Deciding On Article File Types

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Online journals today publish their articles in a variety of file types. Most common are the PDF and HTML, but increasingly additional formats are being used, such as ePub, MP3, and XML. This brief guide provides an overview of these different options for your journal.

Starting with Word or other Formats

The majority of author submissions come in as Microsoft Word documents (.doc or .docx), and typically move through the OJS workflow (review, revision, copyediting) in that format. Other formats sometimes include text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), or Open Office (.odt). These aren't suitable for final publication, so will need to eventually be converted into a more reader-friendly format.

Working from Templates

Requiring all submissions to use a template that is pre-formatted with your journal's publication styles (e.g., the font face, font size, boldness, placement, etc. of the header, body, footers, etc.) will make your document conversion much easier.

Microsoft provides a brief overview for creating templates here.

Once you've created a template that matches your journal style, you should link it from your Author Guidelines, along with a brief explanation of the need to use the template. This means that all of your submissions will come in already formatted, saving your layout editor a significant amount of work.

Here's an example of an OJS journal that requires authors to download and use a template file: Paideusis.

Ideally, your template should be created using styles rather than direct formatting. This not only ensures consistency throughout your documents, but will also aid in any conversions to other formats (e.g., HTML). Here's an explanation of the difference between styles and direct formatting.

Creating PDF Files

This is the easiest type of file to create from a Word document. Current versions of Microsoft Word (and other word processors) let you simply "Save As" a PDF. The majority of OJS journals publish their articles as PDFs.

PDFs are also popular with many readers, as they most closely recreate the printed page. However, PDFs are often less flexible on mobile devices and do not always handle links or embedded media (such as sound or video files) particularly well. With the growing importance of mobile computing, ensuring your audience can easily read your articles on their phones or tablets is increasingly important.

Example (see PDF link at bottom of the page): Postcolonial Text

Creating HTML Files

HTML files have the advantage of flexibility. They handle linking and multimedia very well, and can fit on just about any screen -- including phones and tablets. They do, however, look different than a printed page, so some readers continue to prefer a PDF. The ideal situation is to provide both PDF and HTML files to best meet the needs of your different users.

We saw in the previous section that creating a PDF from a submitted Word file is easy. Unfortunately, creating HTML files is a little more time consuming. Word processors do not have effective tools for doing a "Save As" to HTML. Microsoft Word tries to do this, but the results are not useful for uploading to OJS. Instead, try following this workflow:

  1. Convert the Word document. You can use this free online tool to do an initial conversion.
  2. Open the resulting HTML files in a text (e.g., NotePad in Windows) or HTML editor (e.g., Adobe Dreamweaver). From here, you will need to make any final clean up or formatting. Understanding the basics of HTML is required. Its not hard and there are many free tutorials, but it does take some time.
  3. Keep the HTML formatting basic. Just focus on paragraphs, line breaks, headings, and links. Don't worry about fonts, colours, or other design elements -- OJS will take care of all of that automatically as part of the overall journal design.
  4. Upload to OJS as an HTML galley file

Example (see HTML link at bottom of the page): Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung

Created ePub Files

Similar to HTML files, ePub files are ideal for mobile devices, but require specialized coding to create. Conversion tools are available, such as 2EPUB. More detailed HOW TO instructions for creating ePub files are available here.

Like HTML files, some additional cleanup may be required after conversion and require some knowledge of the format.

Example (see EPUB link at bottom of the page): International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning

Creating Audio Files

Although not common, some journals also create audio files of their articles, to allow for users to listen to the content. This is particularly helpful to the visually impaired, but many people enjoy podcasts and audio books while traveling or doing other activities.

Creating audio files can either be done manually, by having someone read the article into a voice recorder, or automatically using Text to Speech software.

Example (see MP3 link at bottom of the page): International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning

Creating XML Files

Creating XML files is a very efficient way to publish in multiple formats. When you create an XML file, you can then automatically generate PDFs, HTML, ePub, and other formats. Unfortunately, XML is very complex and currently no free conversion tools are available (although PKP is currently working on developing just such a service). As a result, you will need to learn how to create XML files yourself. Excellent tutorials are available online, but will require a significant time investment to become proficient.

Example (see XML link at bottom of the page): Translational Developmental Psychiatry