The manual builder is an editor that will allow a content creator to provide a reference guide alongside their modules. This centralizes documentation that is otherwise scattered about notes or stories entries that can sometimes be quite difficult to find. Through the use of the manual builder, you’ll now be able to provide your audience with a structured, more easily readable document that can also include images loaded through assets to help with documenting the use of a given module.
Using the Manual Builder
The feature was introduced with FGU 4.1.12, and it can be found under the Library category, and within the modules panel. On the lower portion of the Modules panel, you will find a new button called "Builder", in between the export button, and the search box. When you click on the button, it will open an empty reference panel, but it has the means to add some elements to it, turning it into an editor window.
For comparison, if I load a module that I know has a reference manual... let's say the D&D Acquisitions Incorporated supplement, you'll see what a populated reference manual looks like vs. what we see for the the editor.
Reference Panel Navigation
In the top of the table of contents panel, you will see a lock icon next to the New Chapter button. This locks the contents of the manual that you are editing, so that it is now read-only until you unlock the manual again.
As you add content to the editor, the position of this lock icon will remain pinned to the upper left corner of that panel.
At the bottom, you will see a “keyword gen” button, this is used to create a searchable index list of keywords once you've completed editing a given manual.
You do not need to manually add these index entries, because when you're ready to export your module, all you need to do is click this button, and it will automatically generate the index for you.
In the middle of the reference panel, between the table of contents panel on the left, and the page panel on the right, you’ll see an icon that looks like an arrow pointing left.
If this icon is clicked, the table of contents panel will disappear, and you will be presented with a full view of a given page that you might be viewing.
Additionally at the bottom of the reference panel, near the middle of the page panel, you will see arrows that will be begin to appear that point left and right. These arrows are used for page navigation, much like you might use them when moving through a story or reference manual that was published with an existing module.
Adding content to the manual
Adding content to the reference manual is quite simple, and you’ll start by clicking on the “New Chapter” button.
This will create 3 new elements, as well as add in a few more navigational and content creation options.
The three new elements are a chapter title entry point, a new subchapter entry point, and a “new page” entry point, all of which allow you to enter in alpha numeric text, so you can organize your chapters as you see fit.
Underneath the new elements are 2 new buttons, one called “New Page”, which will create a new page entry point, and the “New Subchapter” button, that will create an additional subchapter entry point that can then take new pages.
To the left of the three new elements, you’ll see up and down arrows, which we will cover a little later on in the video, and the red circles with a vertical line through them.
If you’ve ever had to remove an element from a character sheet, or other information panel within FGU, you’ll know that the red circle contains a deletion action, that you must click twice to completely remove an element.
In this case, the chapter deletion action will delete all items directly linked to the chapter, which will include subchapters and all pages linked to those subchapters.
The deletion will be restricted entirely to just that chapter and its linked elements, and will not remove any other chapters once confirmed for removal.
Additionally, as you edit the structure of the table of contents on the left, and fill in content for pages using the page panel on the right, the content is saved to disk as soon as a given change is made
This is also something that will survive a complete restart of the fantasy grounds unity interface, and simply going back to the builder button will re-open what you were working on.
Chapters and Chapter Titles
Of the three elements, two are indicated through a difference in coloration of the background of the text field.
The dark gray background represents your chapter titles, and can be considered the top most element of a given chapter.
It is not readily apparent, but this is a text entry box, in that once you click somewhere in that dark field, it will provide you with a cursor to show you that text entry is possible
For example, I’m going to enter the text, “Chapter 1” in this field, but it can be any sort of content description that will help you organize the content for the viewer in a way that makes sense.
Additionally, I’m also going to create a new chapter and call it Chapter 2, in preparation for a later demonstration.
A chapter can be shifted above or below another chapter via the use of the up and down arrows next to the deletion action button, giving you a quick way to shift the entire contents of a given chapter to earlier, or later locations in the manual as you adjust your organization of said manual
It should be noted that the Chapter element is not directly linked to page content, so if you only have a chapter element, don’t expect to be able to edit any content in the page panel until you’ve added a subchapter, and then a page to that subchapter.
Subchapters and Subchapter Titles
A subchapter is used to group pages in a specific order that you’d like to use to showcase the content of the manual to a viewer.
However, a subchapter is unable to exist without it being contained in a Chapter, and it is unable to take subchapters as child elements, only pages.
I’m going to update the first subchapters title to contain the text sub-chapter #1 for our demonstration, and then I’m going to add a second sub-chapter, and set its title to be sub-chapter #2
As you can see, once the second sub-chapter was created, an additional “new page” button appeared, and the new sub-chapter was created below the “new page” button of the subchapter 1’s pages.
Using the up and down arrow keys, you can shift the location of a given subchapter and all of its linked pages within a given chapter, or to new chapters entirely, as long as one exists, providing a nice convenient way to move content about the manual as adjustments need to be made.
It should be noted here, that deleting a sub-chapter will only delete its linked pages, as well as the subchapter that was removed.
It also should be noted that a subchapter is what binds one or more pages to a given chapter, and it will shift around with that chapter if you choose to move the entire chapter to a different location.
Pages and Page Titles
A page is what will be used to actually store the content you intend for a given reader, and each page can contain multiple types of content as seen via the icons that you might have seen pop up in the page panel once a page title has been selected.
When you do select a page title, it can be edited much like a chapter or subchapter title, thus allowing you to name a given page for the reader's benefit.
As you add pages to a given subchapter, they will remain where they were created unless you choose to use the up and down arrow keys to change the order a page is displayed in, so don’t feel that you need to put content into pages in a specific order, as you can shift it around as needed.
Pages can also be shift out to other subchapters using the same up and down arrows, such that when a page that is at the top of its subchapter is shifted upwards, it will appear in the subchapter above it, while those that are moved past the last point of a chapter will be moved to the subchapter just below it, even if that subchapter is in another chapter entirely.
Once again, a page, when deleted, will delete the entire contents of a given page - which in this case we’ve not yet added any, and as the content is not backed up anywhere, you’ll want to be very careful about accidentally deleting a given page.
Adding Page Content
Once a page has been selected and/or created, new options will show up on the right that will allow you to edit the contents of that page. These elements are essentially wrappers for the content that you intend to put in your manual, and they contain very specific kinds of content.
There are a total of six different types of page elements, and they are as follows:
The text element
The split text element
The header element
The image element
The split text and image element
And finally the split image and text element
Additionally, two other icons exist at the top left portion of the page, and the top right.
The icon at the top left can be used to link this particular page to another page element, allowing you to make an in-page table of contents, or a quick link to another page for reference.
While the lock at the top right is used to lock the contents of the page so they can no longer be modified, and as you can see if I click that lock all means to edit the page will disappear.
Page Content Types
The Text Element
The text element is used to create one or more paragraphs that will run the full length of the page, essentially giving you a means to provide as much or as little detail as you might like to enter.
There are no format controls within the element, and what you enter is what you will see once the manual has been exported, or the page has been locked.
This means it will include all spaces that you enter, as well as ensure any new lines that you’ve created will be retained, so you can space the content out as much as you like, or cram it all into one large paragraph - though that would be slightly less useful for your readers.
It should be noted that all text fields work as though you are editing a story page, and this means that you can change a font from a normal font to a bold or italicized font, or make use of different formatting options that you would otherwise use in a story.
This includes lists, tables, chat frames and all other sorts of options
All you have to do is right click within the text entry box to bring up the context menu that will give you the options, much like you would for a story page.
A split text element used to create a tabular split between two separate paragraphs or text entry boxes.
Using these split text elements, you’ll be able to create two columns of text, much like some printed D&D supplement manuals that have been published, are formatted.
There are any number of uses for organizing text this way, but is there to provide you an alternative to simply dumping large paragraphs all over your manual, and give you another means to organize the content of your manual.
The Header Element
The header element is a great way to create content separation within the same page, as well as embolden the font to provide a nice title for someone to use for reference within the page.
The content of the header is currently, at the time of this recording, only able to be displayed in centered alignment within the element, but that may be me not recalling the right keyboard combination to change alignment, or it's something that has not yet been implemented, or something that might not get implemented.
But this element is still a great way to sub-categorize the content of your manual within a given page, ensuring a decent level of organization and presentation capabilities.
The Image Element
The image element is something that you can use to add different kinds of image assets to the manual.
These can include tokens or images that you can drag in from the assets window, but will not accept portraits.
It's a great way to add visuals to the manual, breaking up the walls of text with some map, token or other form of image to help carry the information your trying to convey through the manual
To use an image element, simply add it to the page, then drag and drop an image from the assets window over the empty image element to link that asset to that element.
It also accepts a caption that you can then use to add further context to the image, through the use of the text entry box just below the image element itself.
The Text Left/Image Right or Image Left/Text Right Elements
The last two elements are essentially the same thing, but organize your information slightly differently, in that they can place text alongside an image.
One will display the text on the left side, and an image on the right, while the second element will do the opposite, and display the image on the left, and the text on the right.
Adding an image works the exact same way as one would for the stand alone image element, but you’ll want to be somewhat careful here, as the size of the image will change how much space can be used to display the text.
The only way to reduce the space that image might use up, at the time of this recording, is through shrinking the size of the source image itself before it's loaded into the assets window.
However, this is still highly useful to provide a means to display these assets side by side, and break up the presentation of your manual to make it a little more interesting and possibly visually appealing.
Adjusting the background of a text field
If you’ve been paying attention, you might notice the little icon that is always present near the top left corner of the text entry box.
This is a field modification action that allows you to change the visual appearance of a given text field, and this applies to all elements that contain a text field.
The modification can affect both the borders of the field, and the coloration of the background, but they don’t always change both at the same time.
As an example, if I add the parchment modifier to this field, it converts that section of the text box to make it look like its bound parchment.
But if I change this header field, the sides remain unbound, and the borders for the top and bottom have changed, alongside the coloring of the background itself.
These options give you another means to change the appearance of your manual, and help provide an interesting display of the information you're trying to convey.
Moving all elements
Just like the contents of the left menu, it's also possible to shift the position of elements on a given page, so if you realize a little after you started adding content, that a header might help present the information better, you can add it, then move it to the desired location on the page.
However any element that is a split element, such as the split text element, as well as the split text and image elements are moved as one, so both sides of the element are moved up or down when you adjust the element using the up and down arrows. This ensures that as you move those elements around, they stick together.
Another thing to note, is that an element can’t be shifted to a different page using this method, and you’ll need to create a new element in the target page, and copy/paste the text into that element.
Images can not be moved this way, and instead you will simply need to drag the asset into the new image element on the new page.
Exporting The Reference Manual
Lastly, it's also possible to export the manual as part of a module, and while we did not cover module development in this video, I can very quickly show you how to ensure your manual is included in an exported module at the time you're ready to complete that export.
Once again, you’ll want to access the modules information panel from the Library drop down category.
You’ll see next to the builder button, the export button which once clicked will display the export information panel.
There are a large number of options that are beyond the scope of this video, there is only one location we need to focus on right now and that’s under the “Exported record Types” in the middle of the export panel.
If you scroll down to almost the bottom of the list, you’ll see there’s an entry for the “Reference Manual”, this should be checked to ensure it's exported at the time your module is exported as a whole.
However, it is possible to simply create a module that contains nothing but this manual, and it's a great way to create a custom set of guidelines and rules for your groups that you edit through a master module, export it and load it into your various campaigns so it can be provided to players.
You’ll want to ensure you also select the “Player Module?” Option just above the “Exported record types” listing, to ensure players can load it on their side.
Reference Manual Video Tutorial
In this video, Stoehovve introduces the new manual builder that has been added to Fantasy Grounds Unity. Through this demonstration, he covers all aspects of the manual builder, as well as how to include the manual as part of an exported module.