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In the past, I've know people to type up all their family recipes in microsoft word. The problem later is formatting them. If they decide they want headlines to be a different font, it's a pain to change them all (I know there's ways to select text with similar formatting, but this isn't always useful).

Whenever I've typed things, I've always got the data before I take care of presentation.

I've got a friend who wants to self-publish a recipe book (just for her family, not the world). There's sites like lulu.com that allow you to use (I think) a pdf format in the end to upload and be made into a book. But before getting it into a pdf format, what's a good way to get the "data" together?

Or, am I thinking about this the wrong way?

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4 Answers 4

When writing a book, no matter which one, there's one tool that is there to rule them all: LaTeX.

Most technical books are written in LaTeX, this gives the publisher the possibility of changing layout, like font, page design etc. At the same time, the document has a certain introjection, It knows about paragraphs, about sections, etc, deciding what text goes at what pages, is something that's done in the design process, and should be left for later. LaTeX can generate its own index, its own glossary and the like (that's what I mean with introjection).

You can handle huge amounts of data, and you do all typing with a normal text editor (preferably with syntax highlighting) if you want a 5mm space between one line and the other: \vspace{5mm} and it'll be exactly 5mm.

You could easily put each recipe in one file and assemble them together in another one, that includes all the other, with layout information and settings.

I myself use LaTeX for larger texts, I have a header file that does all the settings for me, and the actual content goes in a separate file, that contains not much more that the text itself, then I do just a pdflatex mydoc.tex and voilà, I've got a nice PDF with my report or whatever.

[edit] I forgot to mention, that using LaTeX under Windows is just as easy as under other operating systems. Once you get used to it, you find using things like Word cumbersome, slow, and uncomfortable.

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Well, I see nothing wrong with Word and its format. Just make some organization when you're typing them in - one recipe per page; the title is always in one style (consistent), the text in another.

That way, when you wish to change all the titles you just modify the style, and all of them (titles) will be changed.

Find a nice cover (something tasty ;-), a table of contents (which you can autogenerate) and put page numbers on pages. Voila - almost a book.

Apart from that approach, there are also specialized editors for recipes specifically - for example, EasyRecipe is a nice one (although there are probably others as well).

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This is what I'd like to do,

  1. Collect data in a TiddlyWiki
  2. Format a fresh TiddlyWiki mostly with table markups like Michael does at his CookingForEngineers site.
    Here is a sample recipe card for Macaroni and Cheese Bake by Michael Chu

I like the neat and organized form of that recipe card.

It would be fun to zip the TiddlyWiki file and gift it to someone;
they can open the wiki in their favorite browser and platform -- no other tools required!

What is more -- family recipe books are never completely written,
there is always new recipes, modifications and extensions -- perfectly managed with a wiki.

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I have a different solution, that came to my mind, and that I use myself:

Use a small Wiki. Personally, I use DokuWiki. I can access this from everywhere, and you can easily design each page, etc. What's also nice, it has a PDF creator as plugin. So you can download every page as PDF, which is great for printing or sending it to someone.

I use my Wiki even for shopping lists. When I have a larger order, or when I'm doing an order with someone else, to save shipping costs, I just add another page with a table and all the parts I need go in there.

The great thing about DokuWiki is, it doesn't use databases. Instead, it stores everything into text files.

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