8 Steps to Styling Your Ebook in Sigil

by C.K. MacLeod

In today's post, I'll discuss how to style your ebook in Sigil.

Many of the steps in this post are based on Paul Salvette's excellent tutorial, How to Make an Ebook with Sigil. I've broken down the steps further and provided more screen shots in those areas where I think it's easy to get stuck. I've also suggested some "how-tos" and "why-tos."

If you followed the instructions in this post, you will have pasted your ebook into Sigil's editing window. It will look something like this:

My ebook in Sigil

To review, Sigil has two "views"— the Book View and the Code View. We'll concern ourselves mostly with the Book View for now.

Book View (red arrow) and Code View (highlighted in yellow)

Styling Your Ebook in Sigil

The toolbar in Sigil has all the features you need to style your ebook. Follow the steps below to style your ebook.

1. Align your text.
Check your ebook distributor's guidelines for how their conversion software handles text alignment. Generally, it's a good idea to left-justify your text (also called ragged right).
Left-justify your text
2. Style your paragraphs using the Paragraph button.
This sets your paragraphs to "normal style" in the same way that you would set your paragraphs to Normal using the Word Styles menu in Word 2010 (if you don't use Word Styles, it's a great habit to get into for the purposes of ebook building). Again, if you already styled your paragraphs to Normal in Word, you can skip this step.
Use the Paragraph button to style paragraphs

3. Style your headings.
This step is important because Sigil will use your styled headings to generate an external table of contents (NCX) that readers can use to navigate your ebook. Style a heading by selecting it, or clicking in the middle of it and then clicking on one of the heading buttons:

I used the h2 button to style this level 2 heading

If you already styled your headings in Word, you can skip this step. I've noticed that heading styles are retained when you convert your Word .docx file to a plain text file.

Note: Style your chapters headings as H1s.

4. Break up your book into chapters.
Up until now, your file is just one continuous stream of text in Sigil. You want your book to be divided into chapters. Place the cursor where you want to split your book and click on the Split at Cursor button:

Split at Cursor button

Look what happens:

From one file to many

Don't worry, your split parts haven't disappearedeach chapter has become a new file. Note the highlighted parts in the screen capture above. You can rename these .xhtml files to meaningful chapter titles, by right-clicking on them and selecting Rename.

To access your chapters at any time, double click on the the files in left menu bar, or on the tabs at the top of the middle window.

Tip: If you've styled your chapter headings as HIs, you're in luck. In the course Creating Ebooks for the Kindle, Tony Harmer explains that you can search for H1 headings quickly in Code View, using Sigil's search function (Ctrl + F). This makes splitting your books into chapters a quick task.

5. Style any lists using the Bullets or Numbering button.
This will ensure that your lists are lined up neatly on the left. If you've styled your lists in your original Word file, using the Bullets and Numbering buttons on Word's ribbon, check to see whether that transferred to Sigil.
6. Insert hyperlinks.
If your ebook contained hyperlinks in Word, they may have transferred intact to Sigil. If they haven't, select the URL and insert a hyperlink using the Insert Link button on Sigil's tool bar.
Insert link button

7. Insert any images using the Insert File button.
Inserting images is a separate set of considerations and deserves a post of its own. For now, consult your distributor's formatting manual for image size and quality guidelines.

8. Create a table of contents (TOC).
Open up the TOC pane by going to View,Table of Contents, if you don't have this pane open already. Click on the Generate Table of Contents button:
A menu will pop up:
All headings are selected by default
Decide which headings you'd like to include in your TOC and click OK.
Your file now looks something like this:
Sigil's TOC pane with your new TOC
You can use your newly created TOC to navigate your Sigil document. Click on a TOC entry and give it a try.
Congratulations! You've now successfully styled your ebook in Sigil. In a future post, I'll show you how to check the quality of your EPUB and troubleshoot problems using Sigil's Code View. Don't worry: it's not as difficult as you think!
Revised and updated. Originally posted at beyondpaperediting.com

2 thoughts on “8 Steps to Styling Your Ebook in Sigil”

    1. Sharan,
      Do you mean you'd like to see a list of Sigil shortcuts? As in a cheatsheet? That's a great idea. I've put that on my list of posts to write.

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