Personal Book Builder: Initial Observations and Issues

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David L Adams | Forum Activity | Posted: Wed, Jun 1 2011 6:20 AM | Locked

As a seminary professor, I am quite pleased to see the first release of the new Personal Book Builder (PBB) tool in L4B6. For a 'first go', I thought it worked pretty well, and I am very excited about the future possibility of being able to distribute course materials to students in this format (and to some day being able to create resources for my classes that take advantage of Logos's abilities). Here are few initial observations and notes on the process.

What Worked

Most of the basics.

Most of the formatting was preserved.

Links to biblical passages were properly handled.

I was especially pleased with the way that PBB used the heading paragraphs in the document to build a table of contents in the side panel.

Given the very poor support in the Mac version MS Word for Hebrew (no right-to-left text entry and poor implementation of Unicode text layout features), I was pleased to see that the character layout of the Hebrew in the generated documents was actually better than the Word source document (but see below).

What Did Not Work

Some paragraphs that had spacing before and after the paragraph specified lost that spacing in the conversion process. This was inconsistent, as some paragraphs preserved the specified spacing. Most did not.

Embedded graphics in the original document were lost.

Footnotes in the original were lost.

Paragraphs of Hebrew that were formatted as right-justified text in the original document became left-justified text (the Hebrew itself was OK, but the paragraph justification was lost).

Miscellaneous Thoughts

This is a great first step.

It would be great to be able to add links to other resources in Logos. Will this be possible down the road?

My biggest issue is the requirement that a source document be in the .DOCX format. I do not use MS Word. I used it for more than 20 years (and generally like it), but when I changed over from ASCII-based Hebrew to Unicode Hebrew, the lack of full Unicode support in the Mac version of Word rendered it unusable for me. So I use either Mellel or (mostly) Nisus Writer Pro, both of which do provide full Unicode support. However, this requires me first to covert the documents to Word (.DOC) and then to open them in Word (which I do have) and re-save them in .DOCX format. I don't know why Logos should force its users to use one particular word processor and its proprietary file format. It seems that an open format such as RTF (or even PDF) would be a better choice for source documents. At the very least I hope that down the road PBB would be able to covert files from more than one type of source document.

Thanks again for this first step. I look forward to continuing improvement in future betas.

– DLA

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Jack Caviness | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jun 1 2011 7:21 AM | Locked

David Adams:
Most of the formatting was preserved.

Documents created with MS Word's Outlining feature loses its outline formatting.

David Adams:
Given the very poor support in the Mac version MS Word for Hebrew (no right-to-left text entry and poor implementation of Unicode text layout features), I was pleased to see that the character layout of the Hebrew in the generated documents was actually better than the Word source document (but see below

Good to know that there is a way to import Hebrew text, even if is is so convoluted.

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Jack Caviness | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 2 2011 3:32 AM | Locked

I tried some experiments with Mellel and text from Exodus 15:2–5 (See screenshot). Pasted the Hebrew text into Mellel as well as the BDB entry on Pharaoh. Exported in Word (doc) format. Opened in Word, right aligned the Biblical text (even though the words were out of order). Saved the document as a docx file and imported into Personal Books.

The Biblical text rendered correctly, but the BDB entry did not. The Heading field is correct, but the imbedded  Hebrew in the definition is reversed.

Posts 82
David L Adams | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 2 2011 6:12 AM | Locked

Interesting. When I did my files (originated in Nisus Writer Pro, but that should not matter) I opened them in Word but did not modify them there (only saved them as .docx). Did you happen to notice whether the reversed Hebrew from BDB was correct in Word (I am assuming that it was correct in Mellel, but this is worth confirming as well). I have noticed in the past that Unicode Hebrew pasted into Word sometimes gets reversed, but not all the time. I have never been able to figure out why this happens intermittently, presumably it is something to do with the way that the text is encoded in the source file.

Also, I am curious about this: when I did my files the Hebrew font that displayed in the PBB files was SBL Hebrew, my default in Logos, and what I used in the original source files as well (see graphic below with comments on Dt. 8.2, from the PBB file — in the source file the line of Hebrew was right-justified, and vertical spacing between paragraphs was lost in the process). The font designation carried through the whole process of conversion:

I see that what showed up in your PBB files is not SBL Hebrew but some default Unicode font that supports Hebrew (Arial?). Do you remember what the Hebrew font setting in your L4 is, and whether you used the same font in Mellel? I am curious to know whether the loss of the font specification is something that was introduced by PBB, or whether it came about elsewhere in the process. I doubt this is connected to the problem of the reversal of the characters, but it is still worth finding out how this came about.

One thing does seem clear: the more steps required to get a file into the .docx format that PBB requires, the more likely that it is that these kinds of formatting issues will occur. Since there is about 0% chance that MS will fix the problem with Word in the near future, it can only be hoped that Logos will implement import of files in other file formats to make this feature (PBB) more usable. I know that those of us who do a lot of Hebrew are in the minority of Logos customers, but it is still 2/3 of the Bible, and Bible study software ought to do it well. Logos itself does Hebrew very well, but some of these issues on the periphery still need to be addressed. In a sense it is not a Logos problem (i.e. a problem caused by Logos's software itself), but it is a problem that Logos users have to deal with, and that should encourage Logos to take every reasonable step to make life better for its users. Increasing the number of input file formats supported by PBB to include at least RTF and/or PDF is certainly one of those reasonable steps.

I have to spend today grading student papers, so I will not have time to experiment with PBB more until tomorrow (or the weekend, depending on how the grading goes). I am anxious to work on this, however, so that I can figure out how to use it to the benefit of my students.

– DLA

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Jack Caviness | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 2 2011 8:52 AM | Locked

David Adams:
Did you happen to notice whether the reversed Hebrew from BDB was correct in Word (I am assuming that it was correct in Mellel, but this is worth confirming as well). I

It was correct in Mellel, but I did not check in Word. The file did not remain on my machine long enough for Time Machine to back up Sad I will give it another try later today or tomorrow.

David Adams:
see that what showed up in your PBB files is not SBL Hebrew but some default Unicode font that supports Hebrew (Arial?). Do you remember what the Hebrew font setting in your L4 is, and whether you used the same font in Mellel?

The default Hebrew font in L4 is SBL Hebrew, as it is in Mellel. However, MS Word does not believe that font in installed in my system. That probably explains the substitution. 

David Adams:
Since there is about 0% chance that MS will fix the problem with Word in the near future,

Probably never. I sent a message to the Mellel developer asking if they had any plans for docx support, but have never heard back. Perhaps I can make another attempt.

 I have a young Aussie friend who is returning to Oz this afternoon and I must take him to Charlotte Airport, a trip of about 100 miles. I will work of this some more later.

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Tonya J Ross | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 2 2011 4:09 PM | Locked

We are looking into formatting/font issues.  Support for images, footnotes, endnotes, etc. will be addressed in a future update.

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Jack Caviness | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 2 2011 4:19 PM | Locked

Tonya J Ross:
We are looking into formatting/font issues.

How can we help? That post count continues to count—up by 10 in the last 3 hours. Geeked

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Tonya J Ross | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 2 2011 5:10 PM | Locked

Jack Caviness:
How can we help?

At this point, I'd say the most help needed will be after much of the things we're working on for Personal Books now are implemented in the next couple of Beta updates.  There's still so much to come that it will be easier to nail down issues because there will be more things that 'should' work at that point.

Jack Caviness:
That post count continues to count—up by 10 in the last 3 hours. Geeked

Stick out tongue haha  Slowing down a bit now that Melissa is back. 

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Jack Caviness | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 3 2011 2:29 AM | Locked

Jack Caviness:

David Adams:
Did you happen to notice whether the reversed Hebrew from BDB was correct in Word (I am assuming that it was correct in Mellel, but this is worth confirming as well). I

It was correct in Mellel, but I did not check in Word. The file did not remain on my machine long enough for Time Machine to back up Sad I will give it another try later today or tomorrow.

Tried another block of text that was primarily English with some Hebrew embedded. Everything rendered correctly in Mellel. Word scrambled the letters, and lost the font. the paragraph then imported into PBB with the Hebrew letters rearranged.

Which version of MS Word did you use? Mine is 2008.

Jack Caviness:

David Adams:
see that what showed up in your PBB files is not SBL Hebrew but some default Unicode font that supports Hebrew (Arial?). Do you remember what the Hebrew font setting in your L4 is, and whether you used the same font in Mellel?

The default Hebrew font in L4 is SBL Hebrew, as it is in Mellel. However, MS Word does not believe that font in installed in my system. That probably explains the substitution. 

According to the SBL website, SBL Hebrew is too complex for MS Word.

 

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 3 2011 4:35 AM | Locked

Jack,

Have you tried NeoOffice? Some of the OT Scholars I know with Macs reckon it's better than OpenOffice and LibreOffice for Hebrew. It's supposed to be able to right write docx files.

Mark

edited to correct spelling howler

Posts 82
David L Adams | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 3 2011 7:23 AM | Locked

Jack:

I'm back, but still grading papers through most of the upcoming weekend.

Jack Caviness:

Tried another block of text that was primarily English with some Hebrew embedded. Everything rendered correctly in Mellel. Word scrambled the letters, and lost the font. the paragraph then imported into PBB with the Hebrew letters rearranged.

Which version of MS Word did you use? Mine is 2008.

That makes sense with Word 2008. I have Word 2011. It is significantly better at preserving pasted-in Hebrew text, though the alignment of vowel points and accents in relation to consonants is frequently messed up. Nevertheless, it is a small incremental step forward. Arabic and Thai have the same sorts of compositional problems in Word, even though they are left-to-right languages.

Jack Caviness:

According to the SBL website, SBL Hebrew is too complex for MS Word.

I had not seen that note, but I can confirm it. That is consistent with the spacing issues that I have seen, as I mentioned above. For the moment, those stuck with Word (2011) can just get by if they work with unpointed Hebrew only. It will generally preserve the correct order of the consonants, and without the vowels and accents there are no alignment issues. I imagine that one might encounter problems where the Hebrew needs to word-wrap, but I have not experimented with Word enough to confirm that. I generally recommend to my students using Macs (about 30-40%) to get either Mellel or Nisus Pro. With educational discounts either is cheap enough for students to be able to get it.

I was glad to see the note from Logos that they are aware of, and planning to deal with, the kinds of problems that we have noted so far (footnotes, graphics, formatting, fonts). I expected that they would do so ... in time. I am encouraged enough about PBB even at this stage that I am writing a memo to faculty colleagues mentioning to them that this facility is coming 'down the road' and encouraging them to think about the possibilities that it will create for us.

The one thing that I am hoping to hear is that there is, or soon will be, a way to share items that we build with PBB. As I understand it, that was possible with previous versions. It would be interesting to look and see where the files are kept, copy one, give it to another L4 user (with a different ID), have them put it in a corresponding place in their directory tree, and see if they can open it. ... Maybe I will give that a try next week, when I am finished with grading papers, a thankless task to which I must now return.

Thanks for the update on your PBB experiments.

– DLA

 

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Jack Caviness | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 3 2011 7:47 AM | Locked

David Adams:
It would be interesting to look and see where the files are kept, copy one, give it to another L4 user (with a different ID), have them put it in a corresponding place in their directory tree, and see if they can open it. ... Maybe I will give that a try next week, when I am finished with grading papers, a thankless task to which I must now return.

I believe someone has already tried that without success. However, Bob Pritchett has spoken several times about sharing, so I believe it is coming.

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Jack Caviness | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 3 2011 7:49 AM | Locked

Mark Barnes:
Have you tried NeoOffice? Some of the OT Scholars I know with Macs reckon it's better than OpenOffice and LibreOffice for Hebrew. It's supposed to be able to right docx files.

I have not tried it in several years and then not in the context of Hebrew text. I will take another look.

Mark Barnes:
able to right docx files.

I'm for anything that can right docx Big Smile

Thanks for the recommendation.

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Jack Caviness | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 3 2011 8:43 AM | Locked

Mark Barnes:
Have you tried NeoOffice?

Now I can say, "Yes, I have". For Hebrew it is far better than MS Word. I found that the Cardo font rendered Hebrew vowel points better than SBL Hebrew of Ezra SIL. 

However, the PBB results puzzled me.

Exodus 15 in L4 Mac

Same text in NeoOffice with Cardo font

Now, Exodus 15 in Mac PBB. What font is that? I tried SBL Hebrew and Ezra SIL in Program Settings without any effect

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 3 2011 8:57 AM | Locked

Jack Caviness:
However, the PBB results puzzled me.

The Windows compiler currently chooses a very basic Hebrew font when rendering - I think Arial Unicode. It's now on the list of known issues. I guess that means you have parity, at least Wink.

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Jack Caviness | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 3 2011 10:03 AM | Locked

Mark Barnes:
The Windows compiler currently chooses a very basic Hebrew font when rendering - I think Arial Unicode. It's now on the list of known issues. I guess that means you have parity, at least Wink.

And I thought parity would be good. Hmm

So far, I am pleased with what I see. Eagerly anticipating elimination of known issues.

Posts 82
David L Adams | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jun 6 2011 6:26 AM | Locked

Jack Caviness:

Same text in NeoOffice with Cardo font

That is actually pretty good. Spacing of consonants is adequate (though a little 'gappy' with some glyph combinations), and the composition of diacriticals and vowels with single marks (consonants only) is generally good. There is a problem with the qamets combined with final kaph (2x in the last line). There are some difficulties with the composition of composite marks (vowels combined with accents), but it is not so bad as to be unusable. On the whole I would be pretty satisfied with that for non-publishing purposes. I will have to get it myself and work with it, and add it to my list of recommendations for my students.

I would assume that the reason that NeoOffice rendered Cardo better than it did SBL Hebrew is that SBL Hebrew is more complex in its provisions for compositing characters (especially compounds), and NeoOffice just cannot handle that extra data properly.

Does NeoOffice support right-to-left typing, or are you limited to copying and pasting Hebrew text?

– DLA

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Jack Caviness | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jun 6 2011 7:46 AM | Locked

David Adams:
Does NeoOffice support right-to-left typing, or are you limited to copying and pasting Hebrew text?

My Hebrew is very limited at present. I have not tried typing in Hebrew since bit map days with Linguists Software's first offerings. Sad

Posts 128
Levi D. | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 9 2011 7:14 AM | Locked

 

David Adams:
My biggest issue is the requirement that a source document be in the .DOCX format. I do not use MS Word. I used it for more than 20 years (and generally like it), but when I changed over from ASCII-based Hebrew to Unicode Hebrew, the lack of full Unicode support in the Mac version of Word rendered it unusable for me. So I use either Mellel or (mostly) Nisus Writer Pro, both of which do provide full Unicode support. However, this requires me first to covert the documents to Word (.DOC) and then to open them in Word (which I do have) and re-save them in .DOCX format. I don't know why Logos should force its users to use one particular word processor and its proprietary file format. It seems that an open format such as RTF (or even PDF) would be a better choice for source documents. At the very least I hope that down the road PBB would be able to covert files from more than one type of source document.

I am looking forward to PBB as a way of saving my sermons (and possibly clippings from books and blogs) into Logos. I would love to see support for Pages added on the Mac side. In my testing (which did not include Hebrew), I have had success with exporting from Pages to a DOC format, then opening with Bean (a free word processor) and saving as DOCX. Hopefully, this will only have to be a temporary work around! Even support for PDF as David suggests, would eliminate one step.

Anyway, I am excited about PBB.

I spent most of my time in thinking of divine things, year after year; often walking alone in the woods and solitary places for meditation, soliloquy and prayer - Jonathan Edwards

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Jack Caviness | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 9 2011 10:39 AM | Locked

Levi D.:
I would love to see support for Pages added on the Mac side.

I would not expect that unless Pages adds the ability to Save/Export in docx. 

Levi D.:
Even support for PDF as David suggests, would eliminate one step.

This was discussed at length in another thread. The conclusion of that discussion was that you cannot even find a decent pdf to docx converter; therefore, a pdf to PBB feature in L4 seems unworkable.

Sorry to Storm on your parade, but we need to seek workable solutions, and neither of these seem to fall into that category at the present time.

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