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Old 06-12-2012, 04:13 PM   #1
BeccaPrice
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Some questions for new users

I'm doing a project for a class, in which I'm creating a web help file for Calibre - yes, I know, Calibre has a wonderfully complete user's manual - this is just for a class project on developing help files. the final result may go in my portfolio, but I doubt it'll ever be seen or used by actual calibre users.

My questions for new users are:

What do you wish you knew about using calibre? What kind of information would be most useful for new users?

Have you customized the user interface, like adding user-created columns? what sorts of changes did you make? what kinds of columns did you add?

Do you ever tweak the actual book display, by doing things like adding space between paragraphs, or changing margins or base font sizes? If not, what kinds of things keep you from doing that? (I'm assuming drm-free books here).

What kinds of problems have you had, or functions that you had to struggle with a bit in order to get to work?

Thanks so much! my english grade appreciates this.

-becca
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Old 06-12-2012, 04:46 PM   #2
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I think one of the most common I've seen is "How do you transfer ebooks to <insert device name here>?" with iTunes/iOS devices seem to be the most often asked about. Whatever the topics you tackle, take lots of screenshots. Heck, video caps would be good, too.
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Old 06-12-2012, 05:42 PM   #3
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Becca
Starting with Custom Columns (or Custom anything) for a New (to the EBook/Computer database ) user is like a Person going off the 20 foot High dive.
My advice is Learn to use the Vanilla version by reading the Manual/FAQ/and reading here at MR, taking note of what you might want to do as you go along.
THEN after a period of use, decide what else (custom columns) you might want in your data.

BTW I do NOT recommend customizing Toolbars until good familiarity has been obtained. How do you get help when the Helper does not know where (or IF) the button is placed.
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Old 06-12-2012, 05:50 PM   #4
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Remember, theducks, this is for a class project. I have no intention of replacing (or even augmenting) the formal manual/faq. I wouldn't call myself a power user, but i've created a read/not read column, and it was fairly easy to do. It's not the intention of this help file to be a complete guide to the interface - I'm just documenting things that I (or other people) may have found useful, or relatively simple things people have had issues with (so yeah, I haunt these forums for ideas, but I've also got a deadline on this user analysis of next monday)

I wouldn't dream of customizing the toolbar, though! and I'm not brave enough to try recipes for news gathering ... yet.
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Old 06-12-2012, 06:28 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by BeccaPrice View Post
Remember, theducks, this is for a class project. I have no intention of replacing (or even augmenting) the formal manual/faq. I wouldn't call myself a power user, but i've created a read/not read column, and it was fairly easy to do. It's not the intention of this help file to be a complete guide to the interface - I'm just documenting things that I (or other people) may have found useful, or relatively simple things people have had issues with (so yeah, I haunt these forums for ideas, but I've also got a deadline on this user analysis of next monday)

I wouldn't dream of customizing the toolbar, though! and I'm not brave enough to try recipes for news gathering ... yet.
You have been around Calibre long enough to not be lost without a clue.
Customizing the toolbarS to only meet your needs is not an issue

Maybe a 'Plan your Library' section.
Exploring the different types of Libraries and the challenges they present when using a 'Generic' Library tool like Calibre (Generic is not used in a derogatory context, but as a General purpose tool) and what the new user might need to accomplish to approach their needs.
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Old 06-12-2012, 07:14 PM   #6
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The stuff I remember struggling with the most when starting:
  • getting calibre to sort alphabetically on screen (the ",the" etc title sort suffixes defaults threw me until I discovered tweaks to stop it)
  • getting authors as LN, FN so my brain didn't explode - spent way too much time on this and several forum queries before chaley sorted me out. Probably the biggest frustration I had (and I see other users continuing to have) - sorts at author and book level being different and making authors not appear next to each other. I'm sure this will get properly improved one day.
  • getting title and author the right way around when adding books leading to discovering it being regex based (and hunting down a regex in the forums to cope with optional series in the title)
  • getting books onto my Kindle with series information / ordering (figuring out metadata plugboards). I even requested someone write a step by step which a kind soul did on a wiki which was invaluable.
  • figuring out where all the random tags were coming from, and stopping them doing that to have a rationalised subset that (mostly) are basic genres
  • wondering why I had weird covers for my books like short stories that were an image of the text (another reason to turn off getting metadata when adding)
  • doing metadata downloads in bulk (before I learned better!) and having titles/authors being replaced with seemingly random capitalisation/titles (no longer have overwrite title/authors enabled, and IIRC Kovid recapitalises since 0.8)
  • wondering why my device only sometimes showed as being connected in calibre (having my smartphone plugged in to charge via USB stops a Kindle being detected)
  • performance issues with a large library. It coincided with chaley & Kovid also doing a lot of performance tuning with feedback to chaley in particular and things dramatically improved. Also led to me choosing to have multiple libraries, and not doing my cleanup work in the large library.
  • why my epub timestamps kept changing even though I wasnt doing anything to them. Eventually discovered it was the ebook viewer with its bookmark files so that got turned off darned quick.
  • dealing with duplicates and merging them - something that has been dramatically improved since I started with automerge & of course my Find Duplicates plugin. I don't think it is the complete solution as yet, but it is way better than it used to be!
  • I personally didn't get confused by it but I must have answered in the forums 50 times at least why buttons disappear from the toolbar when devices get plugged in.

I think my wishlist for new users (which has been discussed elsewhere, but I am repeating for Becca only) would be:
  • Making it easier out of the box to get their books onto a Kindle sorted how they like, without them having to come to the forums and learn what a "metadata plugboard" is.
  • Making it easier to change from FN LN to LN, FN and changing other default sort settings without learning about tweaks, manage authors etc. We don't all think like a librarian
  • That more users would be encouraged to learn about "plugins" and their benefits, rather than the relatively tiny minority that visit MobileRead. I can't imagine using calibre without some of my plugins, or certainly I wouldn't have committed to putting so much effort into my calibre collection I maintain within it without them. I think my Kindle probably shares equal credit for rekindling my interest (excuse the pun) in reading voraciously again.

In terms of the UI changes, my custom columns from memory are a yes/no for whether I have read, a last date read (not visible), a yes/no for whether I have linked a book to Goodreads, a yes/no for whether a book is retail, a yes/no for whether I have sent the book to my parents, a word count and page count column, and a formats column. Standard columns I turn off are Size, Date, Publisher, Modified, Languages. I always have the book details visible, rarely use the cover browser and only use the tag browser if I am looking at a couple of user categories I have setup (fairly rare now too).

In terms of conversion defaults, I set justification to full, turn off all header splitting, and set a css style for paragraph tags to set a top/bottom margin of 0.2em and indent of 1em. Though mostly I end up using Sigil via a keyboard shortcut and the Open With plugin to tune style issues with conversions. If you instead meant customizing the ebook viewer, other than turning off bookmarks I haven't touched it - I only use it to preview a few pages of a book for comparisons of which version to keep, not to actually read books in. I do use Microsoft's LIT reader for LIT files rather than calibre's viewer since it is faster and renders natively.

Obviously I wouldn't have spent thousands of hours writing plugins/calibre contributions and supporting in the forums if I didn't think it was an outstanding program. We have had numerous debates in the forums about the learning curve of calibre, I'm not going to rehash the debate here. Hopefully some of the non-technical users can share on this thread for you - for my parents I set it up for them with explicit instructions/subset of functionality and while they don't have any ambitions or needs outside of those they are pretty much "support free" since then.

Hope that was along the lines of what you asked for?
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Old 06-12-2012, 07:32 PM   #7
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Wonderful, Kiwidude! that's exactly the sort of stuff I needed.

(and btw, how *do* you get rid of the "the" in book titles?)

Which plugins would you recommend for new users? (I've got the reading list one, and Goodreads, B&N and FantasticFiction, to download covers)

Can you send me a link to, or the file for, the wiki for series information? I've got a formula some kid soul gave me that I just entered without really knowing what each element meant, and it does what I want it to, but I don't really understand it.

Last edited by BeccaPrice; 06-12-2012 at 07:33 PM. Reason: close a paren
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Old 06-12-2012, 08:04 PM   #8
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Here's the link to the Wiki page:
http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/Kind...bre_Plugboards

For the ", The" problem go to Preferences -> Tweaks and change both "Control sorting of titles and series in the library display" and "Control formatting of title and series when used in templates" so they both are set to "strictly_alphabetic".

As for plugins - well it depends on what you want to do. As a Kindle owner, meme's Kindle Collections plugin is a must have (except for Fire/Touch owners of course). For metadata the three you have the most useful I would recommend. Search the Internet was my first plugin I wrote and totally can't live without it to quickly google images or lookup authors/series on FF. You mention Reading List, that one I also can't live without to keep track of what is on my Kindle when it is not connected, and most efficiently queue up books to send to it. If you want to edit ePubs in Sigil, then Open With and a keyboard shortcut is the only way to go. Find Duplicates is probably the most popular that I have written - but users who have small libraries or just starting out don't need it. I could go on and on for just about every plugin I wrote - I haven't mentioned Quality Check & Modify ePub, Extract ISBN, Count Pages, Generate Cover and a few others I regularly use like Resize Cover, Walk Search History & View Manager. Also of course as a user of goodreads.com to track my reading in the cloud I can't live without Goodreads Sync either. It really depends on what itch a user has to scratch and how pedantic they want to be about their library.
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Old 06-12-2012, 08:27 PM   #9
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Thanks - I've got a section on tweaks that I'll include the tip about the "the" problem. (I've just applied it to my own installation, and it works a treat!)

(eta: so it takes the word "the" out of consideration when alphabetizing.. what other words does it take out? What other implications does it have?)

Any other cute tweaks like that that I should know about?

Last edited by BeccaPrice; 06-12-2012 at 08:30 PM. Reason: stray thoughts
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Old 06-12-2012, 08:52 PM   #10
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Here are some good initial tasks that many using Calibre would like to be able to do right away:
1. How to find duplicates, especially for a new user merging libraries for the first time.
2. How to edit author and title sort options.
3. How to add covers and books summaries via metadata.
4. The purpose of tags.
5. Connect a device/manage a device library via Calibre.
6. Calibre viewer...and why it won't display every purchased book along with a brief explanation of DRM. **So many eBook readers are still completely unaware of how tied they can be to a specific device and why.**
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Old 06-12-2012, 11:28 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeccaPrice View Post
Thanks - I've got a section on tweaks that I'll include the tip about the "the" problem. (I've just applied it to my own installation, and it works a treat!)

(eta: so it takes the word "the" out of consideration when alphabetizing.. what other words does it take out? What other implications does it have?)

Any other cute tweaks like that that I should know about?
The isn't a problem, It can be Strict or Library order.

Now 'A' is a problem
Calibre (Library order) won't leave 'A is for Apple' alone
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Old 06-12-2012, 11:42 PM   #12
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The isn't a problem, It can be Strict or Library order.

Now 'A' is a problem
Calibre (Library order) won't leave 'A is for Apple' alone
I seem to remember some sort of exceptions list... though that might have been one of the plugins.

Nevermind, ignore this post.

Last edited by AndrewH; 06-13-2012 at 03:58 AM. Reason: I don't know what I'm talking about and have contributed nothing of value to the conversation.
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Old 06-13-2012, 01:06 AM   #13
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I seem to remember some sort of exceptions list... though that might have been one of the plugins.
That does not work

A Nice Place wants to = Nice Place, A

while A is for Alibi does not want a change
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Old 06-13-2012, 07:15 AM   #14
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@Bookatarian - a good list, you reminded me of a few things.

The term "metadata" is fairly prevalent throughout calibre - metadata download, getting metadata from book, inserting metadata as a (jacket) page, metadata plugboards and so on. But as a new user I didn't have the foggiest idea what on earth "metadata" was in the calibre world. Sometimes it means the data in calibre's library, whereas other times it means internal data stored inside book formats that can support it (a concept I did not know about). I certainly didn't know why when I renamed book titles in my library in calibre and then opened the viewer, that it has some "other" title being displayed in the window title bar - and as Booktarian says the cover was different until you did a conversion. Of course once you "know" it becomes a non-issue.

I also rather understated above the challenges I had with getting books into calibre. My existing ebooks to import were a mess (which was why I wanted calibre), being inconsistently named/organised from 10 years of collecting and shovelling into random subfolders. I turned one mess into another mess in calibre - the combination of regexes for adding, pulling metadata (often awful) from inside the book, metadata download overwriting titles sometimes incorrectly and then the duplicates box ignoring books since an alleged "title" matched. Eventually I saw it as an excuse as a software geek to spend several days writing a program to do some pre-processing. It allowed me via keyboard shortcuts to perform lots of common cleanup tasks on the book names as well as query the underlying calibre database to perform some duplicate analysis, putting such duplicates in separate folders etc. So then I had this whole complex and time consuming workflow going on that I did for about a month.

It was in hindsight just a dumb thing to do. Trying to stick so many unorganised and duplicated ebooks from a range of sources into calibre up front is just asking for trouble, and I got it . Eventually I figured out a better strategy and it is that which I continue to use today:
- focusing on the books I am most likely to read one author at a time
- using Windows search via explorer to find them
- picking the best single format if I have duplicates before adding to calibre
- using my Quick Preferences plugin to switch between a couple of regexes using a keyboard shortcut before I drag/drop them in
- updating a yes/no custom column "done" (I forgot to mention it above) once I have grabbed the metadata/cover, converted to ePub, formatted in Sigil and converted to Mobi.
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Old 06-13-2012, 08:27 AM   #15
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@Bookatarian - a good list, you reminded me of a few things.

The term "metadata" is fairly prevalent throughout calibre - metadata download, getting metadata from book, inserting metadata as a (jacket) page, metadata plugboards and so on. But as a new user I didn't have the foggiest idea what on earth "metadata" was in the calibre world. ..<snip>.
Ah, thank you for bringing this up - my next question was going to be for glossary suggestions.

I have "metadata", "DRM", and "tweaks" - any other words I should be sure to define?

(I really can't thank you all enough - this is being such a great help to me!)
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