While PDFs are great at looking exactly like an A4 document – people often want to view documents on screens far smaller than that.
StringPrint formats documents using a responsive design can be easily read and shared from mobile and desktops.
It can also create a Kindle .mobi file for easy upload to the Kindle Store.
Based on a document’s header system StringPrint will automatically create a responsive navigation system and table of contents.
You can also link inside a document by tagging a paragraph – e.g. add [tag:hello] - and then linking to #tag.hello. Tag links work even if this is a link between paragraphs in different sections.
StringPrint makes it easy to link to/reference individual paragraphs inside a document - creating a shortcut to copy the link for every paragraph.
The linking system is robust against minor changes to the document – so you can add new paragraphs and fix typos without affecting links people have already made.
You just dump the text in – it takes care of the rest. Although if you already have a paragraph numbering system, it can import and display that.
One problem with people coming straight in halfway through a document is they might miss all the great stuff you have before that point.
To encourage people to read backwards as well as forwards, StringPrint lets you tag sections with a quick summary. It will then construct a catch-up for people who have been linked in halfway down to draw them further in.
Referencing on the internet is generally done badly. Many platforms don’t have default support for footnotes at all. Those that do tend to treat the internet like a very long sheet of paper – with links jumping between the content and the ‘foot’ for the footnotes.
The problem with this is that, especially on mobile, jumping to the end of a document and back just to see the reference is far too disruptive to the flow of reading.
You should be able to see the whole reference without breaking the flow. StringPrint takes advantages of the fact it already ‘thinks’ in paragraphs to hide footnotes after each paragraph. When you click a footnote reference you can see it immediately – and then move on easily.
StringPrint also has the idea of ‘asides’. These are extended sections of text that are tangential to the main flow of the document and would traditionally be dealt with as a long footnote or a box on the side.
These can either be concealed unless a reader wants more information – or expanded by default.
Publications can either be displayed on one page or each section can be displayed on a separate page. This means very large documents can be published without long load times.
Integration with the Google Charts API makes adding simple, interactive charts and tables easy.
StringPrint also supports arbitrary code - so you can create and use your own interactive graphics.
StringPrint doesn’t require its own database or installation – it creates a series of folder of plain .html files that can be uploaded to any server.
The idea is if you host PDF files – you can already host StringPrint documents.
Beyond distributing knowledge for free, another use of PDFs is to treat them like physical packages – with access withheld unless someone meets the requirements (pays money, signs up to mailing list, etc).
There is a separate version of StringPrint that can be installed on a server to manage access to documents.
This uses a permeable paywall so that the sharing functions are still useful. People can share links to sections of a document - but viewers can only see a few paragraphs either side of that without. See an example of this at inkleby.press.