How to Prep a Video Clip for Inclusion in an iBooks Author Document

It’s a lot easier than you might expect.

iBooks Author’s Media Widget enables you to include video files in your books. I recently took advantage of this feature in the iBooks 2 Interactive Edition of my book, iBooks Author: Publishing Your First Ebook by including a total of 53 videos in the book.

iBooks Author is picky about video formats, however. It only accepts videos encoded with the AAC and H.264 codecs with the .m4v filename extension. While this format isn’t uncommon, it’s not the QuickTime format you might have expected.

So how do you convert a movie file that isn’t in that format to the format iBooks Author can understand? Oddly enough, you can use QuickTime. There are a number of different ways to do this. The easiest is to use the Export command.

  1. Open the movie file in QuickTime Player 10.1 or later.
  2. Export DialogChoose File > Export or press Shift-Command-S to display the Export dialog.
  3. Enter a name and choose a disk location to save the new file.
  4. Choose a FormatChoose an option from the Format menu. I normally choose iPad, iPhone 4, & Apple TV. This gives me high enough resolution for the iPad’s screen without generating a very large file. You can experiment with other formats if you like.
  5. Click Export.
  6. Export ProgressWait while QuickTime Player exports the file. A progress dialog appears while the file is being exported. When it’s finished, the file is ready for use.

I’ve been very pleased with the size of the exported file. For example, the movies I created for my book were shot full screen on a MacBook Air set to 1280×800 screen resolution and encoded with Apple Animation/Linear PCM. The resulting movies were downsized only slightly to 1152×720 resolution when converted to AAC/H.264. A 53 second movie that was 59.9 megabytes was compressed down to 6 MB — with virtually no quality hit.

Although the new iPad announced today has a much higher resolution screen, it remains to be seen whether higher resolution files are really necessary in your iBooks Author documents. If you have a new iPad, why not experiment a bit and let us know?

iBooks 2 Interactive Edition of iBooks Author Book Now in Production

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Screenshots from the sample chapters of the special interactive edition of my iBooks Author book now in production.

Get a sneak peek by downloading sample chapters.

My mini-vacation plans unexpectedly cancelled, I decided to make good use of my free time by creating a special iBooks 2 interactive edition of my iBooks Author book. This book, which can only be opened and read on an iPad running iBooks 2, includes photo galleries, interactive images, and video to help readers learn all about iBooks Author.

I’ll admit up front that producing this book is taking longer than I expected. I think that’s because I decided to create original screencast videos for all sets of step-by-step instructions in the book. This is an extremely time-consuming process, made even more difficult by the parrot in the next room who seems to know the absolute worst time to run through her repertoire of animal noises, voices, and sounds.

But you don’t have to wait to see what I’m up to — and how I’m doing. You can download a free sample copy of this book now.

The sample includes the book’s introduction and two sample chapters with a number of interactive elements to try out. The screen shots on this page should give you an idea of what you can expect not only in the sample but in the completed book.

I expect to have the book available for sale on the iBookstore by the end of February. You can help me achieve this goal by sending encouraging words my way — I always work hardest when I know people are waiting for me to finish. Use the comments feature for this post to share your feedback.

And be patient — I think you’ll agree that this edition is worth waiting for.

You can get more information about all currently available editions of this book on the book’s support page.

Sample iBooks Author-Created Ebook Now Available

Download it for free, then make it yourself.

How Helicopters Fly
Download this iBooks 2 Book Free!

I may have forgotten to mention this, but the ebook that readers of my book create is available for free from the iBookstore. It’s called How Helicopters Fly and you can find it here.

Keep in mind that this book does not showcase all the interactive features of iBooks Author. Instead, it concentrates on the ones I thought users would be most interested in: hyperlinks, cross-references, photo galleries, video, audio, and review questions. I’ll likely cover other features in additional titles or in short articles here.

Remember, you must have an iPad running iBooks 2 to read this sample book. My book that explains how to create this book, iBooks Author: Publishing Your First Ebook, is available in iBooks, Kindle, and NOOK formats with print a edition available soon.


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.