Customer Review – How Free.Aero uses BuildVu to display Digital Magazines

3 min read

In a change from the usual blog posts, today we have a guest blog post from Sascha Burkhardt from and a Worldwide Paragliding and Paramotoring Magazine available free online for everyone. and is an international digital magazine, specializing in outdoor flying sports (paragliding and powered paragliding). We started the digital magazine in 2011. As we came from the “Print” world, for us it was important to keep a layout very similar to a printed magazine, even if we publish exclusively in digital format. The magazine is free for readers, so we don’t need payment gateways.

Regardless of what some people in the publishing industry say, we think that a digital magazine should not be published in a responsive web page-like format or any other typical web-format.

Several reasons for that:

  • We know that readers are coming from a paper magazine and still want a paper-like format: a page and typical layout begins very classical on the top left and finishes at the bottom right down. If the reader sees three pages, he knows he will read it in about 5-10 minutes. This is the one reason why various publishing platforms keep formats close to “flip books“, sometimes even simulating the sound of flipping pages. (This is too old fashioned in my opinion)
  • A strict, non-responsive layout is the only way to guide the reader in the articles in a way decided by the choices of the editor, on every device. The possibilities of journalistic storytelling are much wider than with responsive designs that change with the type of the device.
  • Placing ads on strategic places is much easier on a fixed layout than on a responsive design.

Since 2009, we worked already for another magazine company and a Flipbook-Publishing solution like Calameo, but as these formats are not universal, but limited to their specific platforms with a more restricted audience and often have even been based on Adobe Flash (not compatible with iPhone/iPad),  we decided to publish in a more universal PDF-format, either on the web, either on our own iOS-Apps and Android-Apps. This is what we did for several years.

The problem is that readers have (depending on the browser) to load the whole magazine before they can read it. As we work at least at 150 DPI (often even 300 DPI for perfect photo quality even when zoomed), we have 20-30 MB per magazine, this can take quite a long time to load, and readers and advertisers cannot deep-link to specific pages in order to share them.

Capture d’écran 2016-02-13 à 07.20.29
Digital Magazine with IN5 and Indesign

We continued looking for a possibility to publish the magazine in HTML with a solution that should perfectly respect the existing layout that we produce with Adobe Indesign. We tried converter-plugins producing HTML-Output, as IN5 from Ajarproductions, but with the actual versions, the results are still too far from the original layout as it would be in the PDF.

Finally, we found BuildVu a PDF to HTML5 converter from IDR Solutions, and started a workflow Indesign -> PDF -> HTML. It was great to see that it is possible to get a result 99% close to the original layout. All our fonts are correctly converted as web fonts, and the positioning is in most cases perfect.

This is also the case for more complex layout elements, like drop caps in unusual fonts, and in tables. Tables are mostly correctly converted, with precise positioning. This was a very positive discovery. The actual IN5-Plugin for Indesign for example does not convert tables to HTML, but to images in order to avoid positioning problems. This means no select-able text anymore, no Hyperlinks anymore. However, BuildVu allows us to publish HTML with real tables in it.

If necessary, for example in order to replace a picture with an interactive element like a video playing in an iframe, the converted HTML is very easy to modify with Dreamweaver, as every page has one HTML-document and one folder with the pictures, both named with the number of the page. / in the IDRViewer / in the IDRViewer

The IDRViewer included as part of BuildVu is one of the best viewers that we ever tried. It is clear, neat, fast, intuitive. We applied only two little changes: “Continuous” is the default viewer method when starting, and on desktop devices, the thumbnail-view on the left is active. We also change, in some cases, the background-PNG.

You can see an example of our final conversion.

For more customer reviews of BuildVu, check out the reviews by, the Open Journal Project ,DIEESE and the University of Missipi’s School of Pharmacy.
For customer reviews of JPedal, check out the reviews by the State Veterinarians of South CarolinaLabBestQtree Solutions and a guest blogger.

Is there is something you’d like to blog about connected to Java, HTML5, SVG, JavaFX or PDF files? Any tips, tricks or recommendations? Contact us and we would be happy to feature you in our new ‘Guest Blogger’ series.

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How are other customers using our software?

Find out more about some of our other customers and the innovative ways they use IDRSolutions software on our customer success page.