Creating and editing e-books with Sigil

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Writing with Sigil

Of course, you can use the Sigil editor to write your e-books. This approach has two disadvantages, however. First, you have to get used to new software, which can hamper your ability to write creatively. Second, the WYSIWYG capability can lead to a plethora of markup that can hinder readability.

That's why creating text using your usual writing tool, such as LibreOffice, is a better idea. Sigil then can take over as a formatting tool for text distinctions, layout, and syntax control. In this phase, you can also add hyperlinks for document references. If you use LibreOffice or OpenOffice, you can also use the Writer2epub [7] plugin for direct conversion to EPUB. Even so, you can still use Sigil to control the results and correct things when necessary. You can preserve your formatting by storing in HTML or, better yet, directly in EPUB.

Sigil supports Unicode (UTF-8 and UTF-16). Thus, you can directly input "special" characters. Sigil provides a palette for the most commonly used special characters (Figure 2).

A number of features that you would expect from a word processor, such as a font size button, are missing from the menus. You have to manipulate these settings directly in the source code (Figure 3), where you have detailed control. The same applies to changing to special fonts. You can set the font across the entire document through Edit | Preferences and then Appearance . But be careful: There's no guarantee that all e-book readers will render these fonts cleanly, and fancy fonts can be distracting anyway. Additionally, you need to embed the fonts in the output files, which can inflate e-book file sizes.

Figure 3: Many adjustments, such as font sizes, are done directly in the source code.

Special Structures

Sigil provides no tools for certain special structures – a typical example is tables. But, because tables are already defined in XHTML, they can be edited in Sigil. To define a table in source code mode, use the appropriate <table> tag – provided this did not already occur during conversion from the source code.

Complex repetitive structures are stored as clips in Sigil; to add these clips (some of which are predefined in Example Clips ), right-click to bring up a context menu. Pressing Alt+C or clicking on Tools | Clips opens a dialog with a list of all the available clips (Figure 4). To create a new clip, either choose the clip code – preferably in source code mode – and use Paste Clip or select an item from the context menu.

Figure 4: Clips contain complete code. Define new clips directly in source code mode.

Sigil puts the configuration files in your home directory under .local/share/data/sigil-ebook/sigil/ . There you can find dictionaries for spell-checking and find-and-replace functions, as well as clip files (in sigil_clips.ini ), which you can also modify directly in a text editor. The find-and-replace function also handles regular expressions [8], thus allowing, for example, automatic LaTeX conversion. To save repetitive searches, click Tools | Saved Searches , which already includes some predefined example searches.

Sigil allows integration of images in JPG, GIF, PNG, and SVG formats. Use Insert | Image , Ctrl+I, or the corresponding button on the tool bar to insert an image. Subsequent height="…" and width="…" adjustments can be made in source code mode. Remove unused images with Tools | Delete Unused Image Files . A similar function is used for removing style sheets.

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