Ebook Power Boost: GreenLight for Ebook Devs
In the world of ebook development, tools that support making better ebooks are hard to pick out from the tools that simply automate without adding quality. I am especially interested in tools that help make more accessible EPUBs.
GreenLight from Circular Software amply fits this category. It is commercial, Mac-only software that lets publishers know that everyone involved in their workflow is producing files that are correct, complete and consistent with their needs. It works by sharing settings, running a series of custom style and production checklists and handling exporting.
GreenLight works well for print production, particularly for illustrated publishers, but the Eprdctn tool panel is what’s of primary interest here. It is freely available for individuals and small groups.
There are some parts of making an EPUB accessible that involved a lot of hand-coding and tedious details. The eprdctn tools part of GreenLight will alleviate that pain point. Creating a pagelist is easy peasy. And being able to map ARIA roles to epub:type semantics is huge. To the best of my knowledge, there was no way to automate it before GreenLight.
And, in the interest of full disclosure, I was a consultant on development of this tool. I am not objective at all as I think it’s a first-rate tool for developers who must start from InDesign.
Here’s how it works.
The Image alt tags tool adds a visual overlay to any images without an alt tag. It then allows users to apply a new alt tag by simply altering the overlaid text. It will also pick up the text in a text-as-image (using Rasterize container) to be automatically set as the alt text.
The second button, the Non-anchored objects highlighting tool places a visible border around any images or rasterized text objects that are not anchored in text. The border is for information in InDesign and will not output.
Clicking the Prepare schema.org metadata will add an InDesign table to the pasteboard containing extra accessibility metadata. Changing the cell contents and background colours to include standard metadata values and click the same button again to include ready for EPUB export. After exporting EPUB, come back to the Eprdctn Tools panel to use the Add schema.org metadata to EPUB to add this info into EPUB OPF file.
Adding page markers will lay the groundwork for a pagelist – a supplemental print-corollary list of page numbers – in your EPUB. Use the Prepare page markers tool to quickly add a marker at the start of every page, then once the EPUB is exported, come back to this toold panel to use the Add page markers to EPUB tool to drop in the correct code into pages and also generate and insert the page list into the EPUB navigation.
Scribe Styles and ScML describes document elements based on their structural function and articulates the relationships among elements. I recommend using these as a way to synchronize standardized style names across different publications. Click the Add Scribe Styles button to introduce all styles into the current InDesign document and the Switch Scribe Style names tool to toggle Scribe Paragraph and Character style names between descriptive (human readable) names and Scribe Markup Language names (used in ScML).
The epub:type attribute is used in code to enhance the user’s reading experience such as denoting which text is to be read as footnotes, headings and asides. Where epub:type roles can be added in InDesign, similar but more recent ARIA roles for assistive technologies are missing from InDesign exported EPUBs. Use the Add ARIA roles to EPUB type tool to add equivalent ARIA roles to any applicable epub:type assignments found in a chosen EPUB. Being able to instantly map ARIA roles to epub:type semantics is huge and there was no way to automate it before Circular Software gave us these GreenLight tools.
The External Hyperlink Checker tool follows every hyperlinks in a chosen EPUB and compiles a report to confirm which links are still active or highlight which the page and code line containing links that are no longer live on the web.
From Ken Jones, the developer of this tool:
GreenLight is our software to give publishers the confidence that all files in their workflow are complete, correct and consistent. Read our Case Study here on how we help Quarto do just that. We are now making GreenLight free of charge for freelancers, individuals and small teams and invite you to download GreenLight here and try these new tools for #eprdctn community. If you have comments or suggestions for more tools or checks to help with A11y, eprdctn, typography, workflow, design or production then please do get in touch with me @CircularKen or ken@
I have used other Circular Software products in the past, like CircularFLO for fixed layout ebooks, and really like them. They are Mac only, but if you use InDesign on the Mac then I recommend you try GreenLight as these free Eprdctn tools go beyond what is possible with InDesign alone and can make an EPUB accessible without lots of tedious hand-coding.
More info on all these free GreenLight for Eprdctn tools can be founds here.