Typesetting is the process of setting text into containers on a page, following a typographic design. The design specifies the locations and flow of texts, the application of typefaces and whitespace, and optionally the placement of artwork or illustrations. A complete scripture typesetting system requires the ability to specify the typographic design, and to accurately and consistently execute the typesetting process.

Publishing Assistant and PTXprint are two systems which provide these features for developing scripture publications. They can produce similar publications, but are developed using different technologies, and have different user experiences and associated costs. This results in overlapping use cases but different primary users.

Reflecting on your current requirements and expectations regarding the design and typesetting process will help guide the choice of a system which best meets the needs for your project team, and publications. That selection may be different from one context, project, and user to another.

Publishing Assistant with Adobe InDesign

Adobe InDesign is a commercial page layout application widely used within the publishing industry. It works with Unicode text and modern font technologies. It provides an interactive, graphical interface for specifying and working with page layout and typographic design.

Publishing Assistant (PA) provides an interface for selecting and configuring a collection of design specifications for a publication. It interfaces with Paratext and InDesign in order to transfer scripture texts into InDesign documents where the design specifications are applied. Further design refinements are possible through the InDesign interface.

PA provides a collection of tools which automatically apply the InDesign operations needed on each page to complete the typesetting process. A user will observe the automated typesetting process as it occurs, and can pause the process in order to directly interact with elements on the page, if necessary. Tools for validating pages test that layout and content remains correct after any user interaction.

Publishing Assistant was developed primarily with scripture typesetters in mind. By working through the InDesign interface, it provides a flexible and familiar user experience for them. However, this experience and flexibility comes with additional costs and complexity. While PA itself is free, a typesetter must maintain an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Most users will also require some formal orientation and mentoring in order to learn and use the InDesign and PA typesetting process effectively. These factors naturally limit the numbers of users of this tool. Working through InDesign results in an initial typesetting process that is slower than producing a similar layout with PTXprint, although the final production quality potential remains very high.

PTXprint with XeTeX

XeTeX is a modern implementation of TeX, a powerful and fast page composition engine. XeTeX works with Unicode text and modern font technologies, including SIL Graphite. XeTeX itself is not interactive, and does not provide a graphical interface. PTXprint calls on XeTeX to perform the typesetting process using a purpose-built set of scripture macros. PTXprint is a stand-alone tool that does not depend on any other commercial software. It is also open source, works on both Windows and Linux and is available free for anyone to use.

PTXprint provides an interactive interface for easily selecting and configuring a large collection of layout and typography options for a publication. It interfaces with Paratext and XeTeX to very rapidly transform one or more books from a Paratext project directly into a formatted PDF file, according to the specifications selected. Although the user cannot visually interact with the typesetting process, the PTXprint interface provides simple to use options for adjusting the final layout, such as the size and position of illustrations, or the length of paragraph texts.

Although PTXprint can be used quite effectively by dedicated scripture typesetters, it was developed primarily with mother-tongue translators in mind. It allows translators to create a range of attractive scripture publications locally without having to wait until a dedicated typesetter is available. This enables them to trial different layouts, fonts and sizes and get immediate feedback which will eventually feed into the formal publication process. Practically no training is needed to get started, and practically anyone on the team should be able to produce high quality PDFs within minutes.