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Skateboarding graphics, linocut prints, and the Apple Pencil inspire designer Neil Vilppu. His distinctive illustration style is the product of merging traditional and contemporary ideas. It’s this willingness to experiment that has led Neil to success in a workflow that combines the creative freedom of the iPad Pro with the powerful familiarity of the Mac.

As a full-time Marketing and Branding Designer, Neil knows that inspiration can strike at any time. Ideas for client illustrations and personal projects outside of his day job can begin as sketches on the edge of meeting papers or sticky notes. These idea seeds are photographed and brought into Procreate on the iPad for refinement.

“I grew up in a house where both parents were traditional illustrators and painters,” Neil says. “Being exposed to traditional art mediums has played a big role in how I approach creating digital work.” With a concept in mind, sketching begins in Procreate. This critical stage forms the soul of the image and can set up an idea to succeed or fail. Blue pencil lines form the illustration’s general composition. A second layer in red adds detail and roughs in light and shadow.

In traditional graphic design, this tool was known as a non-photo blue. Art scanners were unable to detect the blue lines, rendering them invisible in a finished composition. Neil witnessed his father practice the technique building animations and has now adopted a similar workflow. He notes that drawing over the initial sketch in red helps visually separate the stages of his illustration’s development.

From Procreate, Neil moves his concepts to Affinity Designer on the iPad to begin the final illustration. He uses his favorite tools carried over from Adobe Illustrator — the pen, pencil, and pathfinder operations — to complete the majority of the vector work. Intricate shapes and negative space reference the century-old technique of linocut printmaking.

“Traditionally, this work was made by starting with a wood block or a linoleum tile,” Neil explains. “The artwork is cut into the block and then ink is applied to the surface. Any area that was cut into on the block won’t transfer ink to the surface of the paper.” Neil simulates the effect digitally by beginning with a black layer over his artboard and “carving” it away with vector tools.

Many illustrators have chosen the iPad because iOS and the Apple Pencil provide unmatched fluidity and responsiveness for drawing. But when it comes to putting the finishing touches on a new piece of artwork, Neil has found the Mac to be a longstanding familiar friend. The flexibility and precision offered by macOS enables an extremely efficient workflow.

A start-to-finish look at how Neil Vilppu creates illustrations between the iPad Pro and Mac.

“Once the black and white vector illustration is complete, I will export an EPS file from Affinity Designer to Dropbox where I then open it up in Adobe Illustrator on my desktop,“ Neil describes. He finds the handoff between both applications relatively smooth. “Once the EPS is opened in Illustrator, you’ll see one layer containing all of the vector shapes. In Affinity, I group elements and portions in their own respective layers. But that’s strictly for the ease of isolating different portions of the illustration in that stage.”

Neil uses Illustrator for colorization and typesetting before publishing a piece. Easy shape manipulation with a mouse and keyboard, global colors, and artwork recoloring flexibility make Illustrator and the Mac more efficient for finish work that doesn’t require the Apple Pencil. The same reason Neil prefers the iPad for conceptual illustration also informs his decision to embrace the traditional interface found on the Mac. “It’s a tool that gets out of the way and lets me create without having to give the mechanics of it much thought.”

“Build Like a Monster”

You can learn more about Neil Vilppu’s work on his website.

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How To Use The Apple Freeform App On Iphone, Ipad, And Mac

When it’s time to visualize your thoughts and concepts, Apple’s Freeform whiteboard app is the ideal tool on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. This powerful productivity app lets you brainstorm on your own or share ideas with others with all the tools you need to bring your concepts to fruition.

How to Set Up Apple Freeform

To use the free Freeform whiteboard app, make sure your Apple device(s) are up to date. Your iPhone, iPad, or Mac will need to be updated to iOS 16.2, iPadOS 16.2, or macOS Ventura 13.1 or later.

On iPhone and iPad, you’ll see the app icon on your Home screen. On Mac, you’ll find it in the Applications folder or Launchpad.

When you first open the app, you’ll be asked if you want to enable iCloud Syncing. This allows you to access your boards on your other Apple devices. Select “Go to Settings” on your iPhone or iPad and open the Settings app. On Mac, open the System Settings app.

Select your Apple ID at the top. Choose “iCloud” and turn on the toggle for “Freeform.”

You may be asked to merge the local Freeform data with that on iCloud. Select “Merge” to continue.

Once you set up Freeform on your device, you’re ready to use its features.

Tip: if you are looking for a way to sign a PDF document on your Mac, the Preview app will work far more effectively than Freeform. You can even use your iPhone or iPad to transfer your signature to your Mac.

How to Create a Freeform Board

Select the Create a Board icon (pencil in a square) at the top of the app window.

When the blank board displays, you’ll see the default name of “Untitled” on the top left, which you can change. On iPhone, tap the three dots and pick “Rename.”

On iPad, tap the arrow next to the name and select “Rename.”

On Mac, select the current text and replace it with your own.

You can use the zoom option on the bottom left to increase or decrease the board space. Use the zoom drop-down box or the plus and minus buttons to pick a percentage.

Tip: learn how to zoom in and out on Mac.

How to Add Items to a Freeform Board

With Freeform, you can add all sorts of items to your board to collect and display your ideas. You can also adjust each item to fit the space, change the font, or choose a color.

The customization options are in different places on mobile and desktop. On iPhone and iPad, these options are in the item’s toolbar.

Add a Sticky Note

Select the Sticky Note icon in the toolbar to add a note to your board, then enter the text.

Drag a corner to resize the note or select it to drag it to a different spot on the board.

FYI: read on to learn of other ways to add a sticky note on Mac.

Insert a Shape

Select the Shape icon in the toolbar to include a shape on your board. You can pick from a category in the pop-up window like Basic, Geometry, Animals, Activities, and more. Alternatively, you can search for a particular shape by using the magnifying glass icon.

Drag a corner to resize the shape or select it to drag it to a different spot on the board.

Add a Text Box

Select the Text Box icon in the toolbar and add text inside it.

Drag a corner or edge to resize the text box or select it to drag and move it anywhere you would like.

Insert Photos, Videos, or Links

Select the media icon in the toolbar to add a photo, video, or link. You can also insert a scanned document, use your device camera, or on Mac, add a sketch from the Freeform app on your iPhone or iPad.

Photos: replace the image, crop it, or view it in full screen mode. You can also apply a shadow, round the corners, and lock the image in place.

Videos: replace the video or view it in full screen mode. Like photos, you can apply a shadow, add rounded corners, and lock its position.

Link: edit the link, open it in your browser, duplicate the link, or lock its position on the board.

Good to know: unsure how to edit a video on Mac? We can show you how!

Add a File

On iPhone and iPad, tap the Media icon and choose “Insert From” to add a file.

Once you locate and insert the file, select it for additional actions. You can replace the file, view it in full screen mode, lock its position, or add a description.

Use Markup

On iPhone and iPad, you’ll notice the Markup icon in the toolbar. Tap it to display the markup tools like a pen, marker, and eraser.

Using markup, you can also jot down text with your finger on iPhone or scribble with an Apple Pencil on iPad.

Other Freeform Board Options

You can also duplicate a board, make a board a favorite, hide the grid layout, export your board as a PDF, or print your entire Freeform board.

On iPhone, open the board and tap the three dots at the top, then select an action.

On iPad, tap the arrow next to the board name and choose an action.

To export or print on Mac, open a board, select “File” from the menu bar, and choose an option.

Good to know: learn how to share files between Mac and PC on your network.

How to Collaborate on a Freeform Board

If working on a board with someone else is what you need, Freeform provides you a simple way to collaborate.

Open the board and select the Share button on the top right.

Before you choose the sharing method, you can adjust the permissions at the top of the sharing pop-up window. Select “Only Invited People Can Edit.”

You’ll see access and permission settings along with an option to allow others to invite more people to the board. You’re able to adjust these settings later, too.

Choose a person to send the board to in Messages or pick an app like Mail, Slack, or another option, depending on your Share settings, to share the board.

Edit Shared Freeform Boards

After you share a board with others, you can manage the board permissions, invite others, or stop sharing the board.

Select the icon for your collaborator(s) in the top right and choose “Manage Shared Board.”

You can use the plus sign to invite more people, adjust the permissions near the bottom, and allow collaborators to add others. Additionally, you can copy a link to the board or stop sharing it with the options at the bottom of the settings.

How to Manage Your Freeform Boards

When you open Freeform each time, you’ll see All Boards front and center so that you can select one to work on. On the left side on iPad or Mac or using the arrow on iPhone, you can also choose from Recents, Shared, and Favorites. If you’ve removed boards, you’ll also see Deleted Boards that remain accessible for up to 30 days.

Tip: are your shared Freeform boards not syncing properly? It could be a network issue. Discover how to fix Mac Wi-Fi problems and dropped connections by following our guide.

Frequently Asked Questions Is there a Freeform app widget?

Unfortunately, there isn’t yet a Home screen or Notification Center Freeform widget available for iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Hopefully, this is a feature Apple introduces later.

Can I delete the Freeform app?

You can uninstall the Freeform app on iOS or iPadOS just as you can any other app. However, as of this writing, you cannot uninstall the app on macOS.

Is Freeform available on Windows?

Unfortunately, the Freeform app is not available on Windows at the time of this writing.

Image credit: Unsplash. All alterations and screenshots by Sandy Writtenhouse.

Sandy Writtenhouse

With her BS in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She wanted to help others learn how technology can enrich business and personal lives and has shared her suggestions and how-tos across thousands of articles.

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Precise Technology Behind The S Series High

A monitor with outstanding visual quality isn’t just for looks. For people who work at a computer most days, it can make work more comfortable and effective.

Here are the key features of the 2023 and 2023 series, available across some or all of the monitors:

Advantages of high-resolution monitors

With high dynamic range 10 (HDR10) technology, the new high-resolution monitors reveal all the visual details in extra dark and extra bright scenes — details that are often lost on lower-quality monitors. Besides enhanced color, HDR also reveals details in high-resolution imaging, enabling better-informed business and design decisions.

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With USB-C support available on some of the S Series monitors, users can power their external devices and transfer data with a single cable, turning their monitor into a docking station and USB hub — also removing the cost, clutter and complications that tend to come with peripheral devices.

The DisplayPort Out feature on some of the S Series models allows for daisy chaining, which lets power users connect a series of monitors with a single output from a PC, to create a streamlined multi-screen desk setup.

S Series monitors support 1.07 billion colors, paired with the standard red green blue (sRGB) spectrum, ensuring every on-screen visual is vivid and accurate. Most of the monitors in the S Series also feature in-plane switching (IPS) panels technology, which produces the best possible colors and viewing angles. The QLED technology of the S95UA monitor produces a wider range of colors than ever before.

The LED backlights that illuminate LCD displays are controlled by local dimming, intelligently lighting and dimming the arrays zone by zone. The LEDs light up to display bright and colorful elements but remain off in parts of the screen where the visual elements are dark. This may reduce energy usage by as much as 10 percent, while boosting contrast levels. For the color black, the LEDs turn all the way off, so you get true back instead of a muted gray.

The S Series has four classes:

S6 monitors come in 24-inch, 27-inch and 32-inch versions, with quad high-definition (QHD) resolution (2560×1440) and support for USB-C, LAN and daisy chaining on some models.

S65 is a 34-inch curved monitor with a 1000R curvature rating and wide quad high-definition (WQHD) resolution (3440×1440), with added support for USB-C and LAN.

S7 monitors support ultra-high-definition (UHD) resolution, better known as 4K (3840×2160), and are available in 27-inch and 32-inch versions.

S8 monitors also support UHD, with added support for USB-C on some models.

S95UA is a 49-inch curved monitor that features dual QHD resolution, QLED technology and a 32:9 super ultra-wide screen for astonishing detail and colors.

Monitors on the job

Beyond their visual benefits, the minimalist design of the S Series helps declutter desks, clearing up valuable space in your office or shared workspace.

At first glance, desktop monitors might seem like commodities that differ little beyond their shape and size. But the right hardware can make a big difference in optimizing both your workspace and your daily work experience.

Still unsure which monitor to go for? It’s not a decision you should rush into. You can find the right monitor for your needs with this free assessment. Or, browse all the versatile, innovative options available in Samsung’s desktop monitor lineup.

The Biomechanics Behind Michael Jackson’s Impossible Dance Moves

Before reading the rest of this article, please first stand up and try to tilt your whole body forward at a 45 degree angle. You may only bend at the ankle. Assuming that you are not Michael Jackson, you will fail at this endeavor.

But why? Do you not have the incredible core strength Michael Jackson possessed at his peak? Honestly, probably not, but even if you did you’d be unable to perform Jackson’s famous anti-gravity tilt from the music video for “Smooth Criminal.” And if you’re a true fan, you’ll already know why—but don’t worry, you’re still about to learn something cool.

This mysterious dance move intrigued three neurosurgeons at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India, and being highly motivated individuals they set out to analyze whether it’s even physiologically possible to lean forward at 45 degrees while keeping your entire body rigid. They published their results in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine.

“Being an ardent MJ fan, I was always fascinated with his dance moves,” explains co-author Manjul Tripathi. “As a child, I tried them several times but failed miserably, especially with the ‘forward bending’ of ‘Smooth Criminal.’ During my neurosurgical training, I again got interested in this mystery move and found the trick.” Yes, Jackson used a little stage trickery to accomplish his fancy footwork—more on that in a minute. “But even with the trick, the movement is difficult to execute,” Tripathi says. So he decided to investigate the biomechanics behind such a movement.

As it turns out, the anti-gravity tilt is physiologically impossible. To understand why, stand up again—here comes some more audience participation.

When humans want to lean forward, we bend at the waist. In addition to having better flexibility, bending at the waist allows you to use your erector spinae muscles to, as the study authors put it, “act like cables to support the suspended spinal column.” This bundle of muscles runs from your hip to your neck and is responsible for straightening and rotating your back. By maintaining your center of gravity, they keep you balanced. Go ahead and try it: bend at the waist and notice how easy it is to keep your back straight and yet remain upright.

Trying to bend at the ankles thwarts this whole process. Your erector spinae muscles are certainly keeping your back straight as you lean precipitously forward, but they’re not involved in the actual movement anymore. The authors explain that the strain of the lean has now shifted to the Achilles tendon in the heel, which was never designed to hold your whole body.

This is why most humans can only tilt forward Michael Jackson-style to the tune of about 20 degrees, though the authors say trained dancers could reach 25 or even 30 degrees. To get all the way to a 45-degree angle, you have to cheat.

In the video, Jackson achieved his miraculous lean using wires that supported some of his weight and kept him balanced. But when it came time to go on tour, he wanted to be able to perform the feat live. And for that, he needed some new shoes. Specifically, he needed the shoes outlined in U.S. Patent 5255452 A (on which Jackson is a co-inventor) which have a slot in the heel that conveniently locks in a peg raised from a dance floor. This peg secured Jackson to the ground as he tilted, and then stage technicians could retract it before he lifted his feet again.

But the authors think that even with the special shoes, the move would have required “athletic core strength” to pull off. They note that moves like Jackson’s give dancers all kinds of unusual injuries that neurosurgeons like themselves must later fix. Though you might not usually think of neurosurgeons as sports medicine experts, Tripathi and his colleagues are the sort who operate on athletes with severe head trauma or spinal injuries. “Back problems” are not purely muscular; because your spine contains so many important nerves, it’s also a prime area for neurological damage. This is exactly what neurosurgeons who focus on sport injuries are trained to fix.

“The seemingly impossible dance movements of Michael Jackson have actually inspired the next generation of dancers to practice more difficult movements, which are putting lots of physical strain and stress on the musculoligamentous structure of the body,” Tripathi says.

Hip hop injuries are so prevalent that there are “b-baby” workshops designed to teach dance instructors how to introduce toddlers to break dancing safely. Yes. You read that correctly. The article in question notes that it “intends to emphasize the need to introduce breakin’ at the earliest age possible in hopes of inspiring dance educators to improve hip-hop dance education across the United States.”

Strange as it may seem to see “breakin’” in an academic journal, they’re not wrong. Studies have consistently found high rates of injuries amongst break dancers, including slipped spinal discs. Break dancing is the second most researched kind of dancing, according to a meta analysis, just behind ballet. Whereas dancers in more traditional genres typically have more upper extremity injuries, break dancing and other modern types have far more lower extremity and back injuries.

Tripathi says he regularly sees dancers with spine injuries ranging from tendon tears to muscle ruptures to prolapsed discs and fractured cervical vertebra. Some only need physiotherapy, but others require surgery from experts like him. He says between dancers pushing themselves to outperform their peers and the unusual rotational forces at play in their bodies, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to treat these injuries, especially when dancers keep going back to their craft. Repeat stressors and constant strain mean that neurosurgeons have to keep fixing the same body parts as they get increasingly broken.

So if you, like these authors, strain your back while attempting to copy Michael Jackson, please seek some kind of medical treatment sooner rather than later—and let the King of Pop keep his dance moves.

Behind The Scenes At Spacex’s Hyperloop Pod Competition

On the last weekend in January, more than 1,000 students from 27 countries and 20 U.S. states flew into College Station, Texas for a chance to win SpaceX’s first-ever Hyperloop pod design competition. The 120-plus teams gathered at Texas A&M University and pulled out all the stops to impress deep-pocketed tech companies who might turn their renderings into reality, but the ultimate prize went much further than any seed funding: a chance to build their pods and test them on SpaceX’s one-mile Hyperloop test track in California.

The competition’s first day was limited to a select group of attendees, from students to judges and even company reps (and a handful of journalists, for posterity’s sake), and the event center buzzed, the auditory overlapping of hundreds of voices with the sounds of whirring demonstrations and computer presentations. A fan favorite was the Lockheed Martin booth, where a line formed behind the company’s F22 Raptor simulation and students got to “drive” the stealth aircraft and take down enemy planes.

When the intercom crackled and a man’s voice made announcements, though, the room went silent. Students stopped to listen carefully for fear of missing important information regarding the judging phase of the competition on Friday. They’d all spent months working on their projects, poring over technical details, calculating costs to ensure the financial feasibility of their pods, and marketing their designs to draw sponsorships. Some teams were exclusively made up of graduate students, others were undergraduate only, and others had both. Most teams, though, were a carefully blended mix of engineering students from different disciplines paired with business or communications students to handle marketing efforts.

It wasn’t just sophisticated presentation boards that crowded the event center aisles — cookies, chocolates, and in the case of Spain’s Universidad de Alcalá table, an entire jamón Serrano (carving knife and all) — and drew passerby to each booth. Once the goodies had been enjoyed, interactive pod models, computer visualizations, and other user-friendly demonstrations showcased particular technologies — like magnetic levitation — used in pod designs.

On Saturday, when the competition opened to the public, participants were eager to explain all the unique features of their designs. Children walked around open-mouthed at the sight of so many rocket and car-looking toys. A young curly-haired boy leaving the SpaceX booth asked his father, “Do they live in space?” while a younger boy approached the booth wearing a silver and gold astronaut costume.

The students all possessed an almost tangible enthusiasm as they talked about their projects, and they captivated audiences with backstory chatter about the sleepless nights in lead up to the competition, the long flights, and cross-country drives to Texas. There was a sense that everyone knew they were taking part in something extraordinary. A few students mentioned that they put their schoolwork or dissertations on the back burner to focus on their Hyperloop projects, but felt it was worth it to be there that weekend.

“A lot of our professors complain that we aren’t paying enough attention to our own work and classes because we’re working on this project, but when we work on this we are applying what we learned in university,” said one team member from the University of Cincinnati. “Isn’t that the true meaning of education?”

The Cincinnati team’s pod featured two detachable parts designed for added safety. In the event of a crash, the front part of the pod would absorb the shock and compress while the back part of the pod would detach from it, protecting the passengers inside.

“I’ve been working on this full-time and I haven’t slept in a while,” said Maxwell Goldberg, a Badgerloop member and UW freshman. “I love how fast-paced it is because it’s totally new technology and it’s great to be doing something no one’s ever done before.”

Goldberg was referring to Hyperloop technology, of course, but it was a nod to his team’s potentially revolutionary design. According to Badgerloop, they built what they believe is the largest Halbach wheel in existence—and they brought it to the competition. In fact, the wheel, which is electrodynamic and provides levitation and propulsion for Badgerloop’s pod, requires so many large magnets that flight restrictions prevented them from taking it on board, so 22 team members packed into three vans and embarked on a 17-hour drive to College Station to attend the competition.

Each one-person, 15-foot pod would use 12 Halbach wheels to propel it along the track. According to Goldberg, their design can be scaled up to feature several rows with two seats per row. The team’s pod was also among the designs with the lowest costs — a steal at $37,517, which includes fabrication and transportation to the competition this upcoming summer. As the awards ceremony loomed near on Saturday, Popular Science asked the team members how they felt.

“I’ve enjoyed working on it and the personal reward is more than worth it for me,” Technical Director Duncan Adams told Popular Science, his teammates nodding in agreement. “I’ve put thousands of hours of work into it myself and seeing it all come together is enough for me. I hope we get a sponsor because I would love to actually build it, so as long as we get to do that I don’t think it matters so much if we win.”

Hours later, Badgerloop learned its fate: the team placed third overall, and will get to build its pod. The University of Cincinnati team missed cracking the top five but was still chosen to continue onto the next phase of the competition. Both teams, along with at least 20 others, will now have a chance to test their pods in SpaceX’s one-mile Hyperloop track near company headquarters, which is located about 15 or so miles outside of Los Angeles.

First place went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which unveiled a streamlined design that features magnetic levitation and a fail-safe hydraulic braking system.

“[Transportation is] a great thing to work in because it affects so many people and having great transportation is great for everybody—everyone wins if you have good transportation,” said Philippe Kirschen, MIT’s Team Captain. “It poses really interesting technical and economic challenges and it’s a really interesting multidisciplinary problem that has the potential to have many socially powerful impacts.”

During his keynote address on Friday, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx echoed that sentiment and said that historically, the government hasn’t embraced new and unfamiliar proposals.

“We have in our department of transportation a responsibility not just to continue with conventional forms of transportation, but we have a responsibility to continue nudging the future along and stretching along with innovators and folks who think broadly about how we can move differently and better and more efficiently and cleaner in the future,” said Foxx, adding that the weekend was a special moment in transportation history. “One of great things about this competition is everybody wins because everybody here is involved in envisioning the future.”

Foxx then quoted Elon Musk’s white paper, a clarion that introduced the world to the Hyperloop concept in 2013. SpaceX had made clear from the beginning that Musk would not be in attendance, but that didn’t stop students from tweeting about the competition using #whereisElon. At the end of the weekend, moments after the winners had been announced, Musk stepped onto the stage in a black leather jacket and black pants and received an automatic standing ovation and raucous cheers from the audience. It was hard to tell whether the winning teams were more excited about winning or about seeing Musk in the flesh.

To the students’ delight, and after some prompting from one student with a rather bold request, Musk agreed to sign everyone’s awards—which were made of the type of steel that will be used in the Hyperloop test track and were in the shape of the tube.

The SpaceX CEO was also clearly relishing the creativity and buzz the competition generated, and he and stuck around to take questions, which included the inspiration for creating the Hyperloop, his next big idea, and why he changed the competition rules one-and-a-half weeks before the event.

“It’s exciting and inspiring to think about new forms of transport or new technologies that can make people’s lives better, wherever they happen,” Musk said. “I think that the work that you guys are doing is going to blow people’s minds.”

Review: Vellum, The Ebook Generator For Mac With Added Prettiness

One of the great things about technology is the way it has democratized the publishing world. Today, anyone can publish an ebook on iBooks and Amazon, whether as a freebie or a commercial book.

But as I found out when I came to create my own ebook, generating an ebook that looks attractive on all of the different devices available is a rather tougher challenge. That’s the job the Mac app Vellum claims to do, so I put it to the test … 

Vellum attempts to intelligently parse the file as it is imported. If you have a table of contents, Vellum should recognize this and mirror the structure. In my case, I’d written my technothriller in scenes rather than chapters, so Vellum had few headings to go on. It picked up the page-breaks in my pre-amble, and decided these were chapters, and also split the story itself into three.

Once left with only one ‘chapter’ for the preamble, I renamed it to Preamble. However, Vellum still thought this was a chapter, and numbered it. To persuade it to lose the numbering, you return to the Chapter menu, select Convert to and choose Uncategorised. If if had been a chapter, and you just wanted to lose the numbering, this can be done by selecting the gear menu top-right and unchecking numbered.

My scene breaks were three asterisks centred, and Vellum recognized these, turning them into horizontal lines in iBooks, for example. The text remains fully editable, in case you spot any last-minute typos.

You also need a cover image, which needs to be created in external software. Vellum checks that your image is the right size and shape for all platforms. Note that while most device screens are small, you still need a high-resolution image: anything up to 2400 x 3840 pixels, depending on the ratio of the book.

If you have a conventional chapter structure, Vellum will use your own book in these examples. As mine doesn’t, it instead uses the opening of Moby Dick.

Of course, one issue with attempting to control the appearance of an ebook is that it will look different on different devices. Vellum has a handy preview feature to show you how your book will appear on the iPad, iPhone, Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Simple Touch. Each view provides a simulation that allows you to page through the book.


Were the app a free one, or if it cost a small, one-off sum, my conclusion would be a no-brainer. It’s really easy to use, and generates great results.

My hesitation is over the cost. Vellum offers a choice of three ways to pay for it. Unlocking it to generate a single ebook (in all three formats) costs $29.99. A 10-book license costs $99.99, bringing the per-book cost down to ten dollars, while an Unlimited license is a rather eye-watering $199.99.

If you’re creating a free book, thirty bucks might seem a steep price just to make it prettier, when there are plenty of free tools around. But for commercial books, I think it’s a lot easier to justify. Writing a book is a pretty major investment of time and effort, so $30 to ensure that the end result is as pleasing as possible to readers is, I think, not as unreasonable as it might seem.

There is also some good news. You can edit the book as many times as you like (it just locks the title, sub-title and author to prevent cheating); there’s no time-limit for the 10-book deal; and your credits remain valid for all future updates of the app.

All-in, for a commercial book, I think it’s worth the cost.

Vellum can be downloaded direct from the website or via the Mac App Store. If you’d like to check out my technothriller, 11/9, it’s being launched as a Kickstarter project.

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