Thursday, December 15, 2011

calibre portable: A great holiday gift

For a very long time calibre was tied up to the computer on which it was installed. Although the calibre content server allowed for access to the calibre library through a browser, it still required the computer on which calibre was installed to be on and accessible through the internet. But since version 8.5 a new portable calibre build was made available by Kovid for your convenience. This version of calibre can be put on to a USB stick and carried around with you. The USB stick would contain both the calibre installation as well as the calibre library. It can be then plugged into any windows computer and used to access the library on the stick with calibre.

To download calibre portable go to this page (You can also get here by going to the usual calibre download page here and then clicking on the usb stick icon shown in the figure below), where there is a link to download calibre portable. When you click on the link you will be prompted to save a zipped file. Once you have downloaded it and unzipped it transfer the contents to a USB stick. After you have done this the USB stick should contain a folder named "Calibre Portable". That folder should contain three sub-folders named "Calibre", "Calibre Library" and "Calibre Settings" and an executable file called "calibre-portable.exe".

To include your current calibre library in calibre portable just copy the entire contents of your current calibre library folder on your computer to the "Calibre Library" folder in the "Calibre Portable" folder on the USB stick. Now you are all set up, so safely remove the USB stick. To run calibre portable on another computer; this part only works on windows machines; plug the USB stick in to the windows computer and double-click on the calibre-portable.exe file mentioned above. calibre portable will open up and its ready for use. It has all the features any other calibre installation has. The only difference is it will always start up with the library called "Calibre Library" in the "Calibre Portable" folder. You can of course switch the library while using it but the next time you start calibre portable it wont remember the library switch and will again start up with the library called "Calibre Library" in the "Calibre Portable" folder. But you can manually switch the library each time.

calibre portable as a holiday gift:
calibre portable makes for a great personal and affordable christmas gift. Just go buy a USB stick, 1GB is quite enough for the purpose. Follow the steps outlined above to get calibre portable on to it. calibre portable is absolutely free. Then taking into consideration the likes and dislikes of the recipient there are many excellent places to get books to populate the library. For the classics there is Project Gutenberg, where a huge number of public domain ebooks are available as well formatted ebooks absolutely free. Then there are a number of sites that sell their ebooks DRM-free so your recipient can make the most of this gift. These sites include Baen for speculative fiction, Carina Press for romance, Smashwords, BeWrite BooksXinXii and many more for a variety of genre.

Following image is courtesy  this site.

calibre maintains its own catalog of DRM-free ebooks from various sources and it is made available through its website Open Books. Open books now has a collection of over 2825 ebooks to choose from and features content from over 1095 authors and from 35 stores. Open books includes over 150 free ebooks and over a 1000 ebooks priced less than $3.00. Note that open books only catalogs DRM-free ebooks from various sites and provides links to them. Open Books was set up to promote authors of DRM free ebooks but Open Books does not sell any ebooks.

So get together some ebooks that your recipient would like and put it into the "Calibre Library" folder in the "Calibre Portable" folder. You can even use calibre to spruce up the metadata and add covers to make all the books look good. You can also add a couple of news magazines your recpient would be interested in using the calibre "Fetch News" feature for free. This makes a great gift, very personal, useful and can be treasured for a long time to come.

Use calibre portable to be a thoughtful Santa and Happy Holidays to all of you. The next calibre blog post will probably be early in the new year. I will be decreasing the frequency of the blog posts since a lot of the major topics have been covered. Please use the comments section to make requests for topics you would like covered.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

calibre look and feel

calibre allows you to customize its Graphical User Interface (GUI) in many different ways so that you can have a GUI that suits your particular needs and tastes. In this blog post I will point out some useful tweaks that can be easily implemented and focus mainly on column coloring which is a useful way to identify certain books in your collection.

To adjust the look and feel of the calibre GUI click on Preferences in the main tool bar. In the new window that opens click on the Look and Feel icon in the first row under Interface. The following window appears.

Main Interface: The first tab in the above window is Main Interface. Here you can choose the user interface layout. By default this is set to Wide, in which case book details along with the cover appears in the rightmost column and the cover browser is above the list of books in the main calibre window. However this can be set to Narrow as shown in the figure above and then the book details with cover appear at the bottom and the cover browser on the right as shown in the figure below. You can click the little brown book icon at the bottom right corner of the screen to make the book details disappear altogther and then click the brown book icon again to make them reappear.

You can click the little curved arrow icon at the bottom right corner to mahe the cover browser disappear or reappear. The main interface tab also allows you to choose the icon sizes; small, medium or large as well as off (no icons, only the text under the icons is visible and can be clicked on).

Book Details:
The next tab is book details. As shown in the figure below here you can choose what details are to be displayed in the book details section of the main window.

calibre's tag browser has been discussed in some detail in an earlier blog post.

Cover Browser: The fourth tab is the cover browser. This allows you to choose if you would like to have the cover browser displayed within the main calibre interface or in a separate window as shown in the figure below. You can also choose to have this window appear in full screen mode and toggle the full screen mode using the F11 key.

Column Coloring:
As shown in the figure below the last tab under Look and Feel is column coloring. Here you can set up conditions to have certain entries in certain columns appear a certain color.

When you click on the Add Rule button the following window appears which allows you to set the entries in a column to be a particular color provided the entries of some other column satisfy some condition by taking certain values.

For example, when we add the following rule (make title blue when genre is news)

we see

but even if we hide the genre column we can still tell which titles belong to the news genre because they are in blue as shown below.

Consider another example where all the titles are made maroon when the genre is not specified as shown in the figure below. This kind of rule would be useful for you to identify books where metadata is incomplete when you are managing your library.

Hope you found these tips useful. See you again in about a week.