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Old 05-01-2013, 11:33 PM   #1
ecbritz
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How should learning Sigil be structured?

The greatest favour experienced Sigil users can do for newbies, is to lay out the most sensible sequence of steps to follow when they embark on learning the program.

For instance, should they first study HTML and how to add and edit HTML codes, also study how to create and apply CSS? I.e. should they start at http://www.w3schools.com/html/default.asp and http://www.w3schools.com/css/default.asp ? Or won't they be able to learn the code language at these sites without resorting to Sigil first?

Conversely, should they start with the Sigil tutorials, learning the workings of the Sigil interface first -- ignoring and putting aside all that happens in Code View for the time being -- and only study HTML coding at a later point? At which point?

I found that looking up Sigil concepts and procedures in the User Guide WHILE working through the tutorials, helps a lot. But I don't know what is best and I would like the experts' advice here. Perhaps there is a better way to learn Sigil so that a newbie does not arrive prematurely at the forum with half of his head screwed on.

A lot of frustration would be avoided on all sides if a well-structured, step-by-step, practical learning program could be suggested by experts, who should also point out the available sources, the teaching materials.

Imagine that you have to learn Sigil from scratch. With the hindsight of your experience, where would you begin, what would you tackle next, how would you structure the whole learning process?

Thanks a lot in advance for any contribution to this topic.
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Old 05-02-2013, 01:09 AM   #2
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I think you need to examine your EPUB goal

If you are making a book for (retail) distribution, I believe the CSS route is best as it allows quick, one place, style edits.
Then there is the choice of CSS methodology:
Simple: Style by tag alone. (IMHO never leave a style 'default' or you are at the mercy of the DEVICE. Not all devices give control to the user. I have 6 text sizes. That's it)

h3 {font-size: 18pt } << the down side is ALL H3's are exactly the same
p {margin: 0; text-indent: 1.2em}

or
Full control: using selectors

<p class='nonindent'>

.nonindent{text-indent: 0}

Reverse engineer a few books you like the looks of
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Old 05-02-2013, 01:55 AM   #3
ecbritz
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Before some newbies can have a clear ePub goal, they need to understand what an ePub is. Then they need to learn how to use Sigil. They soon discover that they should also (or perhaps first?) learn how to code and edit HTML's.

They might have a vague idea of possibly creating an eBook for selling on the eBook Market. Or they might just want to create ePubs for personal purposes. But it's only when they know and understand both Sigil and HTML well that they can really set a clear ePub goal.

For my request, I would like to ask you not to overestimate but rather underestimate the beginner, the newbie, the person starting out clueless.

What should his very first step be, to lay a good foundation for what he studies next? And what should he study next? Sigil or HTML? I think much of the problems newbies experience follow from the fact that they don't know where to start and which steps to follow to master Sigil with its important Code View window.

Sigil is easy to learn, using the Book View. But this ease propels the newbie beyond what he can actually achieve, actually learn to do.

How would you start out with a totally clueless but interested newbie as student? And how would you follow up? At what point would you introduce HTML coding?

In other words, what is the best structure for a newbie's learning curve? It would help many if that could be told.
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Old 05-02-2013, 02:34 AM   #4
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Here is what I advice:
1. Head over to the site of Jedisaber and read the introduction about ePUB there. It gives you insight in what an ePUB actually is.
2. Work through the HTML/CSS tutorial from Pablo on this site. I believe in the Workshop or ePUB thread. It should give you basic knowledge, enough to start.

This will not make you an expert, but enough to get started. Read the Sigil manual if you want/need. Dive in and try. Do not make it too complex to start with, start simple. Remember, less is more. The less complex code you use, the better the reading experience on all devices.
If you need to look up stuff, use the W3 pages or read through the ePUB specs at IDPF.
Look at some of the free books here to get you going. Also, stay open minded. You can always learn something new.
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Old 05-02-2013, 03:58 AM   #5
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Thanks, that sounds great.

I already know Sigil quite well but this thread is not really about me -- although I would again travel the whole distance of a "learning route" worked out here.

I have in mind instructions, given to two kinds of learners, advising two sets of consecutive steps to develop ePub/Sigil skills.

One set would be for learners who will only use the most basic Sigil functions, i.e. only the Book View. These instructions should say what can be done and what cannot or should not be done using just the basic editing tools. Reading the Sigil Tutorials and looking up concepts and procedures in the User Guide are really all that is necessary.

The second set would be for learners who want to code HTML and want to be able to go to the limits of ePub. It seems to me than learning HTML, CSS etc should be done first, or done as early as possible, because Sigil is apparently the easy part. It mainly organises, joins up etc what has been prepared for it.

I don't have time now for an example of the "advised consecutive steps" I have in mind. It should be very simple, just a matter of directing the learner on precisely where he should start, and how he should proceed in developing his skills.

Will follow your advice and return here soon to continue this topic.
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Old 05-02-2013, 04:18 AM   #6
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As a fairly recent newbie, I remember the pain and confusion very well. I didn't know then about Pablo's "Quick & Dirty Epub Tutorial" which was just being born (see this thread: http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=130390 ). Now it is a wonderful reference for those starting out.

I wanted to learn about the HTML and CSS first, so I did download some books from the MobileRead library, but because I didn't know what to look for, I made unfortunate choices. The books I looked at had lots of Sigil-created inline code (confusing because the same "class name" was used in different chapters assigning different styles), and were purest gibberish to someone with no html or CSS knowledge. Now that I know what I'm looking at, I would recommend to look at books uploaded by Jellby, SBT, AlexBell, Zelda Pinwheel (these are just off the top of my head, there are many other uploaders doing very nice books), to see code that is concise and often nicely commented to give you an idea of what the styles actually do.

I never did learn how to use Sigil BookView, except for viewing final appearance. I work mostly in CodeView in combination with Notepad++. I think maybe learning in bookview first lets you develop *bad habits* you need to unlearn later as you get more experience.
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Old 05-03-2013, 07:51 AM   #7
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Anyone who starts off with the aim of reproducing a printed page layout as an eBook is doomed to frustration and (at least partial) failure. Step 1 is understanding the nature of an eBook. Its flexibilities and its limitations go hand in hand.
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Old 05-03-2013, 10:39 AM   #8
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The Wombats advice is good.
EPUB uses the 'box model' when constructing a block.

Think 'Shipping container' when constructing a book.

Each Section of the book is a 'Case of x' A typical book will have N cases of Chapters

In most cases, your case of 'Chapter' can look very much like the paper version if it were all strung end to end. That is as fine a breakout as you probably want to go (normally. There may be a case where you force a chart/table to start on a fresh SCREEN so it will all show at once. ).

The rest is artistic layout.
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Old 05-03-2013, 09:19 PM   #9
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My available time has unfortunately been claimed by pressing duties. But I hope to return to this thread as soon as possible.

May I suggest a step-by-step learning curve for the beginner and ask your advice about each step?

I suggest that a beginner should follow three steps:

Step 1
Learn what an ePub is

It's not difficult to understand what an ePub is. But where does a beginner find a concise, clear and simple explanation?

My own suggestion is that the beginner should just read the initial parts of the Sigil tutorials, entering the tutorials through the Help function. An ePub is explained at the beginning of the tutorials.

As part of Step 1, the beginner should then open some ePub with Sigil to see how the .xhtml's and their paired files are laid out in the Book Browser -- ready to be re-edited and recompiled into a new ePub. This new ePub would be a make-over of the ePub he opened. That would explain an ePub to the beginner.

Has anybody got a better suggestion about how Step 1 should proceed?

Step 2.
Learn about the two ways of using Sigil

The two ways are:

(a) Compile and save an ePub after adding a number of .xhtml's to Sigil's Book Browser, applying Sigil's editing tools to unformatted or slightly-formatted text (and/or pictures) imported, inserted or copied into the editing window.

(b) Use Sigil to edit and compile an ePub from .xhtml's, a stylesheet etc. produced beforehand or inside Sigil on the basis of understanding and coding HTML.

In Step 2, the two ways should be explained and the implications of each should be made clear.

What can the user accomplish with (a)? What are the limitations of (a)? What can and should the user NOT try to accomplish with (a)?

What can the user accomplish with (b)? What are the requirements of (b)? (Basically learn to code HTML.)

And so forth.

Step 2 should not try to teach the beginner anything much. It should just explain to him why he needs to make a choice between what he learns next. He should either proceed to learn Sigil's editing tools, following the Sigil tutorials, and forget HTML coding and CSS for the time being. Or he should proceed learning how to code HTML, after acquainting himself with the Sigil interface a bit.

If he chooses to follow the first and easier route, and to avoid HTML coding for the time being, he will soon run into problems which might make him reconsider his choice. Or he might be quite happy with the simple results of the simple way of using Sigil.

Under Step 2, it might also be a good idea to provide information about exploiting epubs produced by word processors and desk publishing programs, adding the necessary warnings.

I'm not aware of a tutorial or document guiding the beginning through Step 2 as I see this step. Do you? What do you recommend regarding Step 2?

Step 3 (a)
Learn the Sigil interface

If the beginner chooses (a) in Step 2, he should proceed reading about and experimenting with the Sigil interface, following the tutorials found under the Help button. Its also a good idea to consult the User Guide (found under the Help button) every time a new concept or procedure is introduced in the tutorials. The beginner will need some information on what he can copy to the editing window, basically unformatted or slightly-formatted text.

Do you have better or other ideas about Step 3 (a)? Any reading you want to recommend to the beginner wanting to do Step 3 (a)?

Step 3 (b)
Learn HTML and CSS before concentrating on learning the Sigil interface


If the beginner chooses (b) in Step 2, he should proceed reading about and experimenting with HTML coding and CSS, after acquainting himself a bit with the Sigil interface, with Code View and so on.

The question is where the beginner should turn at this point. Toxaris has suggested http://www.jedisaber.com/eBooks/Introduction.shtml as a general starting point for learning about ePubs.

MrMikel has mentioned http://www.w3schools.com/html/default.asp and http://www.w3schools.com/css/default.asp .

GrannyGrumpy referred to http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=130390 where Pablo's turorial can be found. He (she?) also mentions other sources.

I think the best would be to suggest one, two, at the most three tutorials or guides to the beginner. Which are the most concise and easy to understand instructions on how to work on HTML and CSS? Which guide(s) are most compatible with learning to use Sigil?

What do you recommend with regards to Step 3 (b)?

Last edited by ecbritz; 05-03-2013 at 09:24 PM.
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Old 05-03-2013, 09:35 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ecbritz View Post
It's not difficult to understand what an ePub is.
A fair proportion of the requests here don't seem to understand - they think it's a page layout system.

Quote:
the beginner should then open some ePub with Sigil to see how the .xhtml's and their paired files are laid out in the Book Browser -- ready to be re-edited and recompiled into a new ePub.
Careful with that word "compiled"! It means something quite specific in the computer world, and Sigil doesn't do it when saving an epub.
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Old 05-03-2013, 09:54 PM   #11
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Just my 2 cents. I think what could work is the following.

From an empty Sigil project add two blank XHTML files and in bookview add some simply formatted text to each, maybe some headers and a few paragraphs. Save this and then view with ADE, calibre and your reader.

Now reopen in Sigil and add a basic CSS file and add formatting for paragraphs and whatever headings have been used. Use Sigil to add this CSS file to both of the XHTML files, save and again view the ePub.

At this point you have shown the break between the book's content (the XHTML files) and the presentation of it (the CSS files).

Now you could show how to use classes, both in the CSS and XHTML files, to allow paragraphs to have different styling.

At this point the very basics of using Sigil and CSS have been covered, and you can now point people to fuller CSS documentation.
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Old 05-03-2013, 10:02 PM   #12
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If you add the text in book view, it will probably bring some inline styling with it. Better to be brave, open code view, click the "p" button and paste some text in directly. Then, when you start experimenting with CSS formatting you're at least starting from clean code.
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Old 05-03-2013, 10:31 PM   #13
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The only styling added in book view are the p, and whichever h tags you have used; no more, no less.

Sure you can then head over to code view but I would have thought that the idea is KISS. Now once one has some of the basics, sure you can head into code view and repeat the same basic steps.
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Old 05-04-2013, 02:26 AM   #14
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I suggested Jedisaber to understand what an ePUB is and how it can be structured. Pablo's guide is a good way to get started with HTML/CSS.
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Old 05-04-2013, 07:39 PM   #15
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I suggest our wiki to find out what ePub is. If something isn't clear we can fix it. Why run off to never never land when the expertise is here.

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