Pressbook Building Blocks

Next, we’ll take a look at the primary pieces you need to familiarize yourself with in order to create a resource in Pressbooks. This by no means is an exhaustive overview – you can continue acquiring more advanced knowledge by checking out the Useful Resources section at the end of this module. Keep in mind best practices for accessibility covered in a previous module as you complete this one. Here, we will cover the:

    1. Authoring Dashboard
    2. Dashboard Menu
    3. Sharing and Privacy
    4. Organization and Editing (Parts & Chapters)
    5. Visual Editor
    6. Book Information


  1. Appearance
  2. Publishing and Exporting

Authoring Dashboard

The dashboard is where you are automatically directed after you log in. It is where you, as an author, will spend most of your time writing and where you can find a list of the various tools and functions. Here is a handy breakdown of some of the items that appear there:

Dashboard Menu

The menu bar on the left side of the authoring interface contains a list of options for you to use while creating your book. This breakdown explains each option further:

Sharing and Privacy

At the start of creating your book, you should think about its sharing and privacy settings. Specifically, you should review the selection of fields for book visibility and inclusion in the Pressbooks directory. These are all aspects you can come back to later in your project to adjust.

Organization and Editing (Parts & Chapters)

When you create a book, Pressbooks automatically generates three parts, which you can view by clicking “Organize.” They are:

  1. Front Matter
  2. Main Body
  3. Back Matter

These can be easily deleted or modified to suit your book by clicking on it to bring up the editing interface.

Front matter sections usually contain items like acknowledgements, foreword, introduction, and abstracts. The main body is normally where the bulk of the content is created through parts and chapters, and the back matter commonly is the place for appendices, glossary, bibliography, and version history.

What is the difference between Parts & Chapters?

Chapters are the pages that contain the main content of the resource. Parts are like containers for chapters – think of them as the overarching sections which can contain as many chapters are you like. So, a complete resource is made up of multiple chapters which are sequentially ordered in parts.

Note that although the Pressbooks platform uses the names “parts” and “chapters” you are welcome to label these sections whatever you like. For example, you could label parts as chapters and label chapters as chapter sections.

Activity: Add Parts and Chapters

Note that you can also add Parts and Chapters when you click on “Organize” – bringing you to a page that looks like this:

Pressbooks Organize landing page with the Dashboard menu on the left and the parts and chapters section in the main window

Visual Editor

After creating a new chapter or part, click on it and you will see the editing interface. This is a rich text editor with a visual and textual option that is fairly intuitive but has limited customization. Each part and chapter have their own hyperlink, making it easy to share and integrate distinct pieces of the book. The editing interface has standard text editor functions, including footnotes.

The visual editor displaying all of the options within the toolbar with the visual/text portion highlighted in the top right corner

Note the Visual vs. Text options (highlighted). This is particularly useful when formatting doesn’t always appear as expected when you preview the book – giving you the ability to use the text editor and examine the HTML code for errors, e.g. extra spaces. Of course, it is recommended to save often!

Activity: Visual Editor

Book Information

This tool is where you add the title and description, add contributors, add copyright information and/or choose a license for your book. It is also where you upload your book’s cover image. If you prefer, you can use the simple cover available from Pressbooks under Export – Cover Generator.


There are over twenty different themes to choose from in Pressbooks. The default theme is Malala. We recommend this theme or Jacobs or McLuhan as they are more accessible and we find them more suitable for textbooks. However it is up to you – each theme has many customizable options.  For example, you can choose the colours of the text boxes or the table of contents. You can also set different parameters for PDFs, Web Books and eBooks. Finally, if you have the coding skills, you can edit your book’s Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to create something completely unique. The Liberated Learner project shown earlier is a great example of use of CSS to create a signature design aesthetic.

We advise selecting your theme early on in your project, as different themes have variations in appearance and customization options that may affect the digital, e-book or PDF versions of your content.

Publishing and Exporting

Before you share your work with the world, take some time to think about how your content is organized for publishing online and the various export options. Some important questions to ask yourself are:

  1. Do you have Web-only sections? If so, you may want to exclude them from export files.
  2. Do you need to move chapters within the same part, or move them to another section? Then take a look at the “Organize” page and make the necessary changes.
  3. Do you have your own book cover that you’d like to supply for a printed version of your work? Or do you need to create one?

Once the book is organized and all content is complete, you’re ready to export. Note that if you’ve included videos and H5P elements, these will not be included in the PDF and eBook versions. A placeholder will appear with a link to the web version to watch the video or complete the activity online. Pressbooks offers several export formats to meet different distribution and accessibility needs. Whichever export type you select, it will be available in the “download this book” drop-down list under the book cover. For the purposes of this module, we won’t export your “My Sandbox Book” project, as you likely want to keep that hidden.

We highly recommend reviewing the Export chapter in the Pressbooks User Guide to determine what is right for you.


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