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Hidden Treasures: Jewels from the secret world of Wikipublisher

What evidence supports Wikipublisher’s claim to produce print output of a higher quality than 99.9% of word processing documents?


W is for Wikipublisher

Document layout is an art, a craft, and a science. We have covered some of the things that Wikipublisher does to ensure high quality print in several different places. Here, we summarize these to give a view of what is happening “behind the curtain”. There is no one big thing, just lots and lots of little things. Some of them LATEX does for us; sometimes Wikipublisher has to give LATEX a nudge in the right direction.

In no particular order, and with no attempt at completeness, here is a top 10:

  1. automatic ligatures, as in flesh and fish (some fonts also include ligatures for heffalump, affluence, and graffiti);
  2. place footnote references after punctuation, like this;
  3. thin (hair) spaces around an em dash make it look tidier — if this is not to your taste—omit the spaces;
  4. “smart quotes” of course;1
  5. headings always nest properly and “keep with next”;
  6. really long URL addresses wrap, without inserting a hyphen;
  7. line lengths are set for optimal readability;
  8. LATEX paragraph justification optimizes the paragraph, not line-by-line;
  9. the first line of a paragraph following a list or heading is not indented;
  10. the right edge of justified text is optically aligned — punctuation marks bleed into the margin.

Many of these things can be done with a word processor, and some can be done automatically, but many people do not take the time to apply the rules, even if they know them. It is easy to forget; reasonable people may disagree; and sometimes the word processor simply gets it wrong. Wikipublisher’s philosophy is that people should be able to produce consistent, high quality printed output, without having to know the rules of typesetting. Given the power of modern computers, there is no longer any excuse for typographic mediocrity.

Fortunately, word processors set the typographic bar so low that it is relatively easy for Wikipublisher to do better. If we have a dream, it would be to automate ultra-high-end typesetting, like that found in Bringhurst’s often reviewed The Elements of Typographic Style. The leap from craft into art is currently, and perhaps forever, beyond Wikipublisher’s reach.

 

1 Do not copy and paste text containing smart quotes from a word processor into a wiki page, as these are invalid HTML characters and will result in errors. (↑)

Category: typography

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