Installing PubCoder

I’m leaving for the USA in a while for a holiday, so been busy preparing for that.

Why this post about installing PubCoder?

In my last post, I determined the first of 10 heuristics/criteria for choosing a tool that helps you create and publish ebooks. When critiquing an ebook creation tool, I ask:

  1. Does the tool support effortless writing?

I can’t answer that question before installing PubCoder. Also, the installation process is a herald of the kind of interaction design decisions designers made about the rest of the application. So if I struggle to set it up, I’ll likely struggle to get into it.

I’ll be using PubCoder as a tool to create fixed-layout interactive ebooks that can be published on a variety of platforms. I suggest checking out Non-Fiction Fixed Layout eBooks from my mentors, eBook Architects to get a sense of how complicated it can be to make these kinds of books. Which is why ebook designers ask a hefty fee for making them.

Anyway.

Installing PubCoder: A “meh” experience

Here are the screenshots and my thoughts about installing PubCoder as comments. My verdict so far is that PubCoder’s installation process is needlessly complicated, requires an internet connection, and leaves the user without much guidance at first startup.

However! I did play with PubCoder after installing it, and am finding a lot of promising interaction design decisions which, I think, will prove it to be a powerful tool for creating fixed-layout or interactive ebooks. But that’s for another post.

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1. Requiring access through your computer’s safety net, the firewall, makes installation difficult, but isn’t the developer’s fault. Most users should be familiar with this dialog, and know what to do. 

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2. First annoyance, a random crash. Errors are hard to explain to users, and the reassurance that “you will be able to send a crash report” is fine, but still doesn’t help the user feel in control. Why not add an option to send a crash report within that error message?

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3. Requiring users to sign in online all the time is an understandable security precaution, but it’s also an added step. The more steps it takes to install software, the less likely users will be to complete installation (totally anecdotal, not a rule that I know of). 

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4. Do you really need all this information? If company isn’t required, why have that field there at all?

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5. A decent captcha. 

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6. The verification email was pretty easy. Yet another step, though. 

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7. Alright, one month to go! 

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8. Confirmation that you may have to be online at all times. 

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9. All done! Time to look at example ebook projects. 

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Ten rules for evaluating book creation software. 1: Does the tool support effortless writing?

I tell people how they should fix their information products. When I do, I follow some obvious rules, and them some less obvious one. These tips are to enable customers (readers, clients, whatever) to more easily use one’s information product (book, web site, whatever). For example, this farm (where we’re celebrating a family member’s birthday; it’s his big 3.0.!) uses a clunky, slow and inaccessible Flash animation as a banner. That’s one of the biggest no-nos among web developers! But they’re not paying me to tell them that.

How do you decide which of these is the most readable? Go look up “kerning”. 

The tips and tricks that I’ve taught software developers over the years are as just as relevant to people who create publications such as print or digital books. Today, I’m writing specifically for writers.

Writing is complicated, and good writing is hard. When I write, I use dictionaries, thesauruses, search engines and all kinds of tools unrelated to me physically typing or scribbling. Assuming that tools such as these are part of the process of writing, then software should make it natural and effortless to use those tools, too.

Also, we need different tools — mental, physical or digital — for different kinds of writing. Educational consultant Eveline M. Bailey  uses this chart to demonstrate levels of critical writing.  There’s software available for all of this, but is any of it good? We’ll see. 

So how do I decide what software to recommend to writers? My desire to work naturally and effortlessly when writing, is the basis of my list of rules for writing software. My list of ten heuristics will help me evaluate the usability of the software you can use to make books.

So, here’s the first heuristic:

  1. Does the tool support effortless writing*?

More to follow once I actually try out PubCoder. The Windows installer is 168 MB, so we’ll see how this goes on my mobile connection.

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Here I go.

* I chose the term effortless instead of the word natural because that leaves space for innovation in writing, such as speech-to-text technology, which might enable me to write while I’m moving around. Dictation-to-text, really. Such novel, unnatural ways of writing are welcome, but their utility shouldn’t make writing an effort.