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Writing a Book in Google Docs  (View post)

Avrohom Eliezer Friedman (AEF) [PersonRank 10]

Wednesday, January 23, 2008
6 years ago10,113 views

Wow! Great article. I can't wait for the book to come out!

/pd [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

Nice posting..

very interesting way of using Doc and workflow!!

btw cant wait for the book!!

Franz [PersonRank 1]

6 years ago #

Hallo Philipp,

mal ganz abgesehen vom Inhaltlichen muss ich als Englischlehrer schon mal loswerden, dass deine Englischkenntnisse wirklich verdammt gut sind. Also weiter so – inhaltlich und stilistisch ;-)

Franz

Arnaldo M Pereira [PersonRank 0]

6 years ago #

Nice article, with lots of tips.

The workflow seems much more complex than using LyX, or some other similar tool, through.

Matt Cutts [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

Cool stuff; I like reading about your workflow. What would your top 2-3 feature requests be?

You might consider the "Copy Plain Text" extension in Firefox:
addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firef ...

I use AutoCopy to automatically copy anything I highlight to the clipboard, and AutoCopy has an option to work with the Copy Plain Text extension as well.

To avoid the distractions of social/news/entertainment sites, try the LeechBlock extension. It lets you set rules like "access to Techmeme is forbidden between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m."

Niraj Sanghvi [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

That's a very effective way to use Docs...my question is, does this raise any legal/copyright implications? When you use Word it's on your own machine and what you create is your own work. Does the fact that Google stores the information you're creating and their TOS have any implications on your ability to publish content created in Docs and retain copyright of your material?

I would guess not...but I've never taken the time to dig around in the TOS and see for myself. I was wondering if you've thought about or looked into it.

/pd [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

"their TOS have any implications on your ability to publish content created in Docs and retain copyright of your material?"

That's would go against the grain of use of an application. I can't see any reasons why this could be an issue. Its the same thing as writing a doc livewriter and MSFT having Copyrights to the content.

I do not see an infringments to Googs “Universal Terms”. and " Additional Terms" , the only thinline would be

"You agree to use the Services only for purposes that are permitted by (a) the Terms and (b) any applicable law, regulation or generally accepted practices or guidelines in the relevant jurisdictions (including any laws regarding the export of data or software to and from the United States or other relevant countries)."

As such, IMHO, I would be in infringement if I collaborated in China write a doc about dissidents or such outlawed matter by that country!!

xhtml-css.com [PersonRank 1]

6 years ago #

Just when I released WPTeX (xhtml-css.com/wptex) life's unfair :(

beussery [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

Impressive really informative article, I am sold! How might one obtain an autographed copy of the book when it comes out?

macbeach [PersonRank 6]

6 years ago #

I can see the need to edit a book-length document in chapters (if not even smaller chunks) but when you go to submit the full document for publication do you not need to consolidate it into one file somehow? I think this is the case with Lulu, I don't know about others.

At some point Google Docs could use some sort of "embed" code to allow many documents to be consolidated at time of printing, or exporting.

I remember (as an old mainframe programmer) creating many complex multi-level documents this way which not only facilitated keeping the size of a document you were editing down, but allowed for easier sharing of writing tasks (which Google already handles nicely). Even now standard word processors (Word) are weak in allowing for this, as I recall, with Word you can refer to external documents but you still have to manually pull in the parts before final formating. I'd love to see Google do this right, providing one more area where it not only matches local word processors but exceeds them.

Jyaif [PersonRank 1]

6 years ago #

PNG for screenshots please ;)

Jyaif [PersonRank 1]

6 years ago #

for your blog I mean.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

Jyaif, you are right... I changed the included screenshots from JPG to PNG.

> What would your top 2-3 feature requests be?

Those mentioned in the article would be my top requests:

- The revisions tab should remember the last setting so you can easily & quickly go back between the two

- Allow for a template to be used for new docs

- Allow plain-text clipboard pasting (your extension tip sounds good as well)

- Fix the bug that sometimes, style settings are ignored (e.g. you want to remove italics but it won't let you, or it "forgets" about one styling – say, bold – when you convert a text to a link)

- Ability to add borders to images

- Remember people I invite to documents in the share tab's auto-completion feature (treat it as if I'd have send a mail in Gmail and add them to the "close contacts")

- Let Google Docs file explorer waste less screen space

- Faster loading times for new docs, if possible

Also:

- Consolidate saving/ auto-saving behavior across all Google Docs apps (right now, Documents and Spreadsheets act differently in this regards)... at least that used to be the case.

- The ability to share a whole folder with someone/ to have access rights be applied to all files in a folder at once. Imagine you want to add John or Beth to your 200 book documents half into the projects... it's no fun opening every single one, and then switching to the Share tab, and then adding them, and then approving the Invite dialog.

- Sometimes reasonable, non-harmful inline stylings are removed when you edit them in the Edit HTML view, maybe the tags/ attributes whitelist should be more forgiving.

- I'm also often looking for the Share tab at the left side where all the other tabs are, to then realize two seconds later it's at the right side... I suppose we're not trained to use different tab control positions, so maybe some additional user testing would be useful in this area to see if relocation of the tab buttons makes sense...

- Easier backup of all files in a folder, right now there are some bugs with this (e.g. you can't select both a document and a presentation and save them as ZIP, even when you can select multiple documents)

Oh, an API would be nice too, so I can add my own gadgets/ menu entries/ features without resorting to homemade bookmarklets (which work nice enough, but still). Wouldn't it be nice to have a Google Documents Feature directory, where you could browse through to add user-made features to your documents menu?

Charlie Perry [PersonRank 1]

6 years ago #

The process of backing up Google docs is too laborious. I'm reluctant to rely on it too heavily until there is a simple way to back up all your data with one click of a mouse.

Stu [PersonRank 2]

6 years ago #

Having been involved in producing a number of books (in FrameMaker), this seems like it'd be a nightmare. The writing part seems basically easy enough as it would be in MS Word or Frame, it's the rest of the system that I have trouble imagining that it'd be adequate for doing a book.

Still, another really interesting article, Philipp – I look forward to reading the rest of it when I get some free time later today and seeing how you're getting along with it, what limitations you're hitting, etc. (I need that freaking LeechBlock thing...)

Niraj Sanghvi [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

>>"That's would go against the grain of use of an application. I can't see any reasons why this could be an issue. Its the same thing as writing a doc livewriter and MSFT having Copyrights to the content."

Actually, I decided to take a look and see if there were any implications and it's pretty interesting. You have to grant Google the following:
"You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Service. By submitting, posting or displaying the Content you give Google a worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through the Service for the sole purpose of enabling Google to provide you with the Service in accordance with its Privacy Policy."

That much sounds fair..they need to license your content so they can show it to you without removing/modifying your own rights to your content. But the rest of the terms on content add some interesting uses:
"11.2 You agree that this licence includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

11.3 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this licence shall permit Google to take these actions."

/pd, you may be right that using Live Writer would subject you to similar terms, but my point was that by using web services instead of MS Word, you may be subject to new and interesting twists on content ownership and I think this shows what I mean. In this case I think Google has made it clear that your content is yours and you have complete control over it. But their TOS allows them to pass it along to a third-party company...what if they distributed your work-in-progress? It's not the intent, but it wouldn't be breaking the rules you agree to.

Arun [PersonRank 1]

6 years ago #

Zoho Writer has a tag feature which helps in collating different documents.

blogs.zoho.com/writer/nanowrim ...

It would be great if GDocs comes up with a tag feature.

/pd [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

[put at-character here]Niraj , "..TOS allows them to pass it along to a third-party company"

then sue them ... :)-

the nitty bitty's I will need to step down and handover to the lawyers.. the scenario you mention is possible.. what happens then is the question ??

=>>What would your top 2-3 feature requests be?

ability to share a doc with others during editing – SS has it!!
The ability to share a whole folder with someone – this is much needed!!

/pd [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

[put at-character here]niraj, I 4ogt to mention..with the apps getting SaaS'ified , company better know how to protect their customers data!!

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

> ability to share a doc with others
> during editing

In Google docs this is possible, or what do you mean...?

Brian Sawyer [PersonRank 1]

6 years ago #

I'm thrilled to see you moving forward with this book we originally talked about what seems like ages ago, and it's great to see you using the tools you're writing about to actually write the book.

You and Brian J will make a great team. I can't wait to see the book in print.

Suresh S [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

Excellent Work!!

Angela Randall [PersonRank 0]

6 years ago #

The one thing I noticed when working in google docs on a laptop was that you need to remember to close the document before letting your laptop hibernate. Otherwise you get into strife after someone else (or yourself on another machine) changes the doc. You open your laptop and bring it out of hibernation, see your doc and start working on it. But, unfortunately for you, that's the old version. Google doesn't yet have the "Whoah, you seem to be working on an old revision here!" warning. That said, if you always close the document when you're done it works a treat.

Kit Kemper [PersonRank 0]

6 years ago #

In my formal life as an acquisitions editor, I had a handful of authors write a book in Writely (and then Google Docs). From the my standpoint, it is a powerful yet efficient way to work. As editors, we would have to report on a book's progress every week. With most books, I would have to hound the authors to turn in the Word doc in which they were working (with about a 50% failure rate). On the Writely project, I was able to sign in and see what had been written and assess the quality whenever I wanted. It meant that we had a better idea of what we were getting and when. It also allowed for the authors to collaborate in almost real-time and comment on each other's work (as opposed to each working in a vacuum as is often the case).

I am surprised more publishers haven't adopted this workflow. The problem comes when the book needs to go into the publisher's template, but I would rather lose a week there than lose the accountability that comes with full disclosure on the writing process which could result in months of delays.

Marek Prokop [PersonRank 1]

6 years ago #

Philipp, thank you for an excellent article. Some time ago I created a user style sheet to achieve vertical spacing between paragraphs in Google Docs and the border around images could be a made the same way. Just download the user style sheet – userstyles.org/styles/4186 – and extend it as you like. You can contact me (marek.prokop[put at-character here]gmail.com) if you need my help.

Colin Joss [PersonRank 1]

6 years ago #

Well, I have never got a chance to use it the way you did together with your editor, but you sure describe the meaning of google's "collaborative" word for their google office. I wonder how's it like to be for the spreadsheet. I bet it won't be far different.

Colin Joss
Colin.Joss[put at-character here]gmail.com
East Lothian, Haddington
United Kingdom

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

> The ability to share a whole folder with someone/ to have access
> rights be applied to all files in a folder at once. Imagine you want
> to add John or Beth to your 200 book documents half into the
> projects...

That was fast:

googledocs.blogspot.com/2008/0 ...

Michael Sacchi [PersonRank 0]

6 years ago #

I wrote a little Greasemonkey script to toggle the header bar in google documents (only writer, no spreadsheets).

It allows to get a little more writing room, handy if you're writing something big and you need a bit of global perspective on the page.

signal-eleven.com/downloads/wr ...

(I changed the font of the link, so the screenshot on the page aren't totally accurate, it's a little prettier now).

Colin Joss [PersonRank 1]

6 years ago #

Michael,

I thought Google documents are fixed from google, but if it is possible for custom tweaking by users, then there should plenty of room for more improvements.

[signature removed. -Philipp]

Matthew Ford [PersonRank 0]

6 years ago #

svn and a txt file ftw

Giovani Spagnolo [PersonRank 1]

6 years ago #

Hi Philipp,

Are you planning to have a printed version of this book ? How are you going to transform the Google Docs output in a printable format acceptable by print-on-demand services (pdf? what about the pdf settings?) or print houses ?

Are you going to re-format the whole content using word ?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

Giovani, yes experts at O'Reilly handle the layouting-for-the-book part. I've seen the first PDFs and they look great. I will ask my editor if he wants to shed more light on this afterwards.

Giovani Spagnolo [PersonRank 1]

6 years ago #

Thank you, I think this is also a very important step to be discussed and shared by people doing collaborative writing over there :-) I'll stay tuned here to get the follow up, thank you...

Michael [PersonRank 0]

6 years ago #

Colin,
tweaking is possible for the tech savvy user.

You need to fiddle a little with the structure of the page using javascript.
But if you just want to use what other users have created, there is plenty of scripts other than mine on www.userscripts.org , e.g. for limiting the writing area in width (kinda like the layout view in ms word)

This thread is locked as it's old... but you can create a new thread in the forum. 

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