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[PNG icon] PNG: The Definitive Guide: Notes

Herein are some random notes about a few of the behind-the-scenes decisions that affected the book, including a partial timeline. This is probably of greatest interest to those who are contemplating writing a book of their own (Nooooooooo! Don't give in to the dark side!!) and want some idea of what to expect.


All told, 15 months from beginning to end, of which 10.5 involved serious writing:

Particularly astute readers will notice that Greg missed his deadline by a solid five months. Whoops. Partly that was due to some additions and changes that were requested along the way; partly it was due to a problem with the person who was originally going to test PNG support in the selected image editors (Greg ended up doing half of them on his own and finding a few other people to help out with the remainder). But mostly it was just due to an overly optimistic estimate of how much Greg could accomplish in 8 to 10 hours per week. Our hero likes to think that he writes reasonably well, but no one can claim that he's particularly fast--especially with the immense amount of fact-checking and number of updates that went into this book. Fortunately for Greg, Richard and the other O'Reilly folks were more patient than he had any right to expect.


Those who checked the main page previously may have noticed some oddities with the page count. As noted in the timeline, the original plan was to include all five PNG-related specs (PNG, PNG extensions, MNG, zlib, deflate) as appendices, as well as full (printed) source code to the demo programs. That rang in at somewhere between 710 and 740 pages, which was judged impractical due to cost. The next plan was to print only the PNG and PNG extensions documents as appendices (about 475 pages) and include a CD-ROM. But despite Greg's best efforts (and despite the word ``Definitive'' in the title), inclusion of any specification was vetoed. (For what it's worth, the then-current edition of HTML: The Definitive Guide didn't include the HTML 4.0 spec, either.)

The CD-ROM would still have been possible, but based on a mini-survey conducted within the PNG Group, most people would just as soon download specs, source code, software and images from the Internet; CD-ROMs are generally not used very much and add an annoying stiffness to the back cover of books. Also, Greg would have liked to have made it a truly useful and complete CD-ROM; among other things, it would have been nice to include a multi-platform web browser with really good PNG support. Since such browsers didn't exist at the time (in fact, not until the release of Netscape 6.0 and concurrent Mozilla milestones in late 2000), Greg decided to hold off with any CD-ROM until a (possible) later edition, and then only if there seems to be significant demand for it. (Postscript: ha ha, so much for that idea!)

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