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Blender wiki PDF manual – a bit of history

I’m quite used to read technical software documentation (ie: RTFM) and I appreciate that being available,  particularly because I know how hard is to create good, well formatted documentation for even simple software projects.

For larger, complex software projects, growing and evolving very fast, this a very difficult task, because good documentation takes time, and features are always new or changing, and it is really hard for docs writers to keep up with the software writers!

Blender certainly is a huge software project, and there is a huge amount of technical docs, reference, example, on the official wiki: http://wiki.blender.org. A wiki documentation site is an ideal way to allow collaboration for the huge blender community, as it provides online editing, search, history and all other common mediawiki features to help many create and maintain this really large knowledge repository.

A few years ago the Blender wiki was revamped, and became an even more useful asset for the many Blender users and enthusiast (like me!). It was completely re-thought and restyled,  and now allows for easy navigation, 32 languages, separate documentation for different Blender version, and much, much more: really a good job guys! (see this page for details):

Blender_Wiki_langs

The Blender wiki is always the most current Blender manual around, here: http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Doc:2.6/Manual (version 2.66 is current now), but there is also the “old” 2.4x manual, here http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Doc:2.4/Manual, and much, much more info about everything Blender!

The only drawbacks of (any) wiki are:

  • it’s not a book! 🙂 even if well organized: it’s perfect for online usage, reading and writing, but you cant’ “download” it, print it like a real book, with page numbers, etc.
  • it’s always changing! many people all around the world are always writing, editing, organizing, translating docs, media, and all the stuff that a wiki needs.

A “book-like” copy would be more preferrable for someone like me, i thought. Who knows? So, in the old 2.4x wiki years, well before the wiki revamp, I began searching a way to convert the wiki “manual” section (at least) to a more (to me) suitable PDF format: I also had no cheap internet access at home, so i needed that; and I also wished to print it on (recycled) paper to be able to bring it with me and read it anywhere, like a real book.

On the Blender wiki there is a section about wiki conversions: http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Meta:Tools/Wiki_conversions: there are described methods to convert wiki pages do PDF, also. I wrote the one about HTMLdoc, a few years ago, when i created the first two “editions” of the 2.4x blender wiki PDF manual, because that whas the method I used, and wished to help others and share.

It was made with:

  • PHP: grabbing links from the wiki manual TOC, downloading every single page locally, converting links and stuff.
  • HTMLdoc: converting all the local files to PDF with images and (somewhat broken) links.
  • JPdfBookmarks: a software from Flaviano Petrocchi which has great capabilities about PDF bookmarks.

Though, I had no site where keep those huge files (around 25 MB), at the time, and i needed some public space to host them, for others to know and download, but fortunately Nathan Letwory helped me, and also created a dedicated site here: http://pdf.letworyinteractive.com (still up at the moment!).

2.4x_pdf_nathan

I have no more access to that site admin section, but there was a download count somewhere, and it was around several hundred thousands, last time i checked (yeesh!). You can still grab a copy of them now.

When those first PDF went “public” there was some echo in the usual Blender places, like http://www.blendernation.com/2008/09/17/download-the-blender-wiki-in-pdf/ where someone complained about the link reliability/avialbility that seemed low for someone. For this reason, i decided to move them to archive.org, where you still can find a copy (check http://archive.org/details/BlenderWikiManualPdf20100622  for the latest version of that “old” manual).

Moving them to archive.org had some side benefit: every document there is automatically converted to a few other useful formats, like EPU, Kindle, Daisy, DjVu and you and also read it online through the site document reader.

In the end the archive.org link went on the wiki itself, on the front manual 2.4x page here http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Doc:2.4/Manual, and it still there today.

2.4x_pdf_wiki

Nowadays, HTMLdoc is no more! And it had many flaws anyway (UTF-8 anyone?) so i am looking for another method and hope to be able to keep regular updates to give other people one more way to learn about Blender: i will report about my experiments, and host also here the PDFs and/or archive.org links when available!

Stay tuned, and let me know what you think!

Marco