Introducing the Write tab

published Oct 21, 2013

Today we just deployed a new feature: the Write tab. It’s hidden under the Actions tab.

Yeah, we’re going to reorganize the author app so things are less nested, but that’s another blog post for another time…

Anyway, back to the Write tab…

For many of you, this will be totally unimportant. We’re still 100% committed to the notion of “write on your own computer (or tablet), using your favourite tools”, etc. And we still think that Dropbox is a fantastic way to sync files between your computer and Leanpub.

However, that said, there are times when it’s nice to be able to edit a book in a web browser. For example…

  1. If you’re on a shared computer and can’t use Dropbox and local files, etc.
  2. If you just want to make a really quick fix or change to your book, and you’re already in your browser.
  3. If you’re on your tablet or phone.
  4. If you want to show a friend how great Leanpub is, and wish you could get from the create account to book preview exists status in 3 minutes, instead of spending the time signing them up for Dropbox, accepting share requests, etc.

Ironically, I (Peter Armstrong) learned the lesson of #1 firsthand recently: I was doing a 2 hour, hands-on “how to use Leanpub” workshop in Brisbane for a room full of fiction authors at GenreCon. Problem is, the computers in the lab could not save local files. Epic Workshop Fail — but also, a great Customer Development experience.

There should be absolutely no reason that anyone in the world can’t sign up for Leanpub and create a book in 5 minutes. None.

So, because of this epic fail, we now have a Write tab, and we hope it’s useful.

Right now, it’s very much a Minimum Viable Product. You can’t even upload images or a title page.

To try it out, go to https://leanpub.com/YOUR_BOOK/write.

Here’s what works right now:

  1. You can load up the page and see a list of the files in your book.
  2. You can edit the files and then save them.
  3. Saving the files syncs the changes to Dropbox and does a git commit internally in Leanpub
  4. You can edit the files in your sample (by using checkboxes to choose what is in the sample).
  5. You can reorder files (but see point 1 below).
  6. You can create and delete files.
  7. You can start a preview.
  8. You can download your PDF, EPUB and MOBI files from the Write tab.

Here’s what we’re planning to fix soon:

  1. There is no notion of “this file has changed and you are going to lose stuff if you move away from it”.
  2. The display of the preview progress bar is a little flaky.
  3. You can drag and drop to reorder files, but there’s no indication that this is possible.
  4. There is no image tab.
  5. There is no Markdown help tab.

Here’s the most obvious two enhancements to consider:

  1. a nice distraction-free Markdown editing environment
  2. a WYSIWYG editor that degrades gracefully

Here’s the most important thing:

Using the Write tab is not a decision you need to make up front.

The Write tab just lets you edit Markdown. It’s the dumbest UI imaginable: it took about 15 minutes to wireframe in Keynote in a hangout with Scott.

It’s not a decision that an author makes about whether they want to edit the book in their browser using some WYSIWYG editor or whether they want to edit the book in Dropbox. Our intention here is for people to sign up for Leanpub, kick the tires using the Write tab, generate a preview, download the previewed book, realize the potential of what Leanpub offers — and then accept the Dropbox share request and edit their books using their favourite tools…

We’re never going to do a visual editor that precludes us from supporting Markdown editing in Dropbox. We may, however, if this takes off, do a visual editor that degrades gracefully to editing Markdown text if it encounters something that it does not understand. However, that will be non-trivial to build, so doing a nicer looking distraction-free Markdown editor would presumably be a higher priority. If and when we look at doing a visual editor, we will consider all the available starting points, including the recently released Sir Trevor, etc.

Anyway, thanks for reading. We hope the Write tab is helpful, and not just for demos…

P.S. No, we did not do this because I’m speaking at Books in Browsers on Friday, Oct. 25 at 10:30 AM. But, the timing is a nice bonus, and I’m very happy (thanks Scott!!!) that it got done beforehand. (For any Leanpub authors in San Francisco, let Leanpub buy you drinks: October 25, 6 PM, the Kanpai Lounge in Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason Street…)


Originally published at leanpub.com.

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