“iBooks Author: Publishing Your First Ebook” Now Available

An illustrated guide to creating and publishing multi-touch books with iBooks Author.

iBooks Author Cover

iBooks Author: Publishing Your First Ebook helps you learn how to take advantage of iBooks Author’s amazing feature set to create your own ebooks without a lot of trial and error experimentation. Using an illustrated, step-by-step approach, it guides you through the creation of a sample ebook with features you’re sure to want in your own ebook publications.

Download a Sample Chapter
Buy Kindle Edition
Buy iBooks Edition
Buy NOOK Edition
Buy iBooks Multi-Touch Edition (coming soon)
Buy Print Edition (coming soon)

When iBooks Author was announced and released last month, I knew it was a software package I’d really like. I was right. Just a few days spent with the app and I had all kinds of great ideas for publishing my books. But I also realized that with the surprising depth of this first generation application, new users might need help using it. Since how-to books are my specialty, I didn’t wast any time writing a new Maria’s Guides book about it.

About the Book

I wrote the book as a hands-on guide to creating a sample ebook with iBooks author. Filled with step-by-step instructions and 274 screenshots (!), the book walks you through the process of creating, composing, laying out, and publishing an ebook using iBooks Author. I cover every important feature in the software, from adding and formatting text and images to creating interactive elements with iBooks Author’s Widget feature. I finish up with instructions on how to export and publish your book as a PDF or iBook on the iBookstore.

Inside, you’ll find the following chapters:

Table of Contents
Before We Begin: Introduction
Chapter 1: Getting Started
Chapter 2: Starting Your Book
Chapter 3: Adding & Formatting Text
Chapter 4: Adding & Formatting Images
Chapter 5: Working with Objects
Chapter 6: Adding Shapes, Tables, & Charts
Chapter 7: Including Interactive Elements
Chapter 8: Publishing Your Book
Final Word: That’s All for Now

The printed version of the book runs 242 pages, including front matter, table of contents, and index.

The instructions throughout the book step you through the process of creating a sample ebook with iBooks Author. All the files you need are available for download from the book’s support Web page on this site. When you’re finished, you’ll have a pretty sharp looking ebook to show off you skills.

Buy the Book

The book is available now on Amazon.com and the Apple iBookstore in Kindle and Epub formats respectively. A multi-touch iBooks version should be available in about a week. The print edition will be available in about 2 weeks as a direct purchase from Flying M Productions or from booksellers such as Amazon.com and BN.com.

Additional Material, Feedback, and Support

You can find additional material about using iBooks Author and creating ebooks on this site. Just follow the publishing topic link.

You can also post questions and read questions and answers on the book’s support page. That’s also where you can find the sample files used throughout the book.

2Do

Better than Apple’s Reminder app.

I’m one of those people who can’t remember anything unless it’s written down somewhere. (Indeed, I often consult my books to remember how to do something I actually wrote about!) So it should come as no surprise that I lean heavily on my Mac and iOS devices for a to do list or reminders.

Until recently, Apple did not provide any app that synchronized reminder items between iCal on a Mac and the iOS calendar apps. Not content to wait until they added such functionality, I tried two different reminder applications. The one I settled on — and still use daily today — is called 2Do by Guided Ways Technologies Ltd.

2Do App IconRight from the get-go, 2Do enabled me to synchronize reminder items between iCal and the 2Do app on my iPad and iPhone. It did this through MobileMe, which was very convenient. (2Do now supports iCloud, too.) I could create reminder items on any device, synchronize, and see the items on every device. I could also change or mark an item as complete on one device, synchronize, and have the item change or be marked complete on all devices.

2Do on iPad
In this example, I’m viewing 2Do’s reminder items in my “Air” calendar on my iPad. The grouping is customizable.

What I like a lot about 2Do is that it offers a wide range of fields that you can use to enter information about a reminder item. So not only can I add an item title, description, calendar, and other iCal-supported information, but I can also add fields for a start date, location, recurrence, tags, audio note, and pictures. I can customize the item entry form to include only the fields I use most in the order in which I want them to appear; I can access other fields with a tap. With the location features, you don’t need Siri on an iPhone 4S to take advantage of location-based reminders.

2Do supports three kinds of reminder items: ToDo, Checklist, and Project. A ToDo is a standard reminder. A Checklist is a reminder that includes individual checkable items. A Project is a reminder that includes individual ToDo items. Although I mostly use simple ToDos, Checklists and Projects are especially handy for grouping related tasks that you might need to focus on without creating a separate calendar for them.

2Do’s interface is completely customizable to display specific calendars in the order you want to see them in. You can view reminder items by calendar, tags, or location. If you specify a start date for an item in the future, it will not clutter up your current reminder list.

Reminders App
My “Air” calendar’s reminder list in the Reminder app on my iPhone.

2Do plays nice with Apple’s new Reminders app. When you sync 2Do to iCloud, that data is automatically pushed to Reminders. Likewise, when you make a change in Reminders, that’s automatically pushed to iCloud so it’s updated when you sync 2Do. While it’s true that syncing is not automatic — at least not right now — it is quick and does not require WiFi (as other iOS reminder apps do).

Although folks with very basic reminder needs may find Apple’s Reminders app good enough to meet their needs, I think the power and flexibility of 2Do makes it worth the nominal purchase price. Its additional features and fields help keep me organized, whether I’m planning my next 1200-mile helicopter trip or just trying to remember what to pick up at the grocery store.

How to Safely Use Find My Friends

A few tips to retain your privacy.

Where in the world is?I love cool new apps — especially ones that keep me in touch with my friends and family members.

Find My Friends, an app that works on iOS 5 devices, is one of those apps. It plots the location — with stunning accuracy — for the people I connect with.

I wasted no time experimenting with it yesterday. By this morning, I had the locations for friends in Arizona, New Jersey, New York, Canada, England, and New Zealand. Zooming in on the map on my iPad put their dots on a street map. Tapping their bullets displayed their names, location label, and approximate street address.

MikeHeck, as my husband drove off to work this morning, I could see his progress as he drove down the street! How cool is that?

But wait a minute. Is it really a good idea to let people know exactly where you are at any time of the day or night?

The answer is: it depends. Specifically, it depends on:

  • Who you’re revealing your location to. Are these close friends and family members you know well and can trust? Or are they “friends” you met on Facebook or Twitter who might use your location information in ways you might not like?
  • Why you’re revealing your location. Do you honestly want people to know where you are, perhaps for a meet-up or to keep track in a crowded mall or amusement park? Or is it just a cool feature to play with because its new?
  • When you’re revealing your location. Are you sharing your location when you’re out in public and want to connect with people or keep them apprised of where you are? Or are you also sharing location information when you’re asleep, at work, or visiting other friends and family members, thus revealing their locations as well?

Find My Friends can be a great app for keeping in touch with your friends. Or it can be a tool for stalkers or burglars who can use your location information for their own purposes — which are not likely what you intended at all.

Here are a few things you can do to safely use Find My Friends:

  • Only share your location information with people you know and trust very well. A good rule of thumb is this: If you have to provide a “friend” with your email address, there’s a good chance he’s not quite as “trusted” as he should be to have this information. Make sure those people understand that your information is not to be shared with others. Also make sure they understand the implications of sharing their own location.
  • Temporary ShareMake use of the Temporary Share feature. This enables you to create an event with a definite end time. Anyone who accepts the invitation to share their location using this feature will automatically stop sharing at a predetermined time. This is a great way to connect with friends at a park or mall without having to worry about them seeing where you are once the event is over.
  • Hide from FriendsDisable Find My Friends when you don’t need it. On the device broadcasting your location (my iPhone, in my case), tap the Me button. Then set the option labeled “Hide from Followers” to ON. This removes your location from their devices. (I like to think of this as “stealth mode.”)

There are a few other security features built into Find My Friends:

  • If you choose to decline an invitation to share your location, the person who invited you will not be able to see where you are. If you don’t know someone who is inviting you, be sure you don’t accept their invitation to share location!
  • If you don’t lock your device, each time you enter Find My Friends, you’ll have to provide your Apple ID password. This is to prevent someone who has stolen or found your device from seeing the locations of your friends. You can disable this feature by requiring a password to access your device. You do this with the Password Lock option of General Settings.
  • If you’re a parent, you can set up restrictions on your child’s device to prevent him or her from hiding. You do this with the Restrictions option of General Settings.

In conclusion, I have to say that I really do like the Find My Friends app. Sadly, other than checking to see how close my husband is to arriving home and possibly meeting up with friends at an outdoor venue, I don’t think I’ll get much use out of it. Right now, it’s just a fun thing to play with — with people I trust.

What do you think? Share your comments here.

Dragon Dictation Trials and Errors

I try an iPad-based dictation tool.

Note: This blog post was dictated into my iPad. Although I’d originally hoped to display the text in two columns to show unedited and edited text (as referred to in the post), I later decided to use DEL and INS tags to show actual text edits required — places where Dragon Dictation actually got it wrong. I did not correct my failure to dictate punctuation or my poor use of words, since those are my errors and not the software’s. A few additional comments are included in square brackets in the text.

I am trying something different today. I’m writing a blog post by dictating into my iPad.

I’m using a program called Capps dDragon caps dDictation. I downloaded it for free on my iPad not long after I bought the iPad. I’ve tried it a few times, and was very pleased with the results. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to using dictation software and simply saying what you want to say.

These first two paragraph are good example. On the left you see my dictated version. On the right you see my edited version. Notice the changes I needed to make. It’s really not bad, but not exactly perfect.

The main problem with using dictation software. See is that you have to dictate everything you want to type. That means you have to dictate your punctuation, capitalization, quotes, and any other information that you want to put in your text other than the exact words.

You also need to speak clearly directly into a microphone. On the iPad that’s not exactly convenient since the microphone is at the top of the iPad. Right now my iPad is standing up on my table with the microphone close to my mouth so that so that Dragon dictation can understand what I’m saying. Of course if you have an external microphone it will work with that as well.

You also need to be careful about what you say. Any mistakes you make will be transcribed. This makes dictation a useful tool for getting out of a first draft, but not for getting final text. You’ll still have to go through the document and make changes to it as necessary to correct errors and rephrase sentences.

As I dictate this today, I see that I’m quickly getting the hang of it. Although it’s not natural for me to do this, I don’t think it will be difficult to learn. What amazes me the most, is the way the software can recognize exactly what I’m saying. I haven’t edited any of this text other than what you sought saw at the top of this post. [Not true; read note at top of post.] Get Yet as you can see dragon dictation has managed to understand almost everything that I’ve said. This absolutely amazes me. What I don’t understand, however, is how many people reported that dragon dictation could not understand them. The overall reviews in the iTunes store for the app are very low. I can only assume that these people are not speaking slowly and clearly so that the software can understand them.

What I do find a little bothersome about this software is that it needs an Internet connection to work. As I speak it evidently records what I say and then when I’m done it sends it to the Dragon dictation website words where it’s translated and returned to me. This isn’tthe best solution if you don’t have an Internet connection all the time. But given the price of the software, which was free, I really can’t complain.

Another thing I find a little bit bothersome is the fact that it evidently has a buffer. I can’t just go on talking for a long period of time and expect the software to be able to translate. Instead it automatically cuts me off gets the translation in and puts it in the software sometimes while I’m still talking. [Boy, that previous sentence could sure benefit from some commas.] This means that I need to stop at the end of every long paragraph let it translate and then start again.

It’s interesting to me also how the software does not recognize upon a pause as a place to put a comma or period it’s also interesting to me that it probably just inserted those two forms of punctuation instead of the words that I just set. Let’s see. That’s funny it’s got the words as I said them and didn’t put in punctuation. I guess it does take a little bit of time to get used to this. [This whole paragraph is a good example of experimenting. Believe it or not, Dragon dictation made only one error; the other errors were mine.]

As a writer, it’s a dream to be able to say what you want to say and have it automatically typed for you. But the reality is and not so sweet. In reality, I can type a lot faster than I can do this dictation. I can also make a lot fewer mistakes. And I can edit as I go along.

Still, I think the thing that bothers me the most, is that I have to stop at the end of every long paragraph to let Dragon dictation catch up. I don’t type like this. I don’t think like this. I tend to type thing [I corrected myself here but DD didn't know that.] right write a lot more a lot more fluidly. I also don’t think about the comments commas that I need to put in my documents.

Overall what do I think of this? I think it has its uses, but I can’t see using it as a normal writing tool. I’ll keep experimenting with it, but I’m not sure whether it will ever be something I use daily.

If you have an iPad or my phone iPhone I recommend giving this a try. You might like it. And if you like it a lot. You might want to buy the regular software that they self sell for your computer. They have a Windows version and a Mac version.

How to Hide Farmville (and other Annoying Games) from Your Facebook News Feed

This should make Facebook a little more bearable for people who use it for business.

I just got back on Facebook. It was a tough decision. What helped make it tolerable to go back to Facebook was my discovery that I could hide posts related to Farmville, Mafia Wars, and other time-sucking games I really couldn’t care less about.

It’s easy:

  1. In your News Feed window, when you see a post about a game you don’t care about, point to it. A Hide button appears.
    Hide Button
  2. Click Hide.
  3. The item disappears and is replaced with a series of buttons like the ones shown here. Click the button to hide the game.
    Click Hide
  4. A note like the one shown here appears. Ignore it and it will go away.
    It's Gone

From that point on, you won’t get any posts related to that game.