Saturday, February 16, 2008

Making books in SL the easy way.

Everybody knows you can make "books" in SL, either typing up a notecard or putting images in a scripted prim of some sort, either one you make or something like a THiNC book. THiNC help info says:

The THiNC Printing Press & Book only uses textures or snapshots to display pages. By using your favorite paint program you can put text into a picture format supported by Second Life to upload. Currently I find the easiest way to incorporate text & pictures is using Microsoft Publisher and save it as a jpeg. A free publishing program which I haven't used alot called Scribus, it can export to jpeg and it is available in all flavors. (Mac, Windows, & Linux). There is also a printer driver for windows users that can save each page as a bmp. (Recomend bmp, the jpeg optiond didn't work for me.) It's available here:, only con is it makes large image files. You don't have any control on what sizes it makes.

Typing text into your image program? Cludgy. Scribus is a nice open source desktop publishing app, but why not use your usual wordprocessor or desktop publishing application, or even LaTeX.

But now you're thinking, but CC, how do I get the output of those into my SL "book".

PDF. SL can't import it directly, but it is easy to take a PDF and turn it into a series of images in any format you want, but you'll need the tools to do so.

First your program should output PDF somehow. On the Unixy type operationg systems (Linux, OSX, the BSD's, etc), that's easy, their printing systems are Postscript based and the option to print a file as PDF is often a standard GUI option. And even if it isn't, it's a simple command on the command line away to convert the Postscript output to PDF. On Windows it's not so easy, PDF output support is not built in. But you can download virtual PDF printer you can print to, most of which are actually frontends to the Ghostscript software that provides the Unix type OS"s their PDF making abilities. PDFCreator or CutePDF are often recommended.

Once you have PDF (or Postscript since you can convert PS to images too) you use whatever tools you have to convert PDF to your image format. ImageMagick suite's convert tool can convert PDF into practically any format, including the formats preferred by SL. OSX users can do the same or similar.

You Windows users....well you've got tons of shareware/freeware/nagware/adware stuff to pick from, none of which I'd trust as much as the Unixy tools. I'd try ImageMagick's suite's command line "convert" tool, you'll still need Ghostscript installed. You'll simply do a convert.exe foo.pdf foo.jpg (or foo.png, foo.tga foo.bmp etc.) You'll get a jpeg of every page as output. Enjoy.

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