FLOSS Manuals

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BookSprints: Tools


Tools for a book sprint consist of both hardware and software. It is best for each writer to bring or borrow a laptop computer. Software requirements are simply a web browser and possibly a screen capture or graphics software application. It is preferable, but not essential, that you work with Firefox when using the FLOSS Manuals web authoring tools. Internet accessibility is also required in order to access the FLOSS Manuals online writing tools.

Depending on the software or concepts you document at the Book Sprint, you may want to ensure that each writer can run the software or hardware. For example, at the OLPC and Sugar Labs book sprints, we borrowed enough XO laptops for each writer to have one for testing procedures and taking screenshots. In some cases we used USB storage devices to transfer the screenshots from the XO laptop to the writer's computer. 

Make sure you have computers running the various different operating systems that run the software you are writing about. For example, if you were writing a manual about GIMP (image editing software) it would be good to have at least one Mac OS X machine and one Windows machine, in addition to Linux machines.

Collaborative authoring and publishing

The FLOSS Manuals site is a wiki, which enables simultaneous editing of content. (However, each web page can be edited by only one person at a time.) The wiki has a WYSIWYG interface with the option (usually not needed) to switch to an HTML view and edit HTML directly. The interface also lets authors quickly create and organize sections in a drag-and-drop manner using the Index tool. The site also offers a print layout that creates a print-ready (book formatted) PDF file. That PDF file is uploaded to Lulu for print-on-demand printing of the completed book.

Status indicators

FLOSS Manuals uses the following statuses to indicate to other writers the current state of the chapter.

  • unpublished
  • published
  • hold
  • complete
  • incomplete
  • needs images
  • to be proofed
  • needs layout
  • to be translated
  • needs updating

The published status is set for each chapter once a book that contains the chapter has been published by a maintainer.

Only maintainers can change the status if chapters, so make sure that you have one person with FLOSS Manuals Maintainer privileges at the sprint. One common approach is to grant everyone on site Maintainer privileges for the duration of the sprint (only FLOSS Manuals Administrators or Developers can grant Maintainer rights).


Writers and editors must register for a FLOSS Manuals account before they can use the tool set.

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