Revisited: Ten Blurb BookSmart® tricks to impress your friends and confound your enemies

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It may depend on who your friends (or enemies) are … but at any rate, here are a few tricks and tips on using BookSmart for smoother and more powerful bookmaking. A version of this post ran in July 2008 and we thought it was time for an update. Read on for some great tips and smart ideas.

Lock Your Spreads Together


You’ll hear book designers often refer to “spreads” when talking about books. A spread is simply the two side-by-side pages you see when you open a book — both the left and the right pages viewed as a whole. You can lock spreads or individual pages together in BookSmart using the handy “lock pages” feature hidden away under a right-click menu. To find this gem, select your page or spread in the page thumbnails (see below) and right-click on your mouse. Click on “Page Lock Options” to lock together a page, spread, or all of the spreads in your book. A locked spread can still be edited — it will just act like two pages that can be moved or deleted as a single entity.

tips 1 Revisited: Ten Blurb BookSmart® tricks to impress your friends and confound your enemies

Drag and Drop Images Directly to Page Thumbnails


Thumbnails are the tiny pages at the bottom of BookSmart that you use to navigate forward and backward in your book. You can also drag images from your photo library or page layout directly to the thumbnails, which is really helpful when you want to move an image to a different page in the book. Give it a try.

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Hang Your (Virtual) Shingle


Once you’ve created your masterpiece, why not share it with the world (or a little corner of it). Our recent release of BookShow makes it easy to post a preview of a portion or your entire book to Facebook, your blog, or website. Did you know you already have a virtual bookstore that can be shared? To see a list of all of your public books add your username to the end of this link where it says username: For example, my public bookstore can be found at: To share, simply share that link.

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Show Unused Photos


Not sure which photos in your photo library you’ve already placed in your book? The “Filter” menu at the top of “My Imported Photos” holds many options for viewing and sorting your photos, and the “Show Used Photos” and “Show Unused Photos” filters are incredibly useful since they hide or show all photos you’ve already placed … leaving only those that are still looking for a layout home.

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Use Arrows to Nudge an Image


If you are looking for precise control over how your photo is positioned within a layout, try using the arrow keys (Up, Down, Left, Right) to nudge your photo once it has been added to a layout. Simply select the image and tap on the arrow keys.

Use Keyboard Shortcuts and Right-Click Menus


Nothing says “Power User” like keyboard shortcuts … unless it’s getting your right-click on. You can find a full list of BookSmart shortcuts in this FAQ. Looking beyond the standard Copy/Paste? You might try Image Alignment (Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + C centers your image for instance), Zoom In (Cmd/Ctrl + =) and Zoom Out (Cmd/Ctrl + ). Also, try out right-click menus when you’re selecting photos and pages — you’ll get quick access to common actions.

Turn off Text Auto-Zoom


When you insert your cursor into a text box in BookSmart it automatically zooms in so you can edit the text at an easier-to-read size. If you’d rather zoom on your own, just turn this feature off. Look at the bottom of the View menu and click on the “Auto-Zoom for Text Input” option to toggle this on and off.

“Copy and Paste Page Layout” is Your New Best Friend


This one may be obvious, but it’s also something I find myself using over and over again. Once you have a layout, spread, or sequence of layouts that you’re happy with, it’s easy to build out a book full of those layouts — all ready for your photos or text. Simply select the layout by clicking on the page thumbnail (at the bottom of BookSmart interface) and Shift-Click to select the additional layouts. Then Copy and Paste over and over again to build out your template.

Paste Text to Match Style


Many people write and edit big chunks of text using their word processor tool of choice. When you copy and paste that text into BookSmart it will, for the most part, keep the style (font, color, size) that you were using in the word processor. This can be a powerful tip in itself, but what if you’ve already defined a look and feel for your text in BookSmart? Under the “Edit” menu you’ll find an option to “Paste Plain Text.” Paste your text using that option, and it will take on the style already defined in BookSmart.

Save Headers and Footers Until Last


Headers and footers are also referred to as folios. These are the small text boxes on the top and bottom of many pages that are used for page numbers, book title, chapter title, etc. We also see the occasional Blurb book that utilizes folios for photo captions. My only tip here is to not worry about designing your folios until you’ve laid out your entire book. At that point click in, edit and style the text, and determine if you’d like to apply the style to the whole book, the chapter, or just the page.

Hope these are helpful, and that you found at least one or two you didn’t already know.

Have other tips and tricks not mentioned here? Leave us a comment with your favorite.

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  1. When I made my wedding albums as gifts for our parents, I did the first one for my family and put in a large section of photos of our side in it and a small section of photos from my husband’s side. When it came time to do his side of the family, I just save the album with a new name, pulled the pictures of his family in front of mine, deleted most of the pictures of my family, and added a bunch of his. It was like making a totally customized album for each in half the time, and made me look like I actually like my inlaws.

    By Whitney
      June 23, 2010 – 8:35 am   Permalink
  2. Whitney,
    That’s the cool thing with making your own book – you can customize it! Sounds like it worked well for you. Glad to hear it!

      June 23, 2010 – 8:58 am   Permalink
  3. You mention using a “right click” to do somethings.

    I use a Wacom Tablet anad there is no such thing as a right click.

    What then??

      June 23, 2010 – 1:43 pm   Permalink
  4. I locked my spreads together under the page lock option, but was not
    able to move the image on both pages as a “single entity”. Only one side of the spread moved when I applied my cursor in the edit phase.

    By Vic
      June 23, 2010 – 6:29 pm   Permalink
  5. Thank you Chad for these SOOO helpful hints!!! Much appreciated! I wish I had known about page spread options when I made my last book….it took a lot of manipulation to get a couple of page spreads the hard way!!! Thanks again.

      June 24, 2010 – 3:52 am   Permalink
  6. Hi Michael,
    I am not familiar with all of the settings on the Wacom Tablets. Two things to try. First, many times you can launch a right-click menu by holding down the pen (clicking) while holding the CTRL key if you are on a Mac. If that does not work look under your preferences or settings for the tablet. There should be a “right-click” setting there. Finally, if neither of those work I’d suggest contacting Wacom’s Customer Care web site as I’m sure there is a way to set this up.

      June 24, 2010 – 9:03 am   Permalink
  7. Hi Chad
    I just did my 1st Blurb photo book. After familiarizing with the software and watching most of your help videos, I found it fairly easy and entertaining to create my ‘master piece’ (probably more piece than master). I am very familiar with MS Publisher. One thing I missed was the flexibility of the text and picture holders. You only have squares or rectangles, not rounds, ovals etc, also it would be nice if you could create word ‘thought bubbles’, as the text holder can over lap the picture holder, but not the other way around, which would be nice too, especially if you create word & picture on 1 page.
    This is just a thought, otherwise I like to use Blurb and will it use again in future.

    By Mike Lippert
      June 24, 2010 – 3:12 pm   Permalink
  8. Hi Mike,
    Totally understand the desire for more flexibility around rotation and vignette effects. We don’t currently plan to introduce these types of embellishments in the near future. We do hope however to make it easier to use a program, such as Publisher to create your book using PDF. If you are up for it you might want to try to download a trial copy of Adobe Indesign and use our blank starter sizes ( as that will provide the vignette and rotation options. That said, it is a bit more complex and difficult workflow. Thanks again for using blurb.
    Cheers, chad

    By Chad
      June 25, 2010 – 9:25 am   Permalink
  9. Vic posted:
    “I locked my spreads together under the page lock option, but was not
    able to move the image on both pages as a “single entity”. Only one side of the spread moved when I applied my cursor in the edit phase.”

    Hmm. Check to make sure you are selecting the option to “Lock spreads together” and not lock page to right or left. If that doesn’t solve it you may want to reach out to our Support team as they can assist.
    Cheers, Chad

    By Chad
      June 25, 2010 – 9:27 am   Permalink
  10. Hi,
    I just finished my second book with Blurb. The 1st was a recipe book and this last one was more family pictures. Does the quality of my picture scanner and also the quality of the paper that I chose depend on the outcome of my book? This past book I was disappointed in. The colors and the clarity of the pictures were poor. Is there a way that I can prevent this in my next book that I make? Thank you,

    By Marie
      June 30, 2010 – 7:36 pm   Permalink
  11. Hi,

    Where can I find that book, that Blurb published (about a year ago, maybe?), about designing a book on Blurb. I remember it was for sale for about $37 or something. I can’t remember what it was called though.

    Thank you!


    By GothamTomato
      July 4, 2010 – 8:00 am   Permalink
  12. How do I lock spreads on a Mac?

    By sarah Ali Khan
      July 5, 2010 – 1:21 am   Permalink
  13. Hi,
    The book is called How to Make a Gorgeous Photo Book and you can find it here.

      July 5, 2010 – 12:41 pm   Permalink
  14. Hi Sarah – to lock spreads on a Mac, this FAQ should help.

    If you need further help, just check in with customer support.

    – Kathy

    By Kathy
      July 6, 2010 – 1:41 pm   Permalink
  15. Hi Marie,

    Sorry to hear that you were disappointed with your last book. We want you to get the best reproduction from your scans no matter which paper you use, so please contact customer support so they can help you get the book you want.

    – Kathy

    By Kathy
      July 6, 2010 – 1:44 pm   Permalink
  16. I noticed in the forum that someone mentioned they had a ‘choice of paper’. I seem to have missed that option. Is there in fact a choice of paper quality or is it only the choice of book format?

    many thanks,

    phil rogers

      July 15, 2010 – 1:11 pm   Permalink
  17. Phil,
    There’s absolutely a choice of paper at Blurb. You can go with Standard or Premium Paper, which comes in two finishes: matte or lustre. You can find more info here.

      July 19, 2010 – 12:08 pm   Permalink
  18. I just “published” my 5th book on Blurb and I have been consistently thrilled with the results! I did my first two books using booksmart but became disenchanted with the lack of total freedom in page design/layout and text options. So on the next book I took the leap to Indesign and have not looked back. Be warned the learning curve is somewhat daunting but the results are well worth it. My favoured format is large landscape/image wrap/premium paper. On the last book I tried the premium lustre paper and it looks fantastic! It is now my paper of choice. Fyi, my book subjects are usually travel vacations.
    The one tip that I would STRONGLY recommend is to spend the money and buy a color monitor calibrater. I did and I have never been disappointed or surprised by what I saw on the screen and what was printed. It doesn’t need to be fancy or the latest model to do the job.


    By David H
      January 13, 2011 – 5:51 am   Permalink
  19. Book done, time to add footers. Is there a way to add footers to all pages at once, starting on one page? Trying to avoid adding one page at a time for 200 pages. Also, The “edit page layout” view is often riddled with justification issues that have been perfected in the “Page preview” and if I add a footer and click APPLY all those errors will be saved and I’ll have to reedit.

    By Chris E
      February 23, 2011 – 6:47 am   Permalink
  20. Chris,
    Congratulations on the book. Your best bet is to contact our Customer Support team via email or live chat. They’ll get back to you really quickly. You’ll find the contact info here.
    Thanks for commenting on the Blurb blog. Keep the comments coming.

      February 23, 2011 – 9:08 am   Permalink
  21. The information gathered here are of great help to me. I intend to publish little books from desktop, I’ve not as yet done one but hope I am close. I need your software to begin, Please help me download one.

    By Nelson Agbove
      October 4, 2011 – 8:20 pm   Permalink
  22. Hey Nelson,

    Here’s a great place to start:

    I would suggest trying Blurb Bookify or Blurb BookSmart. You’ll find links to both on the page above.



    By Kent
      October 5, 2011 – 10:02 am   Permalink
  23. Gr8 tips, informative Vimeo. Just editing several blurb books, xperimenting with layouts, paper quality, formats…swap over to booksmart after bookify for more options. It demands a lot of attention, well worth the effort of course. Thnx for patiently putting forward relevant points. Adding
    French accents is my stumbling block however, any suggestions?!

    By Y M de Gaye
      December 30, 2011 – 12:20 am   Permalink
  24. Hello,

    I’m glad you’re finding BookSmart fits your needs. I’m not sure about accents, but our Support Team can help. Contact them and they can provide you with the tips you need.



    By Kent
      December 30, 2011 – 11:25 am   Permalink
  25. What is a good size font to use for journaling in a personal book?

    By Dee
      May 1, 2013 – 12:15 pm   Permalink
  26. Hey Dee,

    It depends on what you want to do, but the Trade and Pocket sizes are pretty popular for that. Check it out:



    By Kent
      May 2, 2013 – 9:31 am   Permalink

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