Hack 36 Create a Handheld Edition from Your HTML

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Deliver your content to mobile professionals and gadget geeks without PDF's overhead.

PDF is wonderful stuff?otherwise, you wouldn't likely be reading this book?but there are times when it's not the right tool for the job. If you need to distribute information to readers using handheld devices such as Palms and Pocket PCs, you should take a look at Plucker.

4.6.1 Palm OS Reading with Plucker

Plucker is a toolset for reading HTML documents on Palm OS devices. Plucker Distiller prepares your HTML and packs it into a Palm PDB file. Plucker Desktop is a graphical interface for managing Distiller. Plucker Viewer, shown in Figure 4-5, organizes Plucker documents on your Palm so that you can read them. Desktop and Distiller run on your host machine, while the Viewer runs on your Palm. Plucker is free software.

Figure 4-5. Mobilizing your document

Visit http://www.plkr.org and download the Plucker Desktop installer for your platform. Launch the installer and it will unpack all three components. You must supply information about your target Palm device, but do not worry about getting locked into these preferences. You can configure document conversion settings individually later.

If the Plucker Desktop gives you regular errors that the locale cannot be set, select Options Preferences Interface and uncheck the "Translate interface into the local language" checkbox.

Plucker Desktop organizes local files and remote web pages into channels. To create a channel for your HTML file, drag-and-drop it into Plucker Desktop. After you name the new channel, its configuration window opens. Here are a few items of particular interest:


For converting a traditional document (as opposed to a web site), increase the Maximum Depth to ensure that all your links get followed. Set Stay on Host to keep Plucker from following any Internet references.


Images can quickly bloat your document file size. Tune these settings to match your document's requirements.

Under Advanced Image Handling you can set the maximum dimensions for image thumbnails. Any image larger than this gets downsampled to fit. Thumbnails are displayed inline with your document and can be linked to a larger image.

The original, standard Palm OS display is 160 160, so thumbnails shouldn't be wider than 150 pixels on these models (to leave room for the scrollbar). The newer, high-resolution display is 320 320, which can accommodate a 300-pixel-wide thumbnail. Using the smaller, 150-pixel width ensures your images are fully visible on all Palm OS devices. The viewer trims thumbnails that are too wide to fit on the screen. When fidelity is essential, use the other settings in this window to link the thumbnail to a larger image that the user can pan.

High-resolution Palm OS devices should use the "hires" versions of the viewer and SysZLib library.

Output Options

ZLib compression works much better than DOC compression does. To read ZLib-compressed documents you must run Palm OS 3 or later (OS 3 premiered in 1998 on the Palm III) and have the SysZLib shared library installed on the device. SysZLib comes packaged with Plucker Desktop.


Specify the location where the output document will be put.

Create the Plucker document by selecting the channel and then selecting Update Update Selected Channels.

Preview your Plucker documents on your PC by installing the Palm OS 5 Simulator. Download it from http://www.palmos.com/dev/tools/simulator/.

For best results, the input should use old-fashioned HTML 3.2 text-styling tags (e.g., <font>) instead of CSS styling. [Hack #35] discusses how to set your word processor for HTML 3.2 output.

4.6.2 Plucker for Pocket PC

As of this writing, a Pocket PC reader for Plucker files is under development at http://vade-mecum.sourceforge.net. Microsoft provides a Pocket PC emulator you can use to test it. Download Embedded Visual Tools (EVT) from:


When installing EVT, use the following CD Key, which is provided by the documentation:


Choose to install the Pocket PC SDK, or run the PocketPC_2002_SDK.exe setup program (which was unpacked by the EVT installer). Start the emulator by launching CEFILEVW.EXE and opening a connection.