I have spent most of today working on an EPUB version of Salon Futura. I have been playing with EPUBs for a while now, but this was the first time I have tried to do anything clever with them (as opposed to just entering and formatting text).
One of the problems with ebooks is that both the tools and the standards are very much in a state of flux. There are very few specialist tools for ebook editing, and I wouldn’t call any of them professional. By far the most useful is Sigil, which allows direct editing of the EPUB file, and has tools for editing the meta data and ToC file, but as an HTML/CSS editor it is pretty sucky.
I found this out the hard way today when I entered an HREF tag that Sigil thought was invalid. To my horror, it not only flagged an error, but refused to display any code in that file from the error onwards. As far as I can make out, it deleted the rest of the file. Fortunately it only did that in memory, and I could recover a version at the last save by exiting the program, but even do that’s pretty dumb operation.
Of course no decent code editor should ever alter your code without permission. Sigil does it all the time.
The error, by the way, is rather interesting. I pasted in a URL that queried some PHP code. So it included a ? followed a bunch of parameters. Something in the XHTML validation doesn’t allow more than one “=” in the SRC field of an HREF tag. And I don’t think it is just Sigil. Other editors objected to it as well, though they handled the error much better. This seems very odd to me. It isn’t like such URL syntax is at all unusual.
Meanwhile I have been looking at alternative tools. I need an HTML/CSS editor that won’t mess with my code without permission, but will have good source highlighting, will validate my code and so on.
I used to use Dreamweaver a lot before I started using WordPress to build web sites. My old copy still works, but it is poor on CSS because it is very old. So I checked out the latest version. Annoyingly upgrade pricing isn’t available for my version. Worse than that, however, Adobe have made the program so bloated and complicated that it needs 1Gb of disk space to install and won’t run on my laptop because the machine doesn’t have good enough screen resolution. That’s just silly.
Fortunately there are plenty of alternatives. I have checked out quite a few. The best I have found so far are TopStyle and phpDesigner (thanks Kyle!). The latter looks very impressive, and I would be interested if I didn’t already have a PHP editor. TopStyle, on the other hand, is more of a specialist HTML/CSS editor, which is pretty much what I needed. Hopefully I can do most of my editing in that, and only drop stuff into Sigil when it is ready.