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Old 08-10-2013, 07:28 AM   #1
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Calibre Companion 3 beta for Android released

After many weeks of work, the latest release of the Calibre Companion is ready to test. This is a major release, containing many of the features most asked for by users:

- A cover grid view
- combined grouping and book lists on tablets
- easier transition between grouping and viewing lists of books
- More information in the action bar

and many (!) other changes.

As we have changed so much, we think that it is prudent to make this release available to people willing to test it.

Some notes:
- This is a fully licensed version of CC. You must have purchased CC to run it.
- There is no database schema change so it is possible to go back a version, but it isn't particularly easy to do.
- It is possible that there may be "crashing" bugs in this test version. We have run it a lot, but everybody does things a bit differently so we might have missed some corner cases.

If you are willing to test, send me a PM with an email address and I will email you the APK today or tomorrow. You must be able to install manually the APK, something that most file managers do handily.

Please post your comments on this thread. We are particularly interested in crashes, clearly incorrect behavior, and things that are confusing. Of course we will listen to comments on appearance and artwork, but we may not act on these before general release.

The user interface now uses a variant of the "drawer" that Google is using in the new versions of its apps. In particular we are using the drawer that Google is using in their "hangout" app.

In the drawer paradigm, there are two parts to the screen, the part normally visible and the part that is shown when you "open" the drawer. The grouping functions are inside the drawer, seen when it is open. If there is sufficient screen space then the drawer is always open. If there is not sufficient space then you slide the drawer open when you need it, and shut it when you don't.

The screen shots below will (I hope) make this drawer notion clearer:

First, these 5 images are from a Galaxy Nexus:
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The following 5 images are from a Nexus 7. You can see that in landscape the drawer is always open, while in portrait the book data is partially visible when the drawer is opened:
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And these last 4 are from a Galaxy Tab 10.1:
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Last edited by Alexander Turcic; 08-12-2013 at 01:08 PM. Reason: moved to frontpage
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Old 08-10-2013, 08:02 PM   #2
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Charles, the new interface with the shelves looks terrific. I love the option to change the sizes of the cover thumbnails in the list, shelf and details views.

Everything seems to work as intended except I can't update wirelessly using the Wireless Device option. It will make the connection with Calibre, it will send metadata to Calibre, but then a message appears which says "Waiting for Calibre." At that point, the little wheel in the lower right corner of Calibre stops spinning and the job is stuck. Calibre's interface also freezes. I have to shut it down through the Windows task manager.

If I let it keep trying to finish, the message in CC eventually just closes. I guess the process times out.

Connecting via the Content Server works fine. In CC's settings I have changed the size of the book cover thumbnails for the details page to Large. New books downloaded via the Content Server show the cover in Large. But all the previous books in my library are stuck on the default size from the previous version of CC. I guess that's because they are only updated by connecting as a Wireless Device and that process won't complete for me.

I never had an issue connecting as a Wireless Device with the previous version of CC. I am using a Nook HD with ICS. On my PC is Windows XP SP-3. And I have the latest version of Calibre installed (0.9.43).

Since I have your attention, here is my short wishlist for CC ...

1) The ability to hide custom data from the book's detail page.


2) An optional shelf color scheme in medium or dark gray (not black which is too stark).

Hopefully this can be implemented in this or a future version.

All in all, great job by you and CC's other developers!

--Pat
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Old 08-11-2013, 02:24 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by PatNY View Post
Everything seems to work as intended except I can't update wirelessly using the Wireless Device option. It will make the connection with Calibre, it will send metadata to Calibre, but then a message appears which says "Waiting for Calibre." At that point, the little wheel in the lower right corner of Calibre stops spinning and the job is stuck. Calibre's interface also freezes. I have to shut it down through the Windows task manager.

Connecting via the Content Server works fine. In CC's settings I have changed the size of the book cover thumbnails for the details page to Large. New books downloaded via the Content Server show the cover in Large. But all the previous books in my library are stuck on the default size from the previous version of CC. I guess that's because they are only updated by connecting as a Wireless Device and that process won't complete for me.
Well, this is unexpected. And of course it works perfectly for me.

It might be a problem with changing the cover size. Some questions:
- What version of calibre are you running?
- Are you running the "old db" or the "new db"?
- Did you change the cover size after the upgrade?
- Does it work if you change back to using small covers in book details?

In any event, it would be nice to get a calibre debug log. I hope you can actually get one given that you must kill calibre. Instructions are here.
Quote:
Since I have your attention, here is my short wishlist for CC ...

1) The ability to hide custom data from the book's detail page.

2) An optional shelf color scheme in medium or dark gray (not black which is too stark).

Hopefully this can be implemented in this or a future version.
Do you mean a flat grey color, not a patterned grey as in an aged grey wood?

Thanks for your help!
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Old 08-11-2013, 09:31 AM   #4
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Good news, Charles ... all is working fine.

I put Calibre in debug mode, and since I was running it for a log, I waited it out this time. The sync did complete. I guess I was just too impatient when first testing.

But it did take almost 9 minutes to finish just the "Waiting for Calibre" stage, during which time Calibre's interface is locked up -- when clicking on the jobs area in the lower right corner, the jobs window does not pop up; the wheel is stuck and not spinning; and the cursor is also stuck on the hourglass. That's why I thought it wasn't working. If the little wheel in Calibre were at least spinning during that time, I would have known the process was progressing normally.

Subsequent connections as a Wireless Device progress as usual (relatively quickly). It's just when you change the cover size that it takes a long time. That is the first thing I did when I installed the beta; I changed the cover size for the book details page to Large.
Quote:
Do you mean a flat grey color, not a patterned grey as in an aged grey wood?
Patterned gray or aged gray wood are fine. Both would look great. It is more the overall color that matters to me.

Regardless of the color, the new shelf design looks fantastic. That will be my default view.

--Pat
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Old 08-11-2013, 10:01 AM   #5
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Good news, Charles ... all is working fine.

I put Calibre in debug mode, and since I was running it for a log, I waited it out this time. The sync did complete. I guess I was just too impatient when first testing.

But it did take almost 9 minutes to finish just the "Waiting for Calibre" stage, during which time Calibre's interface is locked up -- when clicking on the jobs area in the lower right corner, the jobs window does not pop up; the wheel is stuck and not spinning; and the cursor is also stuck on the hourglass. That's why I thought it wasn't working. If the little wheel in Calibre were at least spinning during that time, I would have known the process was progressing normally.
I thought that this might be the case.

What is happening during that time is calibre is recomputing the cover at the requested size. IIRC you have around 1,000 books on your device, so that is around 2 covers/second. That seems slow. I would have expected around 4 covers/second. Perhaps I have the number of books wrong?

In any event, calibre must do that recomputation sometime, so the time must be spent. I am looking at whether I can move it to the device driver so the UI doesn't lock, but that possibly opens another can of worms related to the user deleting and renaming books while the sync is happening. I can see scenarios where the rename might fail if the cover is being computed at the same time the user changes a title or an author.

A second thought I had was to just send the original cover file to CC and avoid the compute, but doing that would a) explode the size of a book in the DB, and b) cost much more in network time. Neither of these are good things.

A third thought was to do (for example) 100 books per connect so that the time is spread out, but then people would need to understand this process. I am sure (!) that we would get no end of bug reports saying that only half the covers were updated.

A fourth thought is to always transfer the large cover even if the user asks to see small ones. This would eliminate cover retransfers at the cost of some space on the device to store the larger thumbs. This is the only option discussed so far that would require a CC change.

Quote:
Subsequent connections as a Wireless Device progress as usual (relatively quickly). It's just when you change the cover size that it takes a long time. That is the first thing I did when I installed the beta; I changed the cover size for the book details page to Large.
Good. That is how it is supposed to behave.
Quote:
Patterned gray or aged gray wood are fine. Both would look great. It is more the overall color that matters to me.

Regardless of the color, the new shelf design looks fantastic. That will be my default view.
OK, so offering a set of "papers" of differing colors would work. What about the shelves? In your mind, would you still see shelves with the books sitting inside the shelf space, or would the books be sitting against the textured background but not "on" a shelf?
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Old 08-11-2013, 10:35 AM   #6
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Charles, I currently have 773 books on my Nook. I think the slowup might be with the PC I am connecting to? It's just a netbook with a slow processor and just 2gb ram.

The fourth solution you mention sounds like the best to me.

Here is another idea -- Maybe putting a warning in the settings screen would suffice. Simply tell the user that changing the cover size could make the syncing take up to 10 minutes or more, depending on the number of books and specs of the computer on which Calibre is being run? That would have done it for me. I was just a little impatient.

Quote:
What about the shelves? In your mind, would you still see shelves with the books sitting inside the shelf space, or would the books be sitting against the textured background but not "on" a shelf?
Both options work for me. I really don't have a strong preference for that either way. I may have a slight preference for the shelf simulation, because then it's more like a real library. But either works.

One thing to consider is perhaps decrease the space just a little between books so as to fit 1 more across? I currently have the thumbnails for the shelf view set to medium. The shelf shows 3 books across, but it seems like there is room for a fourth if you just decrease the spacing between books and between books and the shelf edge a little. OTOH, I'm sure you've already played around with a lot of configurations and perhaps 4 across with medium thumbnails looks too crowded. In which case the current spacing would be preferable. Just wondering.

--Pat
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Old 08-11-2013, 12:22 PM   #7
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Charles, I currently have 773 books on my Nook. I think the slowup might be with the PC I am connecting to? It's just a netbook with a slow processor and just 2gb ram.
That will make a difference, given that image conversion is CPU intensive.
Quote:
The fourth solution you mention sounds like the best to me.
Me too.
Quote:
Here is another idea -- Maybe putting a warning in the settings screen would suffice. Simply tell the user that changing the cover size could make the syncing take up to 10 minutes or more, depending on the number of books and specs of the computer on which Calibre is being run? That would have done it for me. I was just a little impatient.
Adding something like that to the text that pops up when you change the cover size is a good idea. Can't be too detailed because then people won't read it.
Quote:
One thing to consider is perhaps decrease the space just a little between books so as to fit 1 more across? I currently have the thumbnails for the shelf view set to medium. The shelf shows 3 books across, but it seems like there is room for a fourth if you just decrease the spacing between books and between books and the shelf edge a little. OTOH, I'm sure you've already played around with a lot of configurations and perhaps 4 across with medium thumbnails looks too crowded. In which case the current spacing would be preferable. Just wondering.
The biggest problem we face is that covers can be square or even landscape. Covers must be equally spaced across the shelf, which means that we must allow for the possibility that a cover is square. Unfortunately, the result is that they look overly spaced because covers are almost always portrait.

We have considered allowing display of square covers, ignoring aspect ratio. Personally I hate that, but it seems that some people prefer to deform the cover so that it is as big as possible. If we do this, it would certainly be an option, and it probably won't be in this release.
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Old 08-11-2013, 01:24 PM   #8
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I think another reason the process was slow for me is because most of my book covers are between 200-300 KB each. I think most people have their book covers under 100 KB each. Mine are large because I try to use high res covers up to 2100 pixels on the long side and I don't like to compress covers too much. Probably 95% of people are not as picky about covers as I am (some don't even bother with any covers!), so they might not run into the processing slowdown that occurred for me.

Quote:
The biggest problem we face is that covers can be square or even landscape. Covers must be equally spaced across the shelf ... We have considered allowing display of square covers, ignoring aspect ratio. Personally I hate that, but it seems that some people prefer to deform the cover so that it is as big as possible.
I didn't think of that. I have a few books with square covers on my Nook. I took a look at them in the shelf view and you are right. They take up some of that space that the portrait covers don't. And I also prefer not to distort covers. So I think the configuration you have now is the best one.

Looking forward to the first official version 3 release.

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Old 08-11-2013, 01:42 PM   #9
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A Question:
is it possible to make an option where CC stores its data.
(External / Internal SD)

Thank you for this great app.
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Old 08-11-2013, 03:04 PM   #10
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A Question:
is it possible to make an option where CC stores its data.
(External / Internal SD)

Thank you for this great app.
There is a CC configuration screen that allows you to specify location.

IIRC there is no 'Move to new location'
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Old 08-11-2013, 03:51 PM   #11
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A Question:
is it possible to make an option where CC stores its data.
(External / Internal SD)

Thank you for this great app.
If by "data" you mean books, then the option is already there. See the FAQ answer How do I change the folder(s) on my device where the books are stored? Using removable SD cards is discussed at the end of the answer.

If you mean the database, then no, there isn't an option for that. We are considering adding a backup and restore, but we haven't yet considered moving the database completely into user-visible storage because we don't want to deal with the problems that come when someone deletes or changes it.

And you are very welcome. We are glad you find it useful.
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There is a CC configuration screen that allows you to specify location.

IIRC there is no 'Move to new location'
If you use CC's folder settings preferences to change the folder for a format then all the books of that format that CC knows about are automatically moved to the new folder. If you change the default then all books not in specific folders are moved.
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Old 08-11-2013, 06:00 PM   #12
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And you are very welcome. We are glad you find it useful.If you use CC's folder settings preferences to change the folder for a format then all the books of that format that CC knows about are automatically moved to the new folder. If you change the default then all books not in specific folders are moved.
TNX, I could not remember. That is something that usually only happen once
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Old 08-11-2013, 07:05 PM   #13
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Thank you for the Info.
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Old 08-11-2013, 10:59 PM   #14
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@chaley,

I'm sorry but I couldn't make anything go wrong on my Samsung Galaxy Note with android 4.0.4 Everything was very speedy, however, I only have 70-ish books on there.

Connecting as Wireless Device I was able to send-to-device without problem. Also I transferred some books to the Note's book directory via Dropbox instead. CC then correctly found, identified and added these books at the next connect.

I downloaded a couple of books via the Content Server with no problem. This is not something I would normally use, but it was very intuitive. I noticed the books don't use the same save template filename as send-to-device but perhaps that is nothing to do with CC.

I love the new Grouping drawer! Because I have relatively few books, I especially like that I can choose whether to use First-letter grouping or not. What would be really nice is if there was a toggle (like the Cover/List button) in the top bar to quickly switch this on/off rather than in Settings. This is mainly because, when viewing by Author I like F-L grouping, but as I have very few Tags, the whole list fits on one screen so I don't need F-L groups.

I was able to add a Custom column as a new grouping item. This was the only thing which was not speedy but, as a warning to that effect popped up, I wasn't left wondering if something had gone wrong.

Thank you for adding the Cover view. I like that it's only a one-click switch between List and Cover. I tried all 4 cover sizes. It seemed pretty fast to create the various sized thumbnails for me, but with only 70 books that's perhaps what you'd expect.

There's always a 'but', though. My first reaction to the Cover View was "Too much wood, not enough books". I really wanted to close those horizontal gaps I've attached examples of the 4 different sizes with my library. The gaps seem particularly noticable with the 'small' and 'large' sizes. I did read your earlier reply about the difficulties but thought I would include my initial thoughts as Joe Public.

On the 'keep aspect ratio' question... when choosing covers for calibre I just add the highest resolution image I can find (whatever it's aspect) and add them as epub SVG covers. I hate white 'sidebars' more than I hate not maintaining aspect ratio so I get distortion on the 4:3 ereaders but much less on the 10:16 Galaxy Note.

Finally, nice-to-haves for your future consideration:
  • I agree with PatNY that a dark background option would be a nice alternative to the current light wood. Personally, I don't care whether it's wood-effect or not. A plain black background would do for me.
  • The Mantano reading app has an option to create shortcuts to individual books on the Home screen. This is very handy as it gives one-click access to your current book(s).
  • First-Letter grouping toggle, as mentioned above.

I think this new version is a real step forward and I think I'm now at the stage where I'll use CC for all my library requirements and use the various reading apps only for the actual reading. Thank you for all your efforts
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Old 08-12-2013, 01:00 AM   #15
DoctorOhh
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The following is only fodder for future updates.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chaley View Post
We have considered allowing display of square covers, ignoring aspect ratio. Personally I hate that, but it seems that some people prefer to deform the cover so that it is as big as possible. If we do this, it would certainly be an option, and it probably won't be in this release.
Three things come to mind.

1. Allow an option to ignore aspect ratio.
2. Allow the option to Limit the width of the covers and keep the aspect ratio. This would mean Square and landscape covers will be shorter than their neighbors.
  • The first 2 options should allow, as a possible example, for large covers to have a 3 by 3 grid of covers (would be nice if it expanded to eliminate a partial 4th row).
3. Default, leave it as is.

I still would like to see on the main list view either the option of changing the font and background colors or an alternate selection of a dark grey background with white fonts, similar to your menu bar.
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