Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Genealogy Data

Many family history books contain a great deal of genealogy data (names, dates, and places). There are a few different ways to display that information in your book. The first way is to use a family group sheet. This method is convenient for the reader to find the information that they are looking for, but it takes up a lot of room in the book. If you have just a few pages of family group sheets, then you could go ahead and use this method. But if you have more than just a few pages then this could add quite a few pages to you book making it more expensive than it needs to be. Another way to display the data is to put all the information into columns. This works but is difficult to fit all of the columns  onto each line and can be hard to follow on the page. The method that I like best is called “modified register.” Many genealogy programs can organize and print the data in this format. This is especially useful for descendents and families. It is very easy to read the information and yet it is compact and fits on the page very well. Here is a sample of what it looks like.


Chris Stevenson

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Time Saving Computer Short Cuts

I have found that I can do some computer processes much faster by using keyboard short cuts. These work with almost any windows programs. Here are my favorites.

CTRL + C will copy text after it has been highlighted.

CTRL + V will paste text that you have copied.

CTRL + A will highlight all of the document for copying.

CTRL + X will cut text after it has been highlighted.

CRTL + Z will undo any change that you have done.

CTRL + ESC will bring up the Start Menu.

SHIFT + F3 will turn all capitalized text into lowercase.

SHIFT + DELETE will delete an item immediately without placing it in the Recycle Bin.

ALT + TAB will bring up a Window with a list of icons representing programs which are currently running on your computer. While holding the ALT key, press and depress the TAB button to cycle between each icon task.

ALT + ESC will switch to the next task running on your computer. Hold down the ALT before pressing and depressing the ESC key to cycle to the next task.

CTRL + ALT + DELETE will bring up Task Manager and allow you to end a process (terminate a program) if it has crashed or has stopped responding. Select the process which has stopped responding, and then press "END PROCESS''.

SHIFT + INSERT will paste any text that is in your clipboard. Your cursor must also be placed in an area that will accept keyboard input for this to work.

Try these out and see which short cuts will help you. I hope these help you to not only produce your book faster but make all of your computer interactions easier. If you have another short cut that you like, add it in a comment.

Chris Stevenson

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Table of Contents is Your Map

One of the first pages that I look for when I pick up a book is the table of contents. It quickly gives me an idea of what is included in the book and where it is located. It is like a map that provides easier navigation within the book. The table of contents is very handy for the reader not only when they first pick up the book, but each time they are looking for specific information or a certain story.

Here are some tips for a good table of contents page. Keep the style of your table of contents (margins, fonts) consistent with the rest of your book. Include all of the chapter titles and as many of the important stories or documents that would be helpful. I like to have a dot leader (several periods in a row) before the page number, but they aren’t necessary. By using a right tab stop with dot leader in your word processor, the page numbers and the dots will all line up. If you want, you can make a separate page that lists all the pictures in the book and their page numbers.

It is possible to “mark” your chapters in your word processor and automatically generate the table of contents with the page numbers on them. Some have been successful at this, but I suggest the manual method of making the table of contents. It is usually much faster and easier. Here is a step by step guide for the automatic generation in Word. Microsoft has templates that you can use. Here is a link to the template.

Here is a link to Wikipedia’s more detailed explanation of the table of contents for those that would like to read more.

Chris Stevenson

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fun with Fonts

There are so many fonts available so you can really have some fun with the design of your book. There are decorative fonts, plain fonts, and everything in between. So, how do you choose? Do you go for the “look” or “readability” or both? These are great questions that don’t have simple answers.

Don Campbell has done a great job of explaining (in easy to understand terms) the intricacies of fonts. I would suggest that you read it. Here is a link to his page:

Don’s suggestion is a great one and I would agree with him to do the following test of the font that you want to use in your book. “Print a full page of text in the format of your book and at the page size of your book. Cut those pages in their final book size and place them into a book that is about the right size to see how they look and “feel” in a book. Scan your eyes back and forth and see how readable the text is. Test how easy it is to rapidly scan from the end of one line to the beginning of the next line. If you carry out this kind of text, varying the font, the font size, the leading and the book formatting you will start to realize that fonts which look fine in a small sample may be tiring or unpleasant to read in a book. In the end, the choice is yours and may actually affect whether your book gets read all the way through.”

The most common font that we see in the books we publish is Times New Roman. It is a very readable font. When you have chosen the fonts that you want in your book, you will need to make sure that the publisher can print those fonts or you can make a PDF of the file so it will print correctly. (See my post on File Formats for more information about this.) Happy font hunting!

Chris Stevenson

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Make the Publisher your Friend

As you work on your book, it is a great idea to contact several potential publishers. Talk with them and determine early on who you want to work with. They will be able to give you guidance and ideas to help improve your book that you can do while you are still in the editing process. This will help you produce the best book at the best price. If you wait until you are finished with your book to talk with them, it may be too time consuming or costly to make the changes to get the book the way you really want it. By making friends with the publisher, they will be a resource for you that you can call on when you have a question. It will give you one more person that will help you bring your family history to completion.

Chris Stevenson