In the past few months, I have become increasingly interested in mobile publishing formats. The two 'flavours' I have been experimenting with are browser-based content for mobile devices (phones and tablets) and eBooks (ePub, Mobi, and other common formats).

It is a complex path to follow. There are numerous devices, numerous standards (and non-standards) and lots of subtleties. Just when you think you have it working on one device, you try it on another, and it is broken. Add on top of that the pace at which the technology and standards are changing it can become overwhelming.

Because of this, there are many design and process decisions that you need to make. Developing for the lowest common denominator seems to be the safest and least painful option. For example, image size and how tables are formatted. This does limit what you can do in the output, but it does make for a more consistent end-user experience.

In addition to getting the formatting right, another big effort is putting together a repeatable process with as little manual intervention as possible. For this, I leveraged technologies I already know well (Author-it, .NET, VB scripting) and some new technologies (JSON, Python, and jQuery Mobile). The tool chain I have hobbled together is, at the moment, a little tenuous, but it does work.

As a prototype, I decided to create a mini book using content from the South Korea Wikitravel page (I am going for a holiday there in April). To see the results of my efforts, use the following links:

The following screen shots are some samples of how the mobile help output looks.

Mobile Help ExampleMobile Help Example

As a side note, Author-it is planning on supporting publishing mobile help natively from Author-it. From what I have heard it is going to be called TouchHelp and here are a couple of screen shots from a development version of the output (not even in Beta yet).

Author-it TouchHelp ExampleAuthor-it TouchHelp Example

Author-it TouchHelp ExampleAuthor-it TouchHelp Example

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