Creating multiple versions

Often you will have to produce several formatting variations for a manuscript. This will happen if you use more than one conversion service because each one requires a slightly different markup system. Fortunately, there is help to automate this process using Find and Replace techniques found in most word processors. We also look briefly at some tools for advanced users.

Find and replace styles

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Image (c) Paramount Pictures

If you’ve used a consistent set of styles to markup a manuscript, you can simplify this job by using a feature of MS Word, Open Office and several other word processors that allows you to Find and Replace based on styles and special characters.

For instance, you can:

  • Search for the Heading 1 style and Replace it with the Heading 2 style
  • Search for the Manual Page Break special character and Replace it with the word ‘Chapter’ formatted in Heading 1 style

To show you how it’s done, we’ll use MS Word 2010 to replace a Manual Page Break special character (which Amazon requires for Kindle conversion) with the word ‘CHAPTER ’ formatted in Heading 1 style (as required by the Smashwords conversion service).

If you’re using a different word processor, it will operate similarly to the example. For instance, if you’re using Open Office, you can access these advanced Find and Replace features from Edit > Find & Replace then choose More Options.

Click here to see how you can find and replace styles with MS Word 2010

(We’ve added a video at the end of this section to show these and other advanced find and replace techniques in action.)

  1. Open the Find and Replace dialogue box by pressing Home > Find > Advanced Find. In the dialogue box that opens, click the More button to open up more options.
  2. Select the Find tab then click on Special. This will bring up a list of special characters (most of which are invisible unless you’ve turned on ‘Show/Hide paragraph marks’ as we recommended earlier).
    MS Word 2010 - Find Page Break
  3. Select Manual Page Break from the list. You’ll see ‘^m’ appear in the Find box. This is the way that Word represents the usually-invisible Manual Line Break character.
  4. Next click the Replace tab at the top of the dialogue box. In the Replace with: field, type the word ‘CHAPTER ‘ (in this case, we’ve chosen to type the word CHAPTER in uppercase with a space after it so we can manually add the chapter number later).
    MS Word 2010 - Find Replace Format
  5. Click on Format, then select Style. Pick Heading 1 from the list of available styles. You’ll now see in the Replace with: field the word ‘CHAPTER ‘ and the style Heading 1.
  6. Select Replace (or Replace All) and you’ll see that where there was previously a Manual Page Break forcing a new page, there is now the word ‘CHAPTER ‘ formatted in Heading 1 style.

You should experiment a little so that you’re familiar with what you can do with this powerful feature and use it to transform your master document into the variations you’ll need.

VIDEO: Word 2010 Tutorial | Advanced Find & Replace

This video shows you these advanced techniques in action.

Advanced text editing and transformation

Word processors have plenty of power for cleaning up and re-formatting manuscripts and it can all be done in an environment editors and authors are familiar with. But as projects become more complex and volumes increase, advanced users will soon run up against the limits of word processing tools.

When they reach this stage, they will need the extra features that come with programming editors. These are special editors that have been optimized for programming. They include many features needed to manipulate text.

Here are a few things these advanced text editors do.

  • Operate on plain text files rather than word processing documents. This means Word documents must first be saved as HTML.
  • Operate across multiple files. This is a real time-saver since you’ll typically have to split a manuscript into multiple chapter files.
  • Syntax highlighting. Many of these editors will highlight the tags and other elements in HTML, CSS and other languages.
  • Advanced search and replace features, including regular expressions. Regular expressions is a whole language devoted to finding and transforming text. It has a lot of power but it’s technical and there’s a fairly steep learning curve to fully exploit it.


VIDEO: A introduction to regular expressions

Here’s a short video which explains a little more about regular expressions and what they can do. As we said above, this is a powerful language and comes with a fairly steep learning curve but if you’re ready to move beyond Microsoft Word in your production process, this will be an essential tool.

Some popular text editors used for ebook production

Here are a few popular text editors, some free and some paid.

Macintosh only


In addition, advanced features can be found in some programs such as the EPUB editor Sigil or design software like InDesign. We look at some of these in the section on production.

Regular Expressions Cheat Sheet

If you want a quick ‘cheat sheet’ of some commonly-used regular expressions, visit this page on Cheatography.


Find out more about this topic on our Digital Publishing 101 useful resources site.


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