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8 Days a Week: Windows 8 Secrets is Complete

I should have posted this yesterday. I’m still a bit frazzled. :)

Late yesterday afternoon, Rafael and I submitted our last document of new material—an appendix—for Windows 8 Secrets to Wiley for publication. And while we still need to check final pages against the RTM version of Windows 8 in the weeks ahead, it’s fair to state that the hard work is behind us. For all intents and purposes, Windows 8 Secrets—much like Windows 8 itself—is complete.

This is the first “8 Days a Week” post since late May. Originally, I intended to use this series of articles to discuss the writing process, among other things. But what I discovered with this book is that it’s hard to write and write about writing at the same time, if you will. And obviously, the former was more important than the latter. But now that the book is done (or at least mostly done), I’d like to reflect a bit on what happened.

First, Windows 8 Secrets contains only all-new material. None was taken from Window 7 Secrets, let alone earlier books, and virtually all of the content is both new and about new features and technologies that are unique to Windows 8. I had originally included small sections of information about some features that appeared in previous Windows versions, but even those mentions needed to be removed for space reasons.

Speaking of which, one key goal of Windows 8 Secrets was to make a book that wouldn’t kill you if you fell asleep reading it. So where Windows 7 Secrets was over 1,000 pages long, we strove to keep Windows 8 Secrets under 650 pages. I’m not sure where we’re at currently, but it’s somewhere in that ballpark. (I’m waiting to hear back from the publisher.)

What I can tell you is that, excluding editor revisions, queries, and comments, and looking at just the styled original text, the book is about 450 pages long in Microsoft Word. It will include over 400 screenshots as well, many cropped to save space, and a handful of art and photo figures too.

When we finished the first draft of the book in mid-May, we were working off of post-Consumer Preview and pre-Release Preview builds of the product that didn’t represent the final feature set. So we knew that we’d be rewriting large portions of the book later.

Knowing that and doing that, however, are two different things.

The past three weeks have been brutal. On the most extreme end of this, I spent 17 hours over the two days last weekend—8 hours on Saturday and then 9 on Sunday—working on almost nothing but just two chapters of the book. Those two chapters, which cover the productivity and entertainment apps in Windows 8, respectively, were both long, the longest in the book, and both needed to be heavily rewritten to account for recent changes in the apps. It was like writing them all over again.

(These apps, of course, will continue to change. This is Windows 8’s greatest strength and, perhaps, the greatest weakness of a paper book.)

I mentioned having over 400 screenshots. What I didn’t mention was that virtually all of them were taken twice, once for the first draft and then again over the past few weeks. Many of these shots require complex set ups, content that’s been used and updated and representative of real world conditions, or fresh installs of the OS. Many require virtual machine installs so you can shoot boot-time or Setup screens. Many had to be heavily edited by hand.

We had some ideas about including information about Windows Phone 8 and Windows Server 2012 very early on, but eventually were forced to cut almost all of it. In a bit of over-eagerness, perhaps, Windows Phone 8 information was going to be scattered throughout, given the many very similar user experiences, but Windows Phone 8 didn’t come together quickly enough to allow that. And while we could have certainly included more Server information, it was just too off topic and we were out of space. (I also cut a bunch of desktop IE info that mostly involved features added in IE 9; you may recall that Windows 7 shipped with IE 8, so that is what Windows 7 Secrets covered. Again, space issues.)

Looking ahead, I’ll continue to support Windows 8 and the book with articles here on the SuperSite week after week of course. Rafael and I have discussed future projects, but if we do anything resembling a book again, it won’t be a traditional book like Windows 8 Secrets but rather something more interactive and “live,” something that could live on the web and be updated continually and perhaps have community participation. We’re still talking through this, but things will be different next time around, regardless.

We’re also thinking about doing a Windows 8 app for the book. We have some interesting ideas about how that could work, but again, we just finishing writing. I might need at least a weekend off to collect myself. :)

More soon. 


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