BookSmart

Disappointed with Layouts

I’m quite disappointed with the layout templates in BookSmart.

I realize that BookSmart isn’t intended as a full-featured layout tool, but for my needs I’d thought I’d be quite content with the set of templates that are in BookSmart. Only I’m not because they seem poorly done.

For example, the text page layout that has 3 images across the top and 3 columns underneath. First of all, the 3 text columns aren’t evenly spaced. The 3 caption lines aren’t aligned with the 3 pictures. In fact each of the three has a different offset from the image box. Did someone just create this by eye-balling it? The template is practically useless because anything produced with it won’t line-up at all.

I’ve found other templates where there are multiple small images, only the image containers are all slightly different sizes. There’s one with four images and they are four different sizes—all a few mm off. The column margins are quite variable between templates, making it hard to mix templates and have a consistent look. And there are some very strange choices – like caption boxes that don’t seem to make any sense for the layout.

This is all extremely frustrating because it is oh-so-close to being good enough. But instead, it looks like the kind of layout I achieved on my high-school yearbook which was done with exacto-blades and rubber cement. (Am I dating myself here?)

I know that one can create any layout one likes in some other program and bring it in as a full-page image. But I’d really rather not for two reasons: First it is much easier to work within BookSmart. Second, I presume that the rasterizer knows that image containers are images and text containers are text, and hence the text boxes come out sharp. Am I wrong about the later?

Blurb-folk: Are there any plans to upgrade the templates to be more (how do I say this nicely?) professional soon?

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Posted by
MtnViewMark
Dec 22, 2007 5:57pm PDT
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MtnViewMark
 

OH! I’ve just discovered that if you start a book in a prior version of BookSmart, then upgrade to a new version – the existing book still only gets to use the templates that existed at the time you started the book!

Hence, seems Blurb has already answered my call, somewhat. The templates in 1.9.2 are much better than what I had in my book (started with 1.8). That said, there are still issues like the grid of 6 pictures template that has slightly different heights for the containers. But, they seem much better.

One moan: The size of the full-bleed image changed by 4 pixels in each dimension! I have 64 full page images all carefully prepared to the older size. I suppose if I just let them fill the new size the distortion won’t be noticeable…

Posted by
MtnViewMark
Dec 22, 2007 10:46pm PDT
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MtnViewMark
 

I’m frustrated as well. I’d like some simple photo layouts that are consistent. Ideally choices that conform to standard crops as well. I’m being fussy and doing crops and exports outside of booksmart so that no descaling or cropping needs to be done in booksmart, but it’s pretty tedious when I’m trying to use a 2-photo layout in which booksmart’s layout has one image container at 1942×1242 but the other one at 1942×1234. That’s just sloppy.

I don’t want to use InDesign, I don’t really need to be “creative” about my layouts, I really just want very simple and straightforward photo layouts. This *should* fit the bill, but doesn’t, because the attention to detail isn’t there.

Posted by
pyker
Jan 5, 2008 6:09am PDT
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pyker
 

Blurb.com was, hands down, my most exciting discovery of 2007! I stumbled onto the site in November while looking for a way to publish a cookbook, without having to buy an expensive page layout program. As you can imagine, I was thrilled to be able to download BookSmart for FREE and I created a 144 page book with almost 200 color photographs that was professionally printed and bound and returned to me in under a week! I’ve published two books so far and there will be many more to come, yet I cannot get over the fact that the layouts don’t measure up to the other offerings of this otherwise terrific programI like that we have the option available for mixing and matching left and right pages to vary the layouts throughout our books, but they still need to pair up to look like they were designed as facing pages!  I really hate trapped copy and trapped white space and so many page combinations produced just that when they were paired in the book as a double-page spread.Following some simple steps, it would be so easy to design individual pages such that pairing any two pages would create a visually appealing double page spread. I offer the following suggestions:1. Keep interior and exterior margins consistent on all pages.2. Design layouts on a ruled grid so that image containers are aligned for balance, both vertically and horizontally…  and not "off" by just a pica or two.3.  Arrange layouts with photo containers near the gutter and text boxes and "white space" outside the photo arrangement.  4. Give us left page / right page mirror images.Better yet, I look forward to a BookSmart updated version that would allow us to resize photo containers and text boxes and – better still – drag these elements to reposition them on the page. (In which case, a "show grid" / "hide grid" option would also be extremely helpful!… Call me greedy, but at least allow me to believe this day is coming!<font face="Times New Roman" size="3" color="#000000"> </font>

Posted by
supershannon
Jan 10, 2008 1:49pm PDT
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supershannon
 

A follow up: I probably shouldn’t admit this, but since I’m an geeky-programmer type, I dived into the files that make up my book and tweaked the layouts. It is very very difficult to do, and quite error prone without any documentation, but the result is that I now have layouts where the column widths match, the gutters are consistent, etc.

For me, probably because I am the geeky type, this was almost a deal-breaker for me and Blurb. If I hadn’t figured out how to get good layouts, I would have had to gone to a different service.

Posted by
MtnViewMark
Jan 12, 2008 2:42pm PDT
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MtnViewMark
 

I have to say that I agree. Blurb’s layouts are SO limiting! I have order books from several other suppliers (just ordered my 1st one from Blurb today- so no comment on the quality yet)- and Blurb’s templates are very limiting. The only things that made me go through with the order are that you can add your own logo and that everyone raves about the quality.

 Is there a suggestion box where we can suggest that they get a little more variety on thier templates?? And not everyone wants to add text to their books!

Posted by
kristine949
Jan 12, 2008 5:21pm PDT
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kristine949
 

We really appreciate feedback and suggestions here in the forums and sent directly to us using the Suggestions and Feedback form. You won’t hear back from us, but your info will be sent along to the appropriate parties including our executive team.

Thanks in advance.

– Kathy 

Posted by
kathybad
Jan 14, 2008 11:51am PDT
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kathybad
 

The thing about iphoto pages is that, while they have a “template,” you can mess with it. You drag a shot into the gray space, and the space will accommodate a full vertical or a full horizontal shot without cropping. It simply shapes itself around the image. Not only that, but you can start with a two shot template, and then add another picture – and the template morphs. You don’t have a lot of control over the morphing, but you can learn how to trick the darn thing into doing better than what they offer you.

For instance: in their photo book, there is no template for five shots. But I have finessed a five shot layout, just by messing with the page. I was very disappointed at the static layouts here – just because I’m new at all this and don’t know what I should be grateful for, probably. But the uncompromising shapes and sizes kind of freak me out.

The rest of you guys sound like professionals who are doing much more with layout than I want to. I just want to cram as many pictures as I aesthetically can – in the order, shape and position that looks best. I want also to (am I whining yet) be able to designate where I want a text box – usually one two to three line summary of the page, down on the bottom or out to the side. Caption boxes that allow you eight words are not that productive. “Mom in the pool” Uh-huh.

Anyway, I see such great potential here. Wish I were a programer. I’d be playing with the code. But I’m just a lowly and ignorant grandma – wanting a nice 287 page book for my few little family shots . . .

Posted by
murphyspubli
Jan 18, 2008 5:43pm PDT
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murphyspubli
 

I found that the templates that Blurb provides to be relatively limiting for anything but the most basic book. So I have gone the route of using InDesign. It is a kludgee process but the good news is that it works pretty well. I printed a test book and am just getting ready to send a large format photo documentary to press late this month.

So if the Blurb templates make you crazy, there are other alternatives.

 Rustoleum bold

Posted by
rustoleum
Jan 21, 2008 12:05am PDT
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rustoleum
 

For the non-pros, Photoshop Elements for well under $100 makes creating full page layouts extremely easy. The ‘Create Collage’ option lets you start with one of their predesigned layouts but change it on the fly by dragging an additional photo onto the background of the page. All the individual parts of the page can be adjusted at will. Save it as a flattened JPG and stick it into BookSmart. Not the way to go for a boo which is primarily text, I guess, but seems a god way to go for photobooks.

Posted by
flatcoat77
Jan 21, 2008 8:07am PDT
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flatcoat77
 

I’ve been playing with BookSmart for a couple of days now to see how it stacks up to other book making software. It’s not bad, but like most of you I find the templates very limiting. It is frustrating not to able to move a text container or even add one.

Like MtnViewMark I took a look at the templates and the book output, and it’s XML! So there is a way of adding say a new text container at what ever X and Y you decide. It would be nice to have some documentation, but you can modify pages through some trial and error. 

But the point of having a UI is to not have to get down at the XML level, so I won’t be doing that, and instead will use InDesign, PS or some other design tool to create pages I can’t using the BookSmart Templates.

I have looked at about half a dozen photobook programs and all have limitations, some even more limited than BookSmart. But for price and quality, I don’t think right now you can beat Blurb!

 

 

 

 

Posted by
ozphotonut
Feb 12, 2008 8:59pm PDT
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ozphotonut
 

Oh well – here’s my answer to myself. Just got out my Photoshop, read Robin’s blog and forum posts, set up my page template, and had a great time. I did as instructed in several places here, flowed my carefully numbered pages into BookSmart, uploaded, and voila!! Wonderful. The ONLY complaint I have is that I had to change the template to full bleed from the default on ever page of almost 300.

Posted by
murphyspubli
Feb 27, 2008 11:06am PDT
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murphyspubli