How to Typeset a Book

Published with kind permission from Michele DeFilippo, Indie Book Publishing Mentor and Owner of 1106Design | 1st Published Jan 2016

The decision to ask a professional book designer to typeset your book versus typesetting it yourself is driven largely by limited budget, opinions about where your publishing dollars are best spent, and misinformation.

The proliferation of book templates has provided a low-cost option for authors wishing to self-publish a book. These templates, offered in Word or in specially designed apps, allow authors to create a book interior that looks professional to the untrained eye. However, anyone seeking to self-publish a book meant to compete with traditionally published books should be aware of book layout issues in order to properly assess whether or not the budget-friendly templates and apps will create a book that looks like it belongs among the bestsellers.

My advice? Compare the text in bestselling hardcover books from major publishers to that Word template or app. Your sharp eye will immediately see the difference. Then, ask yourself: Would a traditional publisher buy a template off the Internet to typeset books? No, and here’s why.

Book designers must attend to an astonishing number of details when laying out a book. Once you understand these issues, you may start to question what you will lose while saving money with a template or app, and conclude that it’s best to spend your time and money on marketing your professionally designed book rather than attempting to become a book designer yourself. Here are the most basic book layout issues so that you’ll know what to look for.

Text style: Will the text will be justified or ragged? Justified text imparts a formal tone, whereas ragged text is more casual and personal. The choice should suit the tone of your text, but keep in mind that reading a large volume of ragged right text can become very annoying, very quickly.

Margins: The margins should be generous enough so that the block of text has space all around it, allowing the eye to move comfortably from one line to the next while reading. When a book is bound, the pages are pinched together just a little, so if you don’t allow for this, the binding-side margin can look smaller than the outside margins. That’s a no-no.

Font: When typesetting a book, the important thing to remember is that serif type is better for text that is to be read continuously. Our mind is trained to recognize the shapes of words rather than reading letter by letter, and serifs form a link between letters.

Font size: Type that is too large can make your book look self-published, and reflect poorly on the credibility of your message. You should choose a type size that gets no more than 70 characters per line for easiest reading. How you figure that out is beyond the scope of this blog post….

The book block: The main reason that a book looks like a book (rather than a brochure or a report) is that the text is confined to a tightly-defined area on every page called the book block. When a book is opened, facing pages should end on the same line. Although this sounds easy enough, this necessary task is an incredible time sucker-upper.

Widows and orphans: Within the book block, the first line of a paragraph shouldn’t fall on the last line of a page, and the last line of a paragraph should not appear on the top of a page. Why? Because each of these situations makes the reader stop, thus impeding reading comprehension. It’s often necessary to rework a number of pages to accomplish this goal.

Word Widows: Another rule of book design, which varies from publisher to publisher, is that the last line of a paragraph should never be a word less than five characters long, including punctuation. The way around this is to adjust word spacing and tracking values within the paragraph, but very subtly, so it’s not noticeable by the reader.

Lines after a subhead: Another rule that aids reading comprehension is that at least two lines of text should follow a subhead at the bottom of the page, while still maintaining the book block. To do this, a book designer will typically go back and forth and rework pages as needed until the goal is accomplished, taking into account such complexities as bullet items.

Line spacing: Lines of text that are too close to each other (or too far apart) can be difficult to read. Line spacing can help expand the page count of a small book, or decrease the page count of a long book to save on printing costs. Some advice: A short book can’t be made into a long one, so please don’t try to fool people by adding so much line spacing that it looks silly.

Paragraph spacing: In most cases there should NOT be a line of space above each paragraph in a book. A line space above a paragraph can be used sparingly to indicate a scene change or a new section. Whenever there is a line space above a paragraph, eliminate the first-line indent on that paragraph.

Alignment: Text lines must line up across the page. Look at a traditionally published book; it’s true, they line up. I won’t get into how this happens, but you’ll spend a lot of time making sure it happens, especially if you have subheads, lists and illustrations.

Word spacing: Word spacing should be fairly close to make it easier to read. A page of text should look uniform in color without overly tight lines (which look dark) or overly loose lines (which look light). The “color” should be even. This is accomplished by changing the justification settings: word spacing, letter spacing and glyph scaling. Experienced book designers know that different fonts require different combinations of justification settings to look just right. Sometimes different sizes of the same font require different settings!

Hyphenation: Hyphenation should be set so the reader isn’t annoyed by too many hyphens generally, or too many hyphens in a row. More than three hyphens in a row and it starts to look like ladders on the right margin. Avoid hyphenating the last line on the page because it forces the reader to wonder what comes next, and hold that partial word in mind as he or she continues reading. The stub end of a hyphenated word should never be the last line in a paragraph. Ugly. Also, avoid hyphenating capitalized words such as names, locations and titles.

Proper dashes: There are three kinds of dashes in every type font. Hyphens are used to hyphenate words and separate phone numbers. Em dashes are a form of punctuation, used to offset clauses in a sentence. The En dash, typically half the length of an Em dash, is used to denote duration, as in 8:00–5:00, or August 12–14.

Proper quotation marks: Use true (curly) quotation marks and apostrophes. Using tick marks directly from the keyboard sends the message, “I don’t care how this stuff looks.”

Use of small caps: Uppercase text is set slightly smaller than the surrounding text. Otherwise, your capitals will SCREAM at the reader.

Letter spacing of capitalized text: Capitalized text or small caps appearing within normal text can appear too tight and crowded; they need to be loosened up a bit. Avoid letter spacing in lowercase book text. Looser spacing always decreases readability.

Boldface and italics: Use boldface text sparingly. Bold text is like a magnet to our eyes, and will ruin the continuity of your text. Italics and bold text, when overused, can appear condescending to the reader…as if you are saying, “I don’t think you’ll understand my words unless I emphasize what’s important.”

Underlined text: Even more distracting than boldface text is underlined text, which is a typographic abomination that should be avoided.

Special characters: The © (copyright), ® (registered trademark), and ™ (trademark) characters almost always need to be reduced, sometimes by as much as fifty percent, depending on the font.

Proper formatting of ellipses: According to the current Chicago Manual of Style, ellipses should be set with a word space on either side and a word space between each dot. Ellipses mustn’t break in the middle or begin on a new line.

Watch the characters you use for lists: As a general rule, ballot boxes (check boxes) and bullets should be about two points smaller than the surrounding text. Note that having too many different kinds of bullet characters makes your book look homemade and amateurish.

Word stacks: Avoid beginning or ending three consecutive lines with the same word. Override your software for a better look by adjusting word spacing or tracking manually in that paragraph only, or by rewriting the text.

Overwhelmed yet?

Word does not contain the settings to make the minuscule adjustments listed above in a way that is invisible to the reader. And, we’ve seen many template layouts that inadvertently violate all of these standards.

One answer might be to purchase professional design software such as InDesign and learn how to use it. As you can imagine, such software involves an investment in the purchase price and in time to learn how to use it to achieve the desired professional result—following all these rules takes a lot of time. Understanding and following the rules are what book designers do, versus templates, apps, or “formatters” who do not attend to these details (and charge accordingly).

Click here for more information and then contact Michele at 1106 Design to discuss having a professional book designer typeset your book!

Food vs Time: A Jewish Perspective

They say that Jews are obsessed by food – almost every Jewish event is connected with food. Even Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year where we fast for 25 hours, is preceded by a meal

However, in many ways, perhaps we are more obsessed with time. The Jewish calendar is based it the lunar cycle, but the halakhic day is based on cycle of the sun. From time that Shabbat commences and the dates of the Jewish festivals, to what time we can pray, or even eat diary (ah yes food again), all connected to time and the list goes on.

Some of the most expensive watches on the market will include a Jewish day and month complication (that’s the fancy word for the the “extras” you get on a watch). For most of us the day and date will be more than enough but an expensive time piece taking up valuable real estate on your wrist (and a sizable chunk of your bank account) will include more exotic complications such as the phase of moon. Oh and when I say expensive, I’m talking millions of dollars. Here is a nice pocket watch which includes a Jewish calendar which will set you back around $5m: The Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260 pocket watch.

Of course Apple when venturing into the watch market included all of these complications. Sunrise, sunset (no, this isn’t a cue to burst into song, but feel free), lunar calendar, Jewish month the works – it’s all there (well nearly but we’ll get to that). Well of course it is. Apple has had the Jewish calendar on iPhone for ages, so to add it to the watch was easy.
But as a religious Jew, sunrise on its own is of limited value. It didn’t take long for Rusty Brick to come out with an Apple Watch complication to their siddur which gave you more interesting complications such as Daf Yomi and this week’s parasha. What’s even more unique is tapping on the complication will bring up a menu with more options including finding a local minyan (including directions) and even davening including Nikud (and yes I have used it for Mincha). If you have used the app and find it very slow, be rest assured that in WatchOS 3 which should be released some time in September it is very fast.

However my favourite Jewish complication right now is Hayom by Chabad. Although tapping on the complication isn’t useful like Rusty Brick’s offering, what I do love about this complication is that the Jewish date actually changes at sunset. If you like you can also set the complication to tell you the various important davening times such as netz, plag etc.

So now we have established that there are some really interesting complications and apps for the Apple Watch, what about all those bands? My biggest challenge was getting the basic sport band on and off. Great if you want to go for a run, not so great for putting on tefillin in the morning.

I solved this problem last summer by purchasing the leather loop band. It’s really the only upmarket band that goes nicely with the low-end Sport watch that I purchased. This band is designed very cleverly and is perfect for the quick wrist change necessary for morning prayers (especially if you haven’t had your morning caffeine yet).

For those of you that like to daven at netz (crack of dawn) – yes I do get up that early but actually I go for a swim before prayers, then wearing the watch at night allows me to set a silent alarm which taps my wrist when time to get up which my wife really appreciates. Since the current Apple Watch is not waterproof, I take out my  garmin watch for my swim, which is just as well because the battery is normally down to about 15% after 23 hours so I need the opportunity to charge my watch. Just for the record, when I was running, I much preferred my Apple Watch since I was able to control my entertainment on my iPhone from my wrist and when necessary quick reply to any time-sensitive texts without slowing down. Of course if you ever saw me run then you would realise that I run so slowly that it would be hard to go any slower.

Talking of quick replies, Apple is introducing smart replies which are pretty cool. However what I really appreciated that although my watch is set to English,  when somebody texts me in Hebrew, the smart reply feature gives me options in Hebrew.

The main comment that I get from people is what do I do on Shabbat. It’s a funny comment really. Obviously the watch is completely muktze but it would be nice to have a Shabbat mode that would show zmanim and other seasonal options such as sefirat haomer or tzidkatecha. Even a Shabbat alarm clock would be nice.

However, I suppose I should be first try and convince Apple that the Jewish day starts at sunset…

The “Batmobile”

The subject isn’t new but it’s amazing to see what is going on in this space.

I was talking to a friend of mine who was relating that his daughter was learning to drive, and I promptly informed him that my children will not be taking driving lessons. My seven-year-old is not interested in an iPhone – he is waiting for his Apple Car.

What is interesting is how the development is taking place. On the other hand, car manufacturers are slow to take on technologies such as Apple Car Play but on the other hand, others are making self-driving cars. How does this even make sense?

Perhaps more interesting is who is interested in the development and why. For example the Faraday Car has heavy investment from a Chinese media company. Well it makes sense if you think about it, when you get into your car and it drives itself you will want to be entertained. Volvo has understood this and has come up with a solution that will calculate your route, your travel time and then feed you appropriate content for the length of your journey (G-d forbid you should be bored for 3 minutes).

Of course the winners in this brave new world are going to be the car detailing companies. People will soon realise that there is no real need to own a car. Let Siri decide when you need a car based on travel time (although personally I would trust Waze more) and then a car will appear in front of your home ready to take you to your appointment.

But is that car going to be clean? Forget Netflix, who wants to sit in a dirty car! Never mind signage on the future taxis advertising wifi, I want to know who cleaned the car. CarSpa is going to make a killing!



Etiquette in the days of wearable tech – 72 hours with the Apple Watch

About a year or two ago, I was in a meeting with a colleague and a potential client. My colleague was sporting a Pebble watch and at that moment I decided that I wanted one. By the end of the meeting, I had changed my mind. You see throughout the meeting the Pebble was on silent mode, yet it vibrated throughout. Each time, I wondered if my colleague was more curious as to what the notification was or the conversation at hand.

When Apple launched the Apple Watch, they announced their Taptic Engine. Most people haven’t really understood the social significance of this. When the watch was released, certain journalists were given the watch by Apple to review for two weeks. One journalist made a point which was very interesting. He said that he received multiple notifications throughout a meeting and felt that it was rude to keep looking at his watch, since looking at one’s watch signals to the other party that you have somewhere better to be.

IMG_0228But hang on here. Didn’t that journalist completely miss the point? I mean he might as well have put his phone on the table in front and see the notifications as they came in. What was the point of the notifications being on his wrist? Surely the point is that nobody knows that you have a notification. Sit in the meeting, whether it’s a business meeting or dinner with your spouse, and when that event takes a break or ends, then and only then check your phone. Give a person the attention they deserve.

I think that we are so distracted by technology that we feel that we absolutely have to respond to that Facebook post in the middle of conversation with a person standing right in front of you. The same is true of WhatsApp groups etc. And you know what, if you are talking to somebody and your phone dings or vibrates, well you might as well deal with it there and then because the other person knows that you have something way more important to deal with than them. The damage was done the moment the phone dinged.

And this is what interested me about the Apple Watch. I can receive a notification and nobody around me needs to know. The watch doesn’t light up. Only I know that there is something that I might want to deal with later, and whether that later means in 3 minutes when I have finished talking to a colleague, or in an hour after a meeting, either way, the other person knows that I’m talking to them. The same way that they don’t know that I have an important meeting at 2 o’clock and am in a bit of a rush, they also don’t know that somebody posted pictures from my daughter’s kindergarten on whatsapp.

The “Taptic Engine” as Apple calls it, works in one of two ways: It either gives you a “Prominant Haptic” which feels like a vibration (which again only you feel – you can’t hear it) or a simple tap on your wrist. Unlike sound or vibrating alerts, I haven’t yet missed a tap. This is, in my opinion, the killer feature on the Apple Watch. Of course, if you can’t control yourself to wait before looking at your watch, then the feature is useless.

Rather than write yet another review, I thought I would share some some initial unexpected findings after having owned my new Apple toy for nearly three days.

I had expected not to wear the watch whilst working. I usually take my watch off when I start to work since I found it uncomfortable to wear whilst using a keyboard and mouse. However, the Apple Watch is extremely comfortable (I have the 42mm Sport with the plastic band) and I haven’t taken it off during the day.

I also expected that I wouldn’t deal with notifications on my watch whilst working. However, I find that notifications usually fall into three categories: 1) read and ignore; 2) read and short reply and 3) read and reply. Since most fall into the first two categories for me, I actually find it less of a distraction to deal with them on my wrist rather than reaching for my phone to respond on iMessage, messenger or WhatsApp.

Obviously when cleaning the house or being with the kids, not having to take out my phone for each alert has decreased the chances of me dropping it. When I receive a phone call, I can see who it is on my wrist as I put on my bluetooth headset and answer the phone.

nokia-e71-01Another nicety was something that I have found extremely frustrating for many years. I loved the fact that my Nokia E71 would display my appointments when looking at my phone. However even in the latest iteration of iOS, you have to slide down to see your appointments. Now each time I look at my watch to see what time it is, I can see the next appointment or two (depending on the watch face) and I hope that when the new version of the software comes out in September more options will be available with more complications. Of course with a tap you can see all your appointments and calendars but for me to see the next appointment without touching the watch is really nice.

I have never found reminders to be terribly good on iPhone. They work but I often miss them. Therefore I found that setting an alarm more effective since they keep making a noise until you dismiss them (after all if I don’t turn off the oven in ten minutes the food will be burnt!) Reminders work really well on the watch. I don’t miss any of them since I’m notified with a tap.

I think the Apple Watch is different for each person. For some, the ability to look at your watch and see how late the bus is going to be is very useful, for others it’s going to be the convenience of Apple Pay. For me it’s the fantastic and subtle notifications and the ability to act on them in a natural way.

Is Jewish publishing dead in this new digital era?

Often when we think of publishing in the digital age we immediately think of Kindle and iPads. However, the fact remains that the Jewish market to a large extent prefers to buy and read physical books made out of paper rather than glass or plastic.

I tried to investigate this phenomena. Somebody posited that perhaps it is because we are known as the People of the Book. Hmm, er okay. Not sure about that but social inertia is nevertheless strong and we kind of like to show off our books on our bookshelf. After all a living room with an an oak book case with glass doors with a solitary iPad sitting in it is not all that impressive.

Perhaps a more compelling reason is simply a technical one in that the Kindle doesn’t support Hebrew and even a more advanced format such as iBooks doesn’t support a right-to-left book (although Hebrew with nikud and trop within an English paragraph is). So there are some serious technical difficulties in presenting a book either in Hebrew or even an English book with Hebrew text in it. So that makes creating a religious Jewish book somewhat challenging. In my experience of typesetting books of Jewish interest over the past couple of decades, most books do include a Hebrew word here or there.

However, probably the strongest reason is that many of us simply like to read on Shabbat and that combined with the fact that still millions of people (not just Jews) still prefer the experience of reading text on paper for whatever the reason, means that digital books are not yet a viable financial enterprise for Jewish publishing.

In my role as a publisher of Jewish books (both print and digital, but as you might have guessed by now – mainly print), I meet with my potential clients, the authors, to work out how to best maximise the revenue on their book. Their are no illusions – nobody is getting rich here – but how do we get the maximum return on investment.

Meeting with one author some months ago we were working on a strategy on how to make it work. He had already done a number of books in the past so was no stranger to the system. Later I received a phone call: I am going to crowd-fund this book.

Well I said, the first thing you need for an Indiegogo campaign is a good video, so I recommended to him RapidFire. I had used them in the past and was extremely pleased with their results.

Well the video certainly did the trick and with the help of a first-class marketing company (shout out to Tikshoret) his campaign has reached 17% funded after 3 days as the date that this blog has been pressed.

Of course you are all invited to donate a few dollars to the book!

Is the Apple Watch Edition muktzeh?

My grandmother once explained to me that a gold watch wasn’t muktzeh because if it stopped, you would still continue to wear it on Shabbat since it was jewelry. I’m not sure that was what Tim Cook had in mind when they revealed the Apple Watch Edition.

Many thoughtful articles have been written on Apple Watch and a fare share of not-so-thoughtful ones. At any rate, I think it’s fairly safe to say that Apple are going to be selling this device by the boatload and the real question everyone is asking is how it’s going to change our everyday lives.

Some time ago, I asked a charedi colleague of mine why texting was forbidden in certain streams of ultra-orthodoxy. In fact, you can buy cellphone packages where you can’t receive or send a text message (very annoying when I rely so much on canned replies with SMS when somebody calls me). He explained that the fear was that when somebody could be doing something better with their time, instead they would be texting. Bitul Torah. I have to admit that I have this problem too sometimes, but with me it’s when watching TV rather than learning in the Bet Midrash, and my wife kindly tells me when I should pay attention to the screen (ie the big one) when something important happens in the TV programme that we are watching (I guess that’s why I have an iPhone…)

One thing that I did notice of course, is the habit that I have that when finishing the Amida in shul during the week, I whip out my iPhone to check if I’ve missed anything whilst waiting for the shaliach tzibbur to start the Repetition. On days I feel particularly holy, I will sit closer to the front of shul to prevent me from doing so – no, it’s not my closeness to the aron kodesh that helps, but rather the lack of phone reception.

But it got me thinking. Imagine now, whilst waiting for the Rabbi to finish davening (heck somebody in shul has to have a bit of kavana) we all start looking at our smart watches? I admit the ability for the gabbai to subtly force touch the shaliach tzibbur via his Apple Watch rather than a loud “bakhavod” is nice, but looking at our watches has a different social cue – Nu! / I’m bored / Can I get out of here? At least when looking at a smart phone person can think the best of somebody and can assume that they are reading the parshat hashavua. But a watch? Not sure how easy it’s going to be to pull “Yes I’m davening from my siddur app on my Apple Watch.”

Although I have to say that I still have a dream of putting out a really smart siddur. Of course the problem is that there aren’t enough Jews in the world that would daven from an app that would make it a financial viability, although perhaps I should do an Indiegogo campaign like a local Rabbi is doing for his book – heck he’s raised over $6K so far, but I digress…

It makes me wonder what are the actually truly useful aspects of a smart siddur? Perhaps a Watch app could be interesting and more importantly, more useful. For example simply reminding you to add Yaaleh Veyavo when you get to the Amida. That doesn’t need a full siddur app, but a nice reminder on your watch… Particularly useful for those of us who don’t quite make it to shul and daven at home. Imagine the watch recognising that we took three steps forward and start to schockle away and there was a discrete tap on the wrist to remind you to say the required addition.

There are of course more obvious use-cases such as looking at your watch to see how much time you have left to say keriat shema which actually is more convenient than using iKaluach on your iPhone.

Apple very kindly incorporated the Jewish calendar into iOS 8 but I would really love to see not only the correct Jewish date appearing on my Apple Watch face (which I assume will be built-in) but also the Hebrew date actually changing at shkia rather than at midnight (although apparently many people don’t realise that the Jewish date changes at nightfall so perhaps Apple doesn’t know about this).

Perhaps this will be the killer feature of the Apple Watch so we would finally have a good way of remembering to send the kids to school wearing white shirts on Rosh Chodesh.



The changing size of displays

You learn something new every day…

One of my clients called me up recently and asked me a question about a book we were typesetting. It turned out that there is some software that would save me countless hours of work: Annotations for InDesign. Now for this to save time, it requires that the editors and proofreaders and often the authors too use Adobe Reader correctly to mark up the PDF.

So finally I decided, rather than spending 20 minutes on the phone each time teaching people and tools such as to screen share the process, I would simply make a little video. So answers to a post on FaceBook gave me a few recommendations and I ended up using ScreencastOMatic which was brilliant.

You can also see text instructions on the Renana Typesetting website. Unfortunately, even though the free Adobe Reader for iPad has improved drastically, most of these features are for Windows or OSX.

Inbox Zero

I receive a lot of email and I was intrigued by a piece of software on my phone called Acompli that among other things allows you to snooze email. In fact it seems that Microsoft were also intrigued and bought the company! However, as much as I enjoy reading emails on my phone, my PC has a larger screen (actually it has 3 screens, but that’s a whole other post) and I much prefer Outlook.

So I decided that there must be a way to do this in Outlook and I found a brilliant post by a guy called Kevin Guyer on how to do this. I encourage you to read his post which includes screenshots etc. It will make you rethink the way you use Outlook. I now have 2 items in my inbox. Not quite inbox zero but the closest I have ever been.

Talking of screens…

nintypeIt is inevitable that many times an email has to be written on your phone. Unfortunately carrying a keyboard as large as my Microsoft keyboard with my phone is somewhat impractical (although the size of phones are increasing…) so I’m always checking out new keyboards on my phone and the latest to impress me Nintype which has now replaced Swype as my favourite phone keyboard. It does have a bit of a learning curve but it’s worth it out since it really is very much faster.

Not just keyboards, but websites too

ktav new logoA new venture of Renana is One of the challenges was creating a website that would adapt to the size of the screen. Fortunately using Magento and a theme called Ultimo this has become very straightforward. You are encouraged to visit from different devices to see how this works or if you have a large screen simply resize your screen to see what happens. Magento has tutorials on this which are worth checking out.

Don’t they have Lego in Russia? Oh well time for a coffee…

dyson_yellow2Finding a cleaner for one’s home usually brings up various different emotions in people. None of them good of course, but for some years now we have been using a cleaning service in Modi’in that has worked out  pretty well. Well except for one little problem – there is always one isn’t there? Well, most of these cleaners don’t speak Hebrew. Or English. Or even Russian (not that I speak Russian either but that’s whole different story. The first job that I always have, is to work out what language they do speak and then I whip out my phone and tap on Google Translate. I of course have no idea if the translation is any good, but they get the idea.

Well until we get to the hoover (that’s a vacuum cleaner for those American folk reading this post). I made the mistake of buying a Dyson. And what’s wrong with a Dyson you ask? Well actually nothing. To use it, you press here, pull there. It’s kind of like Lego® except it seems that they don’t have Lego in Russia, or Poland, or the Ukraine. I’m always amazed as to how they put the thing away with the wire wrapped around the thingymejoozy and attach the parts in…well you get the idea.

But you know, with the help of my iPhone and despite the hoover, we manage to communicate the and house gets clean… well until the kids get home from school and then you wonder why you bothered.


Years ago (and we are talking a couple of decades now), I worked for a printer in Jerusalem called Dfus HaMakor. I worked in the graphics and the digital prepress department. One of my terribly exciting jobs (please add a dollop of sarcasm here) was what we called in Hebrew, “running films.” Basically we would get a pjohnny_coffee_2ostscript file from the client and put it on the computer which would then spew out very large sheets of films with the pages of their book arranged correctly for printing – that’s the short version. Actually it’s the long version too. Anyway, once we pressed the equivalent of “print” on the computer, we would just wait. And wait. Now don’t get me wrong. This was at least ten times faster than doing it the old way, but for me it was well, boring. I had to be there in case something went wrong and had to fix the file. However, often the clients would stick around to wait to make sure everything went smoothly and we would schmooze…

Often we would be there until quite late at night and there were two clients in particular, one  secular and the other a Gerer Chasid that were regulars and often we would have the most amazing conversations discussing the various rifts in Israeli society.


3ladies 2000Twenty years have passed and some things haven’t changed: They are still “running films” or more accurately plates now. And yes the conversations between different religious streams of Judaism continue. However one thing significant has changed… This time it’s not three men sitting by a computer schmoozing, but rather three ladies over their lattes. This time, rather than animated conversations been forgotten, they have been written down and made into a book. It’s a fascinating read and I encourage you to buy the book (yes, yes I’m the publisher so of course I have to encourage you to buy the book!)

So now go and click on and preorder (it should be available for order in the coming days). But wait, there’s more… If you go to the facebook page, you can see where these Three Ladies have been booked to speak.

Now I’m off to rebuild my Dyson hoover…


What is the outlook today? Is the sun going to rise?

OutlookcomI have a confession to make. It’s perhaps not the most dramatic confession ever made on the internet, but it is one that is going to affect my “geek factor” (I was informed by a colleague the other day that I’m a geek – who knew!) You see gmail recently celebrated it’s tenth birthday and well, I hate gmail. You may think that “hate” is a strong word. I don’t. In fact if you are looking for a free e-mail service I now recommend (the successor of Hotmail). But no, that’s not my confession…

My confession is that my email program of choice is Outlook (no, no, not that I mention two seconds ago – thank you Microsoft for making things so confusing), but good old Outlook. The one you have to buy or get free as part of a Microsoft 365 subscription (more about that later). Okay, my geek score just went down to zero since all geeks of course use gmail and Chrome – yes I use Explorer too. I assume some of you will now be so unimpressed with my lack of geekiness, and will stop reading right now so to you I bid farewell.

pizzaFor those of you who are still intrigued by my insistence on continuing to use Outlook, I will recall years ago sitting in Pizza May on Rechov HaPalmach and a friend of mine that we’ll call Dan for the purpose of this conversation, told me that he had just installed the new version of Outlook and informed me that I shouldn’t bother since it was a huge memory hog. Well in those days that kind of mattered. Today I have 64-bit Windows using 64-bit Outlook on a machine with an SSD and 16GB of RAM (hey has my geek status been reinstated?) so I don’t really care. Outlook does for me what I need and gmail most certainly doesn’t. But this post is not about email per se, but rather about how I use Outlook to organize my business.

Nelson-Email-Organizer-thumbOkay, first and foremost, a post like this can’t be written without giving at least one method of organizing one’s email. After all, I am talking about Outlook. I’ve tried different solutions including one of my old favourite’s: NEO. This software actually taught me an excellent way of organizing my email but now my needs are different.

I also used to be a great fan of folders, but my system now is much simpler – I have one folder and it’s the Archive folder. It used to be called the “done” folder but by changing it to the Archive folder, I can file away on my iPhone with one tap on the archive button. That’s it! Email stays in my inbox until I’ve dealt with it. Part two of my system is to make sure that I don’t have more than 30 emails in my inbox (although I must confess right now I have 97 😦 ). Now sometimes I need to keep emails for projects and then I use categories and I do use folders for very special occasions…

RBtOkay, but actually I want to introduce you to a tool that I’ve been using for perhaps a decade. You see as well as wearing the publisher hat, I have another hat and that is as of Typesetter at Renana. I could invent a cool title but I will just leave the word typesetter capitalized and hope you are suitably impressed. Oh and whilst I’m talking about Renana Books, our new website is live selling not only digital books, but our new print books from Renana Publishers too! Go and check it out at

Right, back to the plot…. Clients give me work and of course they want to know when I will be finished with it. The problem with the nature of my work is that I will typeset the first draft of a book, send back to the client and then wait. And wait. It could come back a few days later and it could come back six months later. So I need a way to manage my time.

tasklineThe answer, for me at least, is a piece of software Taskline. They have just come out with a new version and I’ve been using it for years. It also helps me see how long each job actually takes to do and disciplines me. Taskline integrates with Outlook. The coolest thing now is that I keep an iPad on my desk with my calendar open and I see what I have scheduled for me since my calendar is synchronized. Oh and you know that Microsoft finally released Office for iPad? And if you have that Office 365 subscription it’s free – yeah that was the more about that later!

You would think that having a fast computer with three screens would be enough, but funnily enough, I use iOS for a couple of other things, and not my iPad either, but davka my iPhone.

ikaluachThe first is iKaluach. This is the definitive zmanim app on the iPhone. For me it’s critical since often my projects are time critical with the Jewish calendar such as a parshat hashavua but also tells me zmanim based on my location (very useful for davening times). This is an app that you must just go and buy now!

And another app that has become really useful for me due to one feature is Sunrise. What distinguishes this app for me is that it tells me exactly how many minutes to my next appointment (again usually Minḥa).

Anyway, better go an pick up my son from school… Shabbat Shalom!

Wearable tech: my new watch

When my father passed away recently I inherited his gold watch. Like most watches, it tells the time. The design is timeless and despite the fact that my father received this for his wedding the watch looks great on my wrist.

Looking at the watch I was admiring how thin the watch was and it occurred to me that there was no battery inside. A wind-up watch. Remember those? I was thinking what features watches have that we take for granted and I realised that the biggest innovation was the battery. Yes watches today might have the date (well even then they had those) or a stopwatch but I think that we look at watches differently; we don’t think of what features a watch has, but rather as being individual pieces of jewelry, perhaps in the case of men, the last bit of jewelry that we are “allowed” to wear (with the possible exception of cuff links.)

siemens-s551Those of you who know me, know that I love technology. I remember bringing a Siemens S55 phone from the UK because not only was it colour, but it had Bluetooth (it also had a clip-on camera with flash!). Bluetooth headsets were expensive and were, well, pretty rubbish. I have had a quite a few Bluetooth headsets over the years and I always gave up pretty quickly for two reasons 1) the sound quality was awful and 2) it was always cumbersome to switch the call from the phone to the headset and vice versa.

voyager-legend_bRecently I decided to try again and this time it was in the form of the Plantronics Voyager Legend. It’s not the scope of this blog post to give it a review but let’s suffice to say that if you are looking for a Bluetooth headset that just works then this is the one to buy. The sound quality is superb and it has built-in intelligence that it knows when it’s on your head or when it’s sitting on your desk making picking up the call very easy. If it is on my desk and somebody calls I have two choices: pickup my mobile phone and not use the headset, or if I want I can simply put the headset over my ear and it answers automatically. Want to switch in the middle of the call? Simply put the headset on. Want to pass the phone to somebody to use without your headset? Simply remove the headset from your head and give them the phone. The call transfers automatically to the phone. You are already wearing the headset and somebody calls? It whispers the name of the person (even if you have an iPhone), and say “answer” or “ignore” – very useful if you have your hands full and you can’t raise your hand to press the button on your headset. Go and buy one!

My business partner has a pebble watch. It made me think. I know how my headset has been so incredibly useful. Would a pebble watch be useful? I’m in a meeting and my watch vibrates to let me know something. Hmm. Is that more subtle than my phone vibrating? Can I look at that notification more discreetly than looking at my phone? Another use-case scenario is sports. I run.
Garmin Forerunner 910XT

Well you know what? I have a Garmin Forerunner 910XT. It has a built-in GPS, doesn’t need to connect to my phone. It also tells me absolutely everything I need to know about my run and even counts how many laps I’ve swam in the pool. Yes, I have to change watch before I go for a run, but I don’t know about you, but I also change my clothes before running too!

I guess my only case-use for a pebble watch is when I’m cleaning the house and rather than taking out my phone every time a notification comes in, I could simply look at my wrist to see the notification, but since I try to avoid cleaning the house…

Truth be told, for a person that is out and about all day, be it a realtor or a doctor doing rounds at a hospital, a pebble watch is probably very useful, but for me, I spend most of my work day in front of a computer so will my next gadget be a smart watch? Not unless you are buying me one 🙂

I suppose the ultimate wearable tech is google glass. I’m not so interested in glass per se, but rather the technology that is coming out of the project.

One such technology is a smart contact lens. No, we are not talking about google glass tech on a contact lens à la Continuum, but rather a way for diabetics to track their glucose without having to take a blood sample. This kind of wearable tech is very exciting.

In the meantime, I will enjoy my father’s gold watch when I wear it on special occasions and admire it’s timeless beauty and sentimentality. For the rest of the time I will continue to wear the watch that I received from my wife and in-laws when I got married which has it’s own individuality and special meaning.