A lot of people complain about the lack of features deviantART provides for writers, or about various other aspects of using deviantART's writing system. Most of these complaints are entirely justified, because while deviantART's writing system is based
on HTML, it lacks a lot of features present in HTML and otherwise that writers would find desirable, had they access to them. Luckily, they do: deviantART accepts PDF uploads in the same fashion as it does image uploads via sta.sh, which means that any writer willing to take a few extra steps to work with PDFs can enjoy features that deviantART normally lacks, including:
- Justified text. Justified text, which begins and ends each line at the margins regardless of font or number of characters, enhances readability. It looks cleaner and is as easy as changing all of your non-centered text to justified instead.
- Font choice. This includes the font of choice itself, as well as font colour and size. Although font colour is a feature to be used sparingly if at all, the flexibility provided by the ability to tweak fonts means that you can give your story a unique feel, or just pick a font that's easier on the eyes than Trebuchet, deviantART's default font.
- Line and paragraph spacing. Automatic, even! As a feature of many text editors, it's frustrating to many who are used to having these that deviantART does not provide them. Generally I don't use them, but they're there if you use PDFs.
- Proper adjustment to monitor size. Most versions of Reader built in to browsers, up to and including Opera's, will adjust the font size, the size of the viewer, or various other aspects of the PDF automatically to look better at higher resolutions. There might be some cause, somewhere out there, to complain about this feature, but I think it's a lot better than the one- or two-line messes that paragraphs turn into when viewed via deviantART by default. This applies to writing and journals, by the way: it makes me a bit mad that my journal looks so weird on my monitor, but there's nothing to be done about it.
- Black on white is more readable than slate on white. PDFs are just generally much easier on the eyes. And if you're still not satisfied with the results of switching to PDFs, you can do a lot with them to make the switch worth it: they're very customizable, and not just in the ways described above. There are too many small reasons to use PDFs for me to cover in a journal that won't bore everyone to death, but suffice it to say that if there's a feature you find yourself wanting that deviantART's writing system doesn't have, you can probably finagle with it by switching your written works to PDFs.
The biggest problem with switching to the format is figuring out how to do. Fortunately, it's actually pretty simple, although the lack of good tutorials and help files out there makes it seem harder than it really is. Step-by-step, here's how to turn a written work into a PDF, then upload it to deviantART:
- Write in OpenOffice, LibreOffice, or any other word processor with an "Export to PDF" feature. It's vital to note that Acrobat is in no way necessary, and in fact it's really a bit overpriced for anything but very fancy tasks like making character sheets. In LibreOffice, a cursory look under the "File" heading will find you the ability to Export to PDF. The settings don't even need to be tweaked prior to exporting in most cases, and you can save both an .ODT and .PDF copy of a piece of writing in case you want to edit it later. On that note, since LibreOffice's ability to edit PDFs is limited, don't delete your .ODT copies of a given work: save them for when you want to edit.
- Create a thumbnail. Otherwise, your writing will be displayed to casual observers as having no preview available -- not exactly helpful. This can be as simple as creating a small (roughly 120x120) image in MS Paint, or painting a beautiful picture to go with your beautiful writing. As long as you have an image in a format deviantART accepts, and it accepts most, you should be fine. I recommend an image that at least somewhat speaks to the context of your writing, though, like a textual thumbnail or an image of the story's events.
- Upload the PDF to sta.sh. Then edit its title, category and description as appropriate.
- Choose to submit the PDF to deviantART. I suppose you could also edit the title, category and description during this step, but where's the fun in that? More importantly, you want to select "Add & Edit Files", then "Change Preview Image" on the right-hand side. The main file is the PDF itself, so you don't want to change that. After you've selected your thumbnail and finished making your deviation a deviation, it should be fine to submit it.
- Allow the world to bask in the glory of your fine PDF writing. I suppose deviantART already takes care of this step for you, though, so forget about it. You're done.
It's not that difficult once you get used to the process of browbeating sta.sh into working and using a word processor rather than deviantART to write, and I think the results are worth it. It's not really a problem that people without Reader or a computer from more than five years ago can't read your writing, either: most readers don't fit that description, and those that do usually have access to a better device somewhere. And a lot of devices, like Android tablets, are suited to downloading and reading your PDFs outside of deviantART, which the format also facilitates nicely.
If you decide to use PDFs for your writing in spite of the hassles it can present, feel free to let me know how it works out for you. If you encounter any problems, I'm willing to try to help, but I'm no expert, so I can't make any promises.