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On June 18 of this year, Adobe announced the latest version for Adobe InDesign CC(2014). Among the many improvements to the app, my top pick is the support for Fixed Layout EPUB. We have been able to export to EPUB format since I can’t remember when, but this is a dynamic format that allows document reflow. All the user has to do is change the size of the font and your carefully crafted pages might fall apart, miserably.
With previous versions of InDesign CC, support for styling options made it possible to fake fixed layout pages. Depending on the difficulty of the document, this process is not for the faint of heart and may include cracking open the EPUB package to modify the code created by the EPUB export.
Optiomally, you can use a standing fixed layout EPUB template to create a fixed format EPUB document. Again you will most likely end up fiddling with the HTML5 and CSS3 to get the results you want.
If you are currently expecting support from EPUB readers other than iBooks, the last two options above may continue to be your workflow of necessity until there is more reader support for EPUB 3. However, with the improvements in InDesign CC 2014, these methods are sure to become a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future.
When you export a document using the new Fixed Layout EPUB option you are sure to be pleasantly surprised. Your pages come out looking just the way you designed them (mostly). The one caveat is that fixed format EPUB can only be read by readers that support EPUB 3. The best reader currently, in my opinion, is iBooks on the Macintosh and iPad.
The beauty of InDesign’s fixed format EPUB is that there is very little you need to do outside of your normal page creation workflow to prepare a document for export. If your page is set up for print with a letter size vertical format, it displays in iBooks just fine but reduced in size. If you set up your document for facing pages you have the option of exporting as single pages (Disable Spreads) or as as created (Based on Document Setup). There are two additional options for export (Convert Spread to Landscape Page and Enable Synthetic Spreads) which can also override your original document setup.
With Fixed Layout EPUB the user cannot change the font size. Multiple columns, design elements such as graphic lines and polygons, text wrapping, and more, are retained just as designed. If you have ever spent hours trying to get a reflowable EPUB to act like fixed format, you know why I am excited about this new capability. No more anchoring graphics inside of text to have the text reflow on the printed page. No need to assign page elements to the Articles panel.
You don’t even need to set up paragraph and object styles, but I still rely on styling for all of the advantages that using styles gives. And, besides, I may decide later to export to HTML.
On the negative side, you are limited to using True Type or Open Type fonts. And, of course, if you are going public you need to be sure that you can legally embed the font. If you use fonts exclusively from Typekit you can leave these worries behind.
While on the subject of Typekit, taking advantage of these fonts is now easier than ever. Typekit fonts can now be accessed directly from the InDesign font menu. Choose Find Font from Adobe’s Type menu to double check for missing fonts. If a missing font is discovered, InDesign can now identify the font in the Typekit library and sync it with a single click. No more missing fonts!
If you can install iBooks on your computer, I suggest that you do so. There may be other readers that work as well as iBooks but so far I haven’t found one. As part of the export process you will be asked to point your computer to an application for viewing your document, so you will want to have it on hand. Adobe Digital Editions 2.0 is the default for the system but, depending on your document, you may not be satisfied with how it displays your export.
Once your document is complete you choose Export… from InDesign’s File menu and select EPUB (FixedLayout) for the Format. Give the document a name and determine where it will be saved if needed. Once you click Save, you walk through a few panels for setting up the Fixed Layout Export Options. Although this can be a little intimidating at first, it’s really not much different than exporting to flowable EPUB or HTML. Be sure to fill in all of the information in the Metadata panel. Optionally, you can use the File Information panel in InDesign (File > File Info…) to add the metadata to your document. This panel is extensive and supports virtually every bit of metadata that you may ever want to add to a document. The pertinent information from this dialog automatically makes its way into the Metadata panel for the export, but you will still need to type in the publication date.
Still not convinced? The images below are from two sample documents that I created just for demonstration. The layout for Examples 2 and 3 was recreated from a demonstration document provided by Adobe. I hope I have made enough changes to the document that they will not be unhappy with me for sharing.
The original document for this example was set up as facing pages having portrait orientation. Notice how the two-page spread on the left came together without a seam. Also, text is superimposed over images and the right hand example even uses a semi-transparent text background.
For this example, the original document was set up as facing pages and exported as created (Based on Document Setup). The horizontal rules following the Section heads are actually paragraph rules. This allowed the entire text for each section to be flowed as a single story. These spreads threw just about every layout curve possible, but the Fixed Format EPUB export handled it without a glitch.
For this example the export option for the document above was set to Ignore Spreads. Now the EPUB displays in iBooks as single pages in vertical orientation.
If you remember a previous blog (November, 2013 ) where I mentioned that support for regions and shapes would soon be supported, well, here it is: Shapes fully supported in Fixed Format EPUB export from InDesign CC and viewed in iBooks.
The ease in which fixed layout EPUB documents can now be handled in InDesign CC (2014), definitely opens the door for creating high design EPUB publications.