Making Windows 10 Field Guide Better … And Prettier

Posted on September 17, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 9 Comments

Following up on my recent update about the book, we’ve fixed the publishing issues and are introducing a prettier new layout to Windows 10 Field Guide.

The goal, as always, is to make the book an even better value, for both our existing readers and those who have not yet purchased it.

Here’s what’s happened since the previous update.

After a lot of back and forth between Rafael and Leanpub, we basically discovered that we’d run into a wall, of sorts: Our book is simply too big, with too many images, to continue publishing it the way we had been doing for the past year and a half or so. Every time I attempted to publish a new version of the book, the site would slow to a crawl and it would eventually fail, usually on the part of the process in which the PDF version of the book was created.

As it turns out, the issue isn’t strictly Leanpub’s fault: We’ve been using Dropbox to host and share, between the three authors, the book’s files. And the failure had something to do with Dropbox.

This is too bad, in a way, as I’ve found Dropbox to be reliable and speedy on my PCs, and better in some ways than OneDrive. In fact, a few years back, when we first started using Dropbox for the book, and when OneDrive was uniformly terrible, I had started the painful process of migrating my most important work to Dropbox.

But since then, OneDrive has improved dramatically. It works so well, in fact, that I’ve pulled all my non-book work out of the service, and have been using OneDrive pretty much exclusively. So I asked Rafael if we can’t use Dropbox to push the files to Leanpub, can we just move the book to OneDrive?

The answer was yes, so I am now 100 percent on OneDrive again for most of my personal and work-related data. (The only exception is photos; I backup my smartphone camera photos to both Google Photos and OneDrive.) I’m dropping Dropbox.

The new system for publishing the book to Leanpub involves accessing the Github version control system from the command line in Windows 10. Basically, I add all changed or new files to the book repository, publish (or “commit”) the changes, and then push them so that leanpub can access them. It’s less seamless than using Dropbox—where I was simply sharing the book’s manuscript folder with the service—but it works great and is fast. And the process for publishing the book, which happens on the Leanpub website, is unchanged. Well, except now it works fine.

Since the last update, I’ve completely rewritten the Mail, Calendar, and People chapters, retaken almost all of the screenshots (I think there is exactly one screenshot still in there from the older version, but that will be replaced too), and have rejiggered each chapter as needed. Each chapter has been updated to be accurate to Windows 10 version 1709 (the Fall Creators Update), and each is likewise accurate to Windows 10 S, not just Windows 10 Home and Pro. I hope to complete the new version of the Microsoft Edge chapter soon; right now I’m about halfway through that.

More happily, Leanpub has coincidentally come through on a feature I’ve been asking for since we started this process: A way to make graphical callouts for tips, warnings, notes, and other asides. So part of each chapter update will involve replace text like “Note: Something something” with a nice graphic, and text that is visually called out. The result is a much prettier—and, I think, useful—book. I’m really excited about this.

I’m going to focus on the stuff I feel is most important first, which means the productivity apps, personalization (which includes two of the most important parts of the book, for removing Windows 10’s many irritations and protecting your privacy), and then gaming and entertainment. But I’ll update the whole book this fall—rough goal of hitting the October 17 Fall Creators Update launch; we’ll see—and then begin adding new chapters for entirely new features like 3D/Mixed Reality, phone integration, and more.

Also on the roadmap is a feature I used in previous books like the Windows Phone 8.1 Field Guide, the Windows 8.1 Field Guide, and others: The ability to link within the book to references. That is, in many places, I will note that we provide more information about such-and-such a topic either later in that chapter or elsewhere in the book. But those references are not hyperlinks, so you have to go find that information manually. We are going to fix this, as Leanpub now supports that functionality as well.

I don’t have a timetable on that bit yet, but I think it will happen after the book’s existing is fully updated.

Anyway, we are actively working on Windows 10 Field Guide again. If you’ve not purchased it, it is available for as little as $9.99 from the Leanpub website. I really appreciate your support.

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