Hybrid workflow how-to: Making automated workflows, part 1

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The first post in this series can be found here:
Hybrid workflow how-to: introduction & editorial steps

As part of the INC subgroup, we have been developing a workflow that allows a flexible production of different kinds of electronic outputs like EPUB, PDF, and book trailers from a sample collection of essays from the recently published Society of the Query Reader.

In part one of this tutorial, we look at using the pandoc tool on the command line to convert a markdown source that has been edited by an editor into HTML and EPUB outputs. In addition, we will add metadata and use pandoc templates and a stylesheet to customize the output.

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Markdown to Indesign with Pandoc (via ICML)

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As part of the hybrid workflow for the Institute of Network Cultures developed by the INC subgroup, I started a collaboration with Italian graphic designer Roberto Arista in order to write and collect scripts that facilitate the process of importing HTML into InDesign.

This set of scripts pre-processes HTML files, preserving such entities like headers, paragraphs, italics, footnotes, tables, images, etc. Some of these steps are summarised here. The scripts do so by converting the HTML files into an InDesign-friendly XML structure and employing its Import XML function.

While such procedure is pretty good at maintaining the underlying structure of the text (Paragraph and Character Styles are almost automatically generated), it still has some imperfections. For instance, an InDesign script called ReFoot was modified to generate footnotes declared with a XML-compatible markup. The problem is that footnotes’ inner styles (italic, bold) are lost. At the same time, yet no solution is provided to keep images or at least their position.

Since May 2014, pandoc, an open-source ”universal document converter”, is able to produce outputs as ICML files. ICML files are generally managed by InCopy, Adobe’s own word processor meant to integrate with Adobe InDesign.

One of the advantage of using pandoc to obtain ICML is the fact that no intermediate format is needed – HTML in our previous procedure. Therefore we can directly use our Markdown source files. Here’s the syntax to convert one document:

pandoc -s -f markdown -t icml -o my.icml my.md
  • -s option, which stands for “standalone”, produces output with an appropriate header and footer;
  • -f option, which stands for “from”, is followed by the source format;
  • -t option, which stands for “to”, is followed by the output format;
  • -o option, which stands for “output”, is followed by the output filename, my.icml in above example;
  • my.md, in the above example, is the source filename.

The generated ICML file is then imported into InDesign with File>Place. In order to test the output, I used this file, derived from the Society of the Query Reader.

Both Paragraph Styles and Character Styles are automatically generated.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 17.02.19

Here’s a tentative list of preserved entities:

  • bold;
  • italic;
  • blockquotes:
  • footnotes;
  • headers;
  • paragraphs;
  • tables;
  • lists.

In addition, a placeholder for each image is created.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 17.29.26

In this sense, pandoc seems to provide a pretty robust conversion system that straightforwardly connects the production and editing of Markdown structured text and the design phase in the Adobe InDesign environment.

Florian Cramer on “The Art of Hybrid Publishing”

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Source: Hybrid Publishing Lab
Julia Rehfeldt —  September 29, 2014 — Leave a comment

Florian Cramer is an applied research professor and director of Creating 010, the research centre affiliated to Willem de Kooning Academy and Piet Zwart Institute at the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. He also works for WORM, a Rotterdam-based venue for DIY avant-garde culture.

Hybrid Publishing Lab: What recent changes do you see within the intersection of DIY culture and hybrid publishing?

Florian Cramer: My colleagues Alessandro Ludovico and Silvio Lorusso would be the better people to ask because they’re much more in touch with contemporary practices and projects in this particular area. What I generally observe is that hardcore DIY publishers go back to print, particularly DIY printmaking including stencil presses, Risographs and silk screening. Experimental hybrid digital/analog publishing seems to be a domain mostly of graphic designers – which no longer means DIY in the narrow sense of the word.

HPL: You developed a toolkit for publishers, can you briefly explain the focus of this project to our readers?

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make book

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Make is a popular free software tool that helps programmers compile their code into programs. Increasingly the tool is finding new uses in publishing workflows to compile prose text into electronic formats like epub and PDF. The INC subgroup has been using make in their hybrid workflow to produce multiple formats of the Society of Query reader. While not a “killer app” with a pretty graphical interface, make represents a distillation of practice that suggests future tools for creating flexible, editable workflows where tweaks and workarounds are the norm.

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From print to what?

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Changing work patterns in electronic publications
in the arts and design sector_by Joost Kircz

The Toolkit project aims to assist smaller publishers in the art and design sector to make their first steps in producing their books and periodical through digital means. This aim turns out to demand a fairly complicated road to final success. First of all, changing over from print on paper to digital media is not the same as, say, changing from an old-fashioned manual typewriter to an electronic typewriter. The change implies a rethinking of the whole production process from author to reader.
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