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What tool to write a well formatted pdf book?

Freeware or Open Source preferred :) If you are to write a book about programming, what tool would you use?

I have already tried Lout, but Lout makes it complicated to generate pdf files; the main focus is on ps file type.

I also read about Latex, but Latex seems like a whole new language to learn.

And doc2pdf converters screw up formatting most of the time.

Noagbodji Victor Send private email
Monday, June 04, 2007
I'd suck it up and learn LaTeX.  It's not that bad, really.  Plus, it has capabilities far superior to anything out there -- index generation, bibliography support, real math handling, etc.  Even though your question is extremely vague -- what's "well formatted"?  what kind of content will be in your book? -- LaTeX is the only thing that will, for sure, do whatever you want it too.  Plus, it's plain text based so you can use standard source control tools like Subversion or CVS.

Monday, June 04, 2007
+1 for LaTeX

Get Lamport's book on it. It should take you a long weekend to get up to speed.
dot for this one
Monday, June 04, 2007
Yes, LaTeX can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it.  Where you're happy with the defaults, it's trivial to use, and does a really professional job really quickly -- it only gets difficult if you want to do serious customisation.

The one thing that's definitely worth customising is the fonts.  Computer Modern has a rabid following among maths geeks, but it's not actually a very attractive or readable typeface (particularly not in on-screen PDFs!), and it'll make your book look like a maths paper.  Personally I like using Charter for text and Helvetica for captions - versions of both are included in the standard LaTeX distribution.
Monday, June 04, 2007
Adobe Indesign is used by a lot of book publishers.
son of parnas
Monday, June 04, 2007
I used Lyx to write my Uni dissertation and found it pretty good. Saves you having to remember all the Latex nuances, but lets you dip into the source as you see fit:
G Jones Send private email
Monday, June 04, 2007
Pages on OS X is great and would be suitable for that sort of thing. If you're not on a mac, I'd suggest LaTeX.
Samuel Send private email
Monday, June 04, 2007
If it has to be free you don't really have an option other than LaTeX.  You might want to try OpenOffice, though I don't know if its word processor is any good for books.

On the commercial side, Adobe FrameMaker can manage book-sized multi-file documents with ease and has an excellent built-in PDF creation mechanism.  Costs quite a bit of money, though.
Chris Nahr
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
LaTeX and the Memoir package.

It does EVERYTHING you need to get a print-ready document; for example, it lets you specify two sizes of paper. The size you want, and the size you're printing onto. And it will generate crop markings for you.

It's not that easy to use if I'm honest. It takes a bit of setting up, even for experience LaTeX people. But it is the nuclear weapon of typesetting. And in the LaTeX world, people do tend to write themselves a working documentstyle and then just get on with things.
Katie Lucas
Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Scribus is an open-source program that brings professional page layout to Linux/Unix, MacOS X, OS/2 and Windows desktops with a combination of "press-ready" output and new approaches to page layout. Scribus supports professional publishing features, such as CMYK color, separations, ICC color management and versatile PDF creation.
Tim Ohm Send private email
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
I'd second LyX (and therefore, indirectly, LaTeX). It's not pretty, but it's very very functional.

Pages is an interesting suggestion; I use it for small fluffy stuff (letters, posters) and it wouldn't be my choice for anything big (see first paragraph) but maybe it could be done. I did once user Perl to generate a big Pages file (it's just (messy) XML) for a repetitive but layout-sensitive document, but I wouldn't recommend that as a standard approach.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007

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