What’s the best way of removing the design-by-committee approach from your documentation?

Typesetr began as a solution to an internal problem at LShift. It was designed to remove the fragility and frustrations inherent in collaborative writing and editing workflows, with their heterogeneous mix of apps and platforms, where producing complex documents is needed as quickly and reliably as possible. LShift tried and tested many combinations of tools before finally settling on Google Documents as a collaborative editor and PDF as a target output format.

Many organisations invest heavily in their brand only to have that investment squandered when the process of linking content to professionally designed templates is either onerous, broken or, most commonly, forgotten about.

Typesetr provides a completely new way to produce well formatted business documents from Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. Typesetr enables users to enjoy all the collaboration features that Google Docs handles very well and then produce professionally formatted documents from predefined corporate design templates. Currently at proof of concept stage, Typesetr employs novel approaches to linking an extremely lightweight markup language (simple underlining in Google docs) to invoke complex metadata parsing and instructions to the formatting and production-ready PDF assembly components. Research is currently underway to provide support for academic authors and groups through the incorporation of complex reference, citation and indexing features.

Semantic Transformer

All we were missing was a reliable transformer (as opposed to a simple file converter) that would preserve the document’s structure and any complex elements while automatically applying tightly specified design templates from which production-ready PDFs would be rendered. The transformer would need to preserve and permit the editing of metadata for search and distribution services so we built Typesetr, a semantic transformer of complex documents.

LShift now uses Typesetr for all for all our pre-, inter- and post-project materials. Documents can be authored by several people concurrently with complete confidence that the final output stage is no longer a late-night, hair- (or table-, or formulae-) losing ordeal.

Typesetr currently ingests Google Docs, and HTML with .docx and .odt support next on the roadmap. It outputs to PDF, XML, HTML and EPUB3 (we think it’s is the most reliable and feature rich epub creator around).

The platform will accept and preserve complex document elements (bibliographies, citations, reference formats, formulae, notation and code snippets) and allow comprehensive metadata handling and editing for search and distribution services.

Assertive Artisans

Along with the structural integrity that Typesetr preserves in a document it also puts typographers and graphics professionals back in charge of final results.

Typesetr reflects a notion that form and content remain separate only up to when the user needs them to cohere. The choice of an appropriate template (or output target) for a document should be simple as saving it. And because Typesetr allows a content creators or editors to continuously preview their work against a beautifully designed template, there is a high level of confidence that final results will match expectations.

Over time we hope that Typesetr will act as a showcase (via its selection of templates) for graphic, book and type designers.

Open Access Publishing

Typesetr has broken out into the wild with several projects underway in the academic publishing milieu.

LShift has recently integrated Zotero (the leading open source citation and bibliographic support service) with Typesetr and we are extremely proud to have had Typesetr chosen as the central research platform for the EU’s open access publishing initiative at Leuphana University, Lüneburg.

Along with the Leuphana team, LShift is working with several leading open access publishers to extend Typesetr’s features. The mid-term roadmap includes incorporating other storage and collaborative editing providers along with support for more output formats and template creation methods.

Please get in touch if you’d like to take Typesetr for a spin or to set up an informal discussion as to whether it’s the right solution for your publishing challenges.

Tech Inventory

At the moment, Typesetr uses Google Docs for document storage, editing and authentication, and Zotero for bibliography storage and management

Its web front end is built on Ruby on Rails (plus some CoffeeScript and JavaScript, PDF preview via pdf.js) and the back end (conversion, structural clean-up and semantification, typesetting) is built with Python. PDFs are created with LaTeX.