Sunday, August 19, 2012

Progress in Calligra Author

Calligra Author, the writer's tool in Calligra, was announced on August 14th. That is 5 days ago. This blog post will give a status report on the progress that we had in the project since then.


We have a lot of progress for the project itself.:
  1. The initial code of Author is now in review for going into the master branch of Calligra. [Update: in the mean time, we got a "Ship It!" and the code is now in the master branch.] You can find it under words/part/author in the branch author-testpatch-pentalis. So far it is under the Words application because Author starts out as a clone of Words. We want to identify the code that can be shared with Words and move it to some libraries or plugins and it is much easier to do that by starting out in the same source directory and then move code out than to copy everything and then identify common parts. Before the release of 2.6 Author will have its own directory under the Calligra root.
  2. We have a bugzilla product called calligraauthor. So far there are no bugs in it.
  3. We have a mailing list now, which can be found at The intention is to have the Author-specific development discussions here and the occasional input from users.
  4. We have a user forum, already with a few discussionsin it. The Calligra Author forum is going to be our main tool for interacting with our users.
  5. We have the start of a roadmap for the immediate future (see below).
We don't have our own channel on irc, we will be using #calligra for our online discussions.

It may also be interesting to know that the schedule for version 2.6 of Calligra points to a release in december this year. That means that Calligra Author could be a good Christmas Present to some people. :) (Note: this is not yet documented anywhere. I will update this post when the schedule is finalized and online.)


The team started a thread on the Author forum to gather requests for features. We got some good feedback and we tallied up the votes, as it were, and then matched it with our development resources available and what's happening in Calligra at large. This is what we came up with. I'm going to present this list here in order of importance. If we have to cut features we will do it from the bottom of this list.
  1. Export to EPUB2 format
    There is no use in having a tool to create ebooks if you can't create ebooks with it. So this is prio 1. The good news is that this filter is already finished since we cheated and started the development of it before we announced the project. Now it needs extensive testing, which we hope we will get during the time until the release.
  2. Export to MOBI format
    The same reasoning is valid here as above. This is currently under development and should prove easy if we can just get past the issue that the format is undocumented. We have code from Calibre and Okular to look at but we may not be able to support all features of MOBI. 
  3. Word count in the status bar
    Many people seem not to know that there is already a pretty advanced statistics module in Calligra. You can open the Statistics docker and configure it to show number of words, characters, and many other values in real time. However, these figures are not available in the status bar, which is something that many asked for. We will enhance the configuration to make it possible to show any of these figures in the status bar as well.
  4. Distraction free writing mode
    This was a feature that was mentioned by almost everybody on the thread. It is also reasonably simple to implement. We already have a poor mans distraction free writing mode since the dockers, the toolbar and the menu can already be hidden by standard Calligra or KDE keyboard shortcuts. But we are going to enhance that with a specialized toolbar that will fade in at the bottom and (if technically possible) also some color schemes that were mentioned in the forum thread: white/green on black background. There will also be some user-configurable keyboard shortcuts to set a certain style on the text being written so that you won't have to break your writing flow to provide basic styling.
  5. Annotations a.k.a. Notes
    This is the big feature that will take most of our development time during this release. It is something that has been needed in Calligra for a long time so this will not only benefit Author but also Words. It will let you select parts of the text and write annotations to it. Other users will be able to add comments to the annotations and thereby help you work with editors or reviewers to improve the text.
    Below, you will find the features that we hope to be provide, partly or fully depending on the available time. But prepare to have to wait for 2.7 to get them.
  6. Export to EPUB3 (partly)
    EPUB3 is a big, big enhancement to EPUB2. We will not be able to support it fully at once whatever we do. But some parts of it are features that we already support in Calligra, namely video and mathematical formulas. If time allows we will enhance the export filter to support them. In this case we may also have to invest some work into the features themselves to make them usable in practice.
  7. Export to Wiki
    Some of our KDE document people asked for export to wiki because "it is a pain in the posterior (paraphrased) to write text in a wiki". We like this idea of making it possible to use Author to write KDE documentation. However, I doubt that we will have the resources to pull this off in the time for 2.6.
One notable feature that was not mentioned here is a database-like system to keep track of people, places, items, timeline, etc that novelists use to structure their writing. A tool that seems to be the state of the art here is Scrivener. We think that this has to be investigated further before we can start the development. There is also a free tool called Plume Creator that aims at doing this.

Another feature that is postponed for now is the ability to write your novel / document as many small texts independently. The idea is that your writing tool should let you arrange them in any order and then combine them into the final document. Both Scrivener and Plume Creator have features for this and Calligra Author will too. But this thing needs more design time, especially to figure out which saving format to use.

The Next Step

The next step in the project is to start on the documentation. We want to have top notch documentation for Calligra Author when it is released.

Our document writers are going to have a meeting tomorrow to decide on the details of the documentation. They have ambitious plans too and will aim for both a tutorial and reference documentation before the release. If you are writer and interested in offering help with the documentation talk to either Myriam (mamarok on irc) or Irina (irina on irc) on the freenode IRC server.

The developers will get busy with implementing the features of the roadmap. We will  continue to discuss with the users about details in the features. We are interested in working with users of Author who are computer savvy enough to compile code from git and test out the current state of the code at any point.

Since the epub2 filter is declared ready we are also interested in writers who have previous work in odt, doc or docx format and want to try the conversion. We want the epub2 filter to be as bugfree and glitchfree as possible when 2.6 is released.


Blogger larsivi said...

Note that MOBI isn't the only thing needed if one wish to publish for Kindle through Amazon. See below book for a link.

I haven't tried myself, but believe that what you upload to the publish-yourself site is HTML, typically as generated from Word and then tweaked. There appear to be quite the extensive community forum for it here

8:39 AM  
Blogger David Zysman said...

Hi !
All those features seem really great !
If I may, from my little experience, one of the best tools I have seen to help organize scenes, chapters, items, characters, timelines, parts, and so on is StoryBook, which has a free edition.
I use it a lot, and, when I had enoug time to code, I proposed patches for features I needed.
I have no more time to code, but where will be the best place to write feature requests: forum, mailing list, bugzilla ?

8:56 AM  
Blogger Dotan Cohen said...

I recently tried migrating the book that I am writing from Open Office to Kword, but found that Kword does not even support headings or a table of contents:

Will these features be supported in Calligra Author? Might they find themselves ported back to the word processing component?

8:56 AM  
Blogger ingwa said...

@larsivi: Thanks for the info, I'll investigate.

@David Zysman: Thanks, I will definitely look at StoryBook. I suppose that it's file format is not documented...? ;)

@Dotah Cohen: You should probably try Calligra Words instead of KWord then. Words do have support headings and table of contents. We don't have to do anything in Author to support them too since we share that code with Words.

9:00 AM  
Blogger ingwa said...

@David Zysman: I forgot to comment on your question. The best place to ask for features is probably the bugzilla but if you want a discussion about them then the forum.

9:12 AM  
Blogger David Zysman said...

@ingwa StoryBook stores its data in an H2 database. It can be opened with SquirrelSQL for example. But I did not talk about it regarding interoperability but for features and design. In it, scenes belongs to chapters, but also to strands (one to many).
Will Calligra Author be able to manage those kinds of data about scenes (which characters appear in it, the point of view, location and date, etc.) ?

11:02 PM  
Blogger jstaniek said...

H2 database is a Java component. SQLite seems to be more popular and compact, and Calligra already uses it.

3:40 AM  
Blogger S. Mubashir said...

There was a discussion in the forum on "research" requirements. I believe ZimWiki is an excellent research tool. However it doesn't provide a way to export the entire "wiki" to a word processor. Could Author accept the "export" of ZimWiki or have something like ZimWiki implemented within Author?

Ability to redefine the Keybindings is needed. The set of keybinding I find extremely useful in Libre/Open Office is "ctrl+up_arrow" & "ctrl+down_arrow" to move phrases and paras up or down rapidly, and reassemble the document in minutes. It may sound small & trivial. Please try it and see how it makes editing a pleasure!

3:38 AM  
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