Ideal Software

With some customization, Microsoft Word makes a pretty good tool for editing. The fact that it can be customized, in fact, is one of its finest features. I also like its use of styles, spell-checking, wildcard Find and Replace, and notes. There are also plenty of things I *don’t* like, including Word’s general “bugginess” and over-helpfulness. So I started thinking about what would make the ideal software for use in a publishing environment. What would that software look like? What features would it have?

So far, I have the following list, which includes some features that are already part of Word, others that are part of our Editorium software, and others that haven’t been invented yet or are available in other programs:

1. Features designed specifically for editing, such as:

a. Batch Find and Replace using regular expressions (wildcards).

b. Quick and easy navigation.

c. Transposition of words and characters.

d. True title-case conversion.

e. Revision tracking and control.

f. Single-sourcing.

g. Automatically numbering notes and lists (that actually work).

h. Automatic backup and archiving.

2. Typesetting features:

a. Excellent hyphenation and justification.

b. Notes that can break over pages and be set in columns independent of body text.

c. Master pages for setup of headers, footers, folios, and so on.

d. Support for automatic ligatures, old-style numbers, and true small caps using master fonts.

e. Paragraph, character, and table styles.

f. “Long-document” features such as cross-referencing, indexing, and tables of contents.

g. “Book-building” features (in other words, a useable Master Document feature).

3. Indexing features with:

a. Embedded entries.

b. Display of entries sorted by page or alphabetically.

c. Real-time display of the index as it’s being written.

d. Sorting word-by-word or letter-by-letter, with the ability to ignore introductory words and punctuation.

e. Word completion based on previous entries.

f. Automatic checking of cross-references.

4. The ability to export as:

a. PDF.

b. HTML.

c. HTML Help.

d. XML.

5. Cross-platform compatibility.

I know, I know: Dream on. But wouldn’t it be great to have one program that did it all?

What would you add to the list? What would your ideal publishing software look like? Please let me know and I’ll publish your response in the near future. You can send your ideas here: mailto:editor [at symbol] editorium.com.

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RESOURCES

Jacci Howard Bear has a great Web page on choosing desktop publishing software at About.com. Lots of reviews, comparisons, and other good information:

http://desktoppub.about.com/cs/softwarechoice/

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