Open Source

Lucidor: A simple ebook reader for collaborative work

Calibre is one of the most popular ebook library managers, but Lucidor has some great features that shouldn't be overlooked. Marco Fioretti explains.



One of the most complete and flexible desktop-based ebook library managers is the multi-platform free software called Calibre. There are also numerous other applications on the market. This thought is what led me to discover and try Lucidor, an ebook reader that can handle books in the ePUB format and browse ebook catalogs published as OPDS feeds

Based on my experience, Calibre is way more complete and a better choice in many cases than this other, little-known ebook manager. However, I can also say that Lucidor is a nice little program that may be much better than its most famous competitor in at least one scenario.

Technically speaking, Lucidor is a XULRunner application. In plain English, this simply means that Lucidor is built around the same engine that constitutes the core of sophisticated programs like Firefox and Thunderbird. This is probably also the reason why there's a version of the same program called Lucifox that works as a Firefox plugin.

This design choice has two practical consequences for end users. One consequence is that, assuming those programs are absent from your computer, you must still have at least the XULRunner core installed to run Lucidor. The second consequence is that, after downloading the source code or binary package for your distribution, you'll get something that really looks like an extra-simplified version of Firefox -- from the tabbed layout to the small search box (Figure A).

Figure A



Lucidor resembles an extra-simplified version of Firefox.

Lucidor also behaves like Firefox when it comes to storing data (inside SQLite databases) and configuration files. By default, everything ends up in a folder called .ordbrand/lucidor/ in your home directory, so remember to include it in your backup procedures!

The ebook viewer itself (Figure B) is simple but functional. You can enable or disable link preview and embedded JavaScript,  activate a confirmation prompt before opening external links, and force books to use whatever font face, size, and color you prefer. Other configuration options include text justification and if pages should scroll horizontally or vertically.

Figure B



The Lucidor ebook viewer is simple but functional.

If you right-click any word and select "Look up Word," you'll be able to read its definition on or whatever engine you selected in the Preferences window of Lucidor. There's also a function to save as ebooks Web feeds or generic Web pages.

The scroll-down menu in the top left corner lets you choose what should be displayed in the left panel. Most of the time, you'll want to see the spine or the Contents (Figure C). You can also select to open a "View Source" window.

Figure C



You can display the ebook Contents.

Let's annotate together

In my opinion, the best feature of Lucidor is its annotation system (Figure D). When you click on "Create Note," Lucidor will let you add a text note bound to the current position of the cursor. You can also mark with stars the positions of each note.

Figure D



Lucidor's annotation system.

Lucidor can turn off the markers to avoid distractions or show them all, ordered by date, in the Annotations panel. If you click on Tools | Show Printer-friendly Annotations, a new tab will open that contains all the notes of the current ebook, formatted as one HTML page.

As far as I understand, Lucidor stores all your notes in an SQLite, single-file database. If that were the end of the story, I wouldn't have written this post. What's great, instead, is that the "Tools" panel of Lucidor has entries to import and export all the annotations of your library or just the ones of the current ebook.

When I clicked on "Export Annotations," Lucidor opened a new tab with all of my notes, ready to be saved as one simple (if verbose) plain text file. To show you what I mean, here is the snippet of Lucidor's "source code" that corresponds to my first note:


            "uid": "70a6f408-1093-42a5-9b92-f77aa240a6d1",
            "created": "2014-01-27T17:40:17.000Z",
            "modified": "2014-01-28T16:41:06.000Z",
            "source": "user",
            "content": "The italian title of this novel is \"Addio alle armi\"",
            "type": "text",
            "style": "highlight",
            "targets": [
                "part": "OEBPS/part0000.html",
                "fixptr": "/1/2/1/7(457)",
                "epubcfi": "epubcfi(/6/14!/4/2/14/1:457)",
                "text": "",
                "pretext": "fell early that year ",
                "posttext": "and we saw the troops"

The bottom line here is that Lucidor (as well as its "in-browser" Lucifox counterpart) may be used as the basis for a spartan-looking but very powerful collaborative annotation system, even in local networks without Internet access.

The first use case that comes to my mind (but I'm sure you can provide more in the comments) is schools. A teacher may annotate a single ebook or the whole syllabus of the course, and then email or put everything online as one text file. At that point, the students could load that file with Tools | Import Annotations and immediately see the notes in their Firefox browsers.

There's more. Thanks to the simple text format, a teacher with a good knowledge of shell scripting may quickly create different annotations for each student, with unique questions or exercises, and send them out as homework. What other practical applications can you see for Lucidor? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.



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