Adobe is donating my time to help with this task. Of course I’m not the only one involved, Keith Fahlgren (over at O’Reilly Media) is also contributing. There’s also the help and guidance from the docbook-apps discussion list. And there’s always room for review and feedback.

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Exporting ePubs from InDesign

In the next couple of posts, I hope to give you an idea of what works well with the ePub export, how to get better ePub documents from InDesign, and what sort of documents would work better as a PDF. To that end, I thought I should start with giving you some background on what an ePub is and how the Digital Editions export inside InDesign works to create ePubs.

You may be aware that ePub is really made up of OPS, OPF and OCF, which are standards from the International Digital Publishing Forum ( They build on other standards, including XML and XHTML. This means that the pages you’re seeing in Digital Editions (when you export an ePub from InDesign) are XHTML. They have xml structures around them to aid navigation and presentation, and a package that wraps it all so that the many files are a single item on disk. Still, they are essentially XHTML and CSS, and that means they have certain strengths and weaknesses.

In building the current version of the Digital Editions export into InDesign, we made the decision to focus on book formats that lend themselves easily to automated layout – that is to say, narrative books where readability is important but the view of a double page spread or of a single page isn’t a priority. Still, the XHTML nature and the focus on narrative books means that certain items won’t be preserved when exporting ePubs from InDesign.

There’s no support for putting text on a path in XHTML. When you put text on a path in InDesign that text would need to either be rendered as a graphic, or it looses the path. For CS3 we decided not to export the text as a graphic, so the ePub export preserves the text, but not the path, so that the text is still text in the XHTML. The same is true for text that is set at an angle. If you create a text frame in InDesign, and then rotate it a few degrees one direction or the other, the text will still be exported as XHTML, rather than choosing some other format. This means that the rotation is not exported, just the text. Of course if you have a document that uses these features, they’re preserved perfectly when you export a PDF and open that in Digital Editions.

Updated Export Plug-in for Adobe InDesign CS3

If you’re using InDesign CS3 to create ePub documents then you’ll want to make sure you’re using the 1.0.1 update. The update includes an option to embed the fonts in the document and to use a TOC Style from the InDesign document, but more importantly, the update implements the OPS 2.0 v. 0.984 Draft specification (dated 16 Apr. 2007). The original export plug-in implemented a previous version of the draft, so you’ll want to get the update.

You can find the update in the downloads section of, and it’s available for both Macintosh and Windows.

If you’re already using the update, you’ll see a faint ‘1.0.1’ in the lower right hand corner of the export dialog. You’ll also see the option to embed fonts and a third panel in the dialog. If that ‘1.0.1’ is missing, then you’ve not installed the update.