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Portrait vs. Landscape for PDFs?

Colin Fredericks

Dorkasaurus Rex
Validated User
#1
What's the current consensus (if there is one) on best formatting practice for layout in PDFs? I remember a while ago many people were looking for landscape layout for on-screen reading, but that was before tablets really took off.
 

Tim Gray

Midi-thewed
Validated User
#2
Don't know if you'd call it a consensus, but almost no-one does landscape. That's probably because people try to make print and pdf versions as similar as possible to avoid a lot of additional layout work.

Also bear in mind that even with desktop monitors, you don't know what the reader's using. For instance, I haven't gone widescreen, so landscape would probably be less useful to me.

I'd say the best practice of the day is to pay attention to your text size vs page size ratio, and to check the layout on a tablet if you can.
 

Destriarch

Sane Studios
Validated User
#3
I've known a few people that ONLY do PDFs to prefer landscape formats though. One way of making the two work together is to print at a smaller page size (i.e. digest) and make the PDF version a two-page spread.

Personally I don't think it makes a massive amount of difference. Most people don't want to waste the time and money laying out the same product twice, and that's understandable enough. If electronic books and reading on devices like the iPad and other tablets gain ground, landscape PDFs will probably become less and less of an advantage too.

-Ash
 

robert4818

Registered User
Validated User
#4
Portrait for anyone who wants to print.

You really want to bind your book along the long edge for strength and stability. You can do this in landscape, but that then means your book is bound along the top edge and resembles a flip book. This can be annoying.

Second, if you keep your PDF one columned, then going "Fit width" gives you good reading size, and you simply have to scroll down. If you go landscape, then if I need to enlarge the text, I generally will be left scrolling left and right to read, and then down to advance. Very clumsy.
 

Terrisletix

New member
Banned
#5
Portrait for anyone who wants to print.

You really want to bind your book along the long edge for strength and stability. You can do this in landscape, but that then means your book is bound along the top edge and resembles a flip book. This can be annoying.

Second, if you keep your PDF one columned, then going "Fit width" gives you good reading size, and you simply have to scroll down. If you go landscape, then if I need to enlarge the text, I generally will be left scrolling left and right to read, and then down to advance. Very clumsy.
This. It really can't be stressed enough. We just had this discussion within our company. It really does help with binding.
 

Destriarch

Sane Studios
Validated User
#6
Second, if you keep your PDF one columned, then going "Fit width" gives you good reading size, and you simply have to scroll down.
Just wanted to underline this point a little further and expand upon it. The majority of letter-sized RPG books use a page layout that features two, or even more, columns. If you fit to width, you will find that you have to scroll down, then up, then down again on each page you read. This gives a less natural experience than simply scrolling down. It also becomes confusing if your PDF reader is set to skip over the vertical gap between pages when you reach the end, rather than scrolling smoothly with one visible at the top as the new one scrolls onto the bottom.

Now, you can get around this problem by having an entire page fit to the screen, or even display them 'two up' to make full use of the width of the screen too, but the average RPG book text size is quite small in this proportion, especially if you have one of the smaller widescreen monitors, making the text difficult to read.

However, it is also extremely uncomfortable to read a full-page-width line of text at letter size. Smaller sizes are fine, but not letter. Shorter paragraphs are far too brief vertically, you waste a lot of space by having the trailing end of a paragraph reach only a small portion across the page, but more importantly the reader's eyes, lacking that point of reference afforded by the ends of each row, tend to get lost and roam up and down a little when they should be going straight left and right. This makes single-column, letter-size documents more difficult to read.

The natural answer to these problems is to use a multi-column landscape page for screen reading purposes. With a single page on screen at a time, the text remains at a readable size. Since you've got one page per screen now it doesn't matter how many columns you use because all of them will be visible. Furthermore it's a lot quicker and easier to navigate forward and backward because you can use that vertical space skipping feature to your advantage. A quick flick of the scroll wheel and a new page is neatly centred on the screen ready for viewing.

That being said I completely agree that landscape format books are less comfortable to read, and would add that this is especially the case if you're lying down at the time. I read a lot in bed, and having a landscape book means you have an immense page flap hovering over your head like an angel of doom blotting out the light. So yes, I agree that portrait is generally the best way to go for print. Personally, I've experimented with *square* books and find this a reasonable compromise between the two extremes, so long as you make it as tall as a letter page is wide, rather than as wide as a letter page is tall, if you get me.

But there's one thing not yet said: people *expect* a portrait format book. It's what they're used to. Square or landscape ones may grab the attention, but may also put some people off as being weird. I couldn't say there's so much expectation for a screen-viewed PDF to be landscape, but given the natural shape of the screen it's not an unreasonable assumption to make that some people will be more comfortable that way.

-Ash
 

cthulhu

Registered User
Validated User
#7
What's the current consensus (if there is one) on best formatting practice for layout in PDFs? I remember a while ago many people were looking for landscape layout for on-screen reading, but that was before tablets really took off.
How many books have you read ??
How many have been landscape orientation ??

So, I'm curious why you're asking - is there a special reason to produce something in landscape format ?? Is it a sales gimmick ?? Have you actually had anyone ask for a landscape product ??

As a culture we read left-to-right, top-to-bottom on a page, which gives us a document in portrait format being a good reading experience.
With the advances in tablet computers, the best reading experience is a 1 page = 1 screen page format that's easy to read and navigate.
 

ZombieButch

Only mostly dead
Validated User
#8
You can try doing a smaller format book, like the old BESM books; you can do a portrait format and keep only a single column of text. But if your artwork isn't page-width, you have to do a lot of text-wrapping around it or leave a hell of a lot of white space. I find going back and forth constantly between full-width and half-more-or-less blocks of text looks sloppy. And white space isn't always a bad thing, but there's such thing as too much of a good thing, too.

The Universalis book handles this pretty well, mostly be keeping the amount of art down (11 pieces, not counting the cover, for an 86 page book) and making most of these page-width. Primetime Adventures does much the same thing. Don't Rest Your Head just goes balls-out and has almost all of it's art as full-page pieces. And InSpectres does some word-wrapping but keeps the artwork where this is required small and and doesn't box it in, so the text wraps around it organically, so you don't notice the narrower lines of text so much.

Two-column, portrait style layout keeps it simple and, of the different ways to do it, is probably the easiest to make look decent if you don't have much experience in layout and design as long as you don't try to get too fancy with it.
 

Knarf

Registered User
Validated User
#9
For my game, I did a separate PDF layout that was two-column landscape (my print layout is 6x9). I figured it would be more convenient to read on a screen because less scrolling would be required while still being printable on a standard printer.
 
#10
Re: Portrait vs Landscape for

I think Cthulluh nailed it when he asked how many books have you read in landscape format? We are used to read in portrait format. If you change that, you better have a good reason for going against the expectations of your custommers or else it will feel gimmicky. I would much rather see creativity in your writting than in the format you choose.
 
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