Zhura.com update

[follow up to this follow up here]

As you know, we’re using Zhura.com‘s online screenwriting collaboration tools to write our latest (untitled) feature project.

And as you know, it’s proven less than perfect.

What came out of the research around “why is this thing so buggy” is that we had cut and pasted our original outline from MS Word, which Zhura apparently gets terribly confused by. The answer, according to at least some of the postings we found on their discussion forums, should be to “copy the current script, paste it into a plain text doc, and then upload that plain text doc into a new Zhura file”.

So that’s what I did today. Of course, it worked less than perfectly. Though it recognized “int.” and “ext.” as sluglines and formatted them so, it didn’t recognize any character names or dialogue, so everything is formatted as action. We’ll have to go through and manually reformat all those elements (kiss a couple hours goodbye – again).

But once that’s done, all should be good, right?

We’re crossing our fingers that this will keep the bugginess to a minimum.

We’ll keep you posted.

*EDIT – A post on John August’s blog offers a video capture rundown of some of the new FD8 features, the Project Manager from FD chimes in, and the comments include some thoughts on CeltX.

[follow up to this follow up here]

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6 thoughts on “Zhura.com update

  1. Chip, if you are interested in having us try to understand what might be going wrong with our import algorithms, please feel free to send the Word doc to us at our support email. We’ll try it out and see if there are some improvements that can be made on our end, or if the format you are using in Word is too difficult for us to interpret.

    In general though: we do no support cut and paste at all into our editor from another editor. All filed must be Imported so that we can translate them properly. With files that are written in other screenwriting software like Final Draft, Celtx and Screenwriter, the formatting that we need to interpret is very consistent and we generally get it pretty well. With files that are written in general word processors like Word, we are subject to interpret the writers (sometimes) “home grown” style. WE have actually written pretty exhaustive algorithms to broadly understand things like:
    Bob: Hey Bob, let’s go to the store.
    In order to format it properly once it enters the software. When you say you are importing an outline — given that outline formats are largely un-standardized in Hollywood — I think I can see where the process fell apart.

    On a final note: PRO member enjoy a couple of features that relate to your post. First, we support import DIRECTLY from MS Word (Even Final Draft does not do that — unless they just added it to v.8). Also, PRO members have access to an Outline mode, which seamlessly allows you to switch between your script and outline, while maintaining all of your acts and sluglines. You can also drag and drop scenes to reorder them.

    Anyway, I hope you find Zhura useful in your project. If you can share any of the files that were giving you trouble, we’ll see if we can improve our algorithms. Thanks for using Zhura!

    -Eric

    • crankydog says:

      Hi, Eric —
      I appreciate your feedback. I think there’s a misunderstanding re: what we’ve been trying to do.

      1) We wrote an outline in MS Word. Just a series of paragraphs, no formatting. Essentially lots of short “action” sequences, thusly:

      – Bob and Sue drive the car to the old warehouse. Bob is angry. Sue is crying.

      – They arrive at the warehouse, and lots of exciting action ensues. Bob is shot. Sue stops crying. This is the first time we see the bad guy.

      – Then they drive away, while Bob bleeds. The car crashes. Bursts into flame. Oh, the humanity.

      We copied this from the Word doc to our clipboard, then used the “paste” feature provided within the Zhura interface to drop in the content. We did not expect it to format any features, or recognize the doc as any kind of standard “outline” per se. Zhura accepted the paste, formatting the content as a series of “action” paragraphs, which was just what we expected it to do.

      1B) Over time, as we edited this content into an actual script – adding sluglines and character names and dialogue – we experience strange anomalies — blocks of strange code suddenly appearing in our script, the whole script suddenly becoming italicized, random carats appearing before or after character names, etc… none of it necessarily at the point in the script that we were editing at that moment.

      1C) We were told by Zhura that these anomalies were likely caused by our having pasted from Word… that any invisible Word-specific coding that came along with our doc was creating these strange bugs.

      2) SO — to fix this, we copied all the text from our Zhura script (highlight/copy) and pasted it into a PLAIN TEXT document on our desktop, and saved it. Then we created a NEW Zhura document, and used the Zhura IMPORT feature designed for plain text docs, and created a v2 copy of our script – presumably without any strange application-specific attributes – in the hopes that going forward, we would not experience the MS Word specific bugs.

      Zhura recognized lines beginning with int. and ext. as sluglines and properly formatted them. Our issue with the plain text import is simply that it did not recognize character names and dialogue. So other than the sluglines, the script appears as all action:

      Bob steps into the room and sees Bob.

      Bob
      Hey Bob.

      Bob waves.

      This is inconvenient, but no big deal… we’ll just go through the entire v2 script and manually format the character names and dialogue. The important thing is that hopefully moving forward we’ll have none of those MS Word specific bugs.

      I scoured your site and did not see anything stating that copying/pasting from Word was a bad idea… only that PRO members can import from Word (as an upload function).

      Re: your comment that “we do no support cut and paste at all into our editor from another editor. All filed must be Imported so that we can translate them properly”: Given that the Zhura interface includes a PASTE button (which simply prompted us with a popup that stated “use Control-V to paste”), and it readily accepted content pasted from Word, we assumed that this action would be okay. I imagined that Zhura was likely employing some kind of “paste as plain text” function in the background to protect itself from any MS Word incompatibilities.

      End of the day, Zhura seems to be working pretty well for us. The inconsistency between page counts across “edit”, “view” and “export” modes is irritating but not insurmountable. All in all, I’m picking nits, and find the service to be valuable as a remote collaboration tool, and at the price, so far it can’t be beat.

      Thanks again for your attention.

  2. [...] Why Zhura isn’t perfect Posted in film, untitled horror script by crankydog on April 28, 2009 (Follow up post here…) [...]

  3. [...] my FIRST Zhura posting, I told you that I’d tried creating a new doc from a TEXT file to purge the technology demons from my [...]

  4. Fred says:

    I am a web programmer and need to tell you that your problem isn’t with a website,your problem is with MS Word. Microsoft has gone way out of their way to make sure things are not easily cut and pasted from their program. It is prioretary software and the (ms) don’t want you using anything else ever. Paste in notepad, then into a web editor. Then it will just ba ASCII. Otherwise you will always have issues and you’ll waste tons of time complaining about it.

    • Chip Street says:

      I acknowledged in my article that Word brings along its own underlying messy code. I’ve been involved in web dev for a decade now. And I know to use a notepad flow. But “average user” is not a developer, and doesn’t know or care to use a notepad flow… and it is very much within the realm of possibility to strip the offending Word code on paste, or disallow the paste. Other apps do it.

      But I think you miss my point. It’s not necessarily that the app SHOULD accept a paste from Word — it’s that from a usability standpoint (my job every day is to work with programmers to convince them that average user isn’t going to know their workarounds) the messaging on the site was unclear, counter-intuitive, and frankly inferred the paste was possible. In fact encouraged and allowed the paste. It was as much (if not more) a usability failure as it was a functionality failure.

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