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Create a Manifest Ingest

Manifold can create a single Text from a collection of independent files and assets. This is what is known as a “Manifest Ingest.”

This page describes in detail (perhaps painful detail) the process of creating a Manifest Ingest. Users who have no previous experience with Manifest Ingests should feel comfortable and capable creating them using the guidance provided here.

User Credentials

This walkthrough is intended for users who have credentials to create or edit Projects in the Manifold backend.

Manifest Basics#

For many Manifold users, ingesting a Text is a process that involves only a single file: they navigate to a Project, select Texts from the sidebar, and then ingest only one Word or Google document. More advanced users might do likewise, adding Texts to their projects as individual Markdown or HTML files.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach, and it is particularly useful for Texts that are brief and not made up of several sections or chapters. It is always important to remember, however, that the Manifold Reader is not paginated—it’s a single-scroll experience. The longer a Text is, the more overwhelming the experience will be for readers.

Thus the need for Manifest Ingests. They provide a way for users to present to their readers a single, cohesive Text that is partitioned into smaller, more digestible sections. Why scroll and scroll . . . and scroll, when you can craft a Text where you scroll through a discrete section and then click the Next button to begin the following section from the top of the page. That makes for faster load times and allows readers to better understand where they are in the context of a larger whole.

What’s Involved?#

Every Manifest Ingest involves

  • two or more files saved in formats acceptable for Manifold ingest (HTML, Markdown, Word DOCX, or Google Docs), and
  • the manifest itself (saved as a YAML file, with a .yml file extension), which instructs Manifold how to combine the files into one structured Text.

Manifest Ingests also often include (but do not require) media files, like images or audio and video meant to be embedded into the fabric of the Text itself, or an associated stylesheet (CSS).

Directory Structure#

In your Finder (Mac) or File Explorer (PC) window a basic Manifest might look like this:

Simple Manifest Inventory Example
┣ chapter_01.docx
┣ chapter_02.docx
┣ chapter_03.html
┣ chapter_05.docx
┣ manifest.yml

Remember, you can mix different file formats within a Manifest. In the example above we see DOCX, HTML, and Markdown files set to be synthesized into one Manifold Text.

Why would I want to mix and match like that? Maybe different people are working on different sections, or perhaps your choice is governed by the needs of a particular section and the affordances of the different file formats.

For example, I might not be very technically inclined, so I want to use Word as much as possible, but in a few chapters I want to present a more advanced/involved component, so I’ll compose that section in Markdown or HTML instead, where I can exercise more nuanced control of the content.

You’ll notice that we don’t see Google Docs in this directory tree. That’s because Google Docs are online files that we can’t collect into our file system. But don’t worry, we can still include Google Docs as part of our Manifest—we just don’t have to do any file prep for them on our desktop. We’ll circle back to Google Docs below when we consider the manifest YAML file.

For the moment, let’s consider what you would do if you want to include a stylesheet or associated audio, images, or video. Easy:

  • you include those files in your folder and
  • in the appropriate place(s) in your body files you reference them.

Let’s start with including these new materials in your folder:

More Involved Manifest Inventory Example
┣ audio
┃ ┗ interview_01.mp3
┃ ┗ interview_02.wav
┣ images
┃ ┗ photo_01.png
┃ ┗ photo_02.jpg
┣ video
┃ ┗ field_test_01.mp4
┃ ┗ field_test_02.webm
┣ chapter_01.docx
┣ chapter_02.docx
┣ chapter_03.html
┣ chapter_05.docx
┣ manifest.yml
┣ stylesheet.css

This more involved inventory shows a main folder with three nested subfolders, each containing a couple of media files. The manifest folder also includes an aptly titled stylesheet with a CSS filetype.

Nesting Folders

Manifold is agnostic about including subfolders as part of a Manifest Ingest. If they help you organize (as they do me) then use them. If they aren’t useful, don’t worry: they aren’t required.

Now comes the more involved part: referencing these media materials from within the source files that will become sections of a Manifold Text.

First the good news: If you are working strictly in Word or Google Docs and only have static images that you need to appear inline with the body of your text, you can insert them directly into your Word or Google document using the respective app’s built-in features to do so. Nothing further is needed. And what’s more, you don’t need to include the image files in your manifest folder either.

Now the bad news for folks working only in Word or Google Docs: While you can insert images into the body of either a Google Doc or Word file, and then have them transfer into Manifold as expected, the same is not true for audio or video files. Google doesn't allow either as of this writing, and while you can insert and play audio/video files within Word, Word does not export them out in playable formats. Which means if you want to have playable audio or video in line with the body of your text, you will need to compose those sections in either Markdown or HTML.

Happily, because Markdown gets compiled into HTML, we can use the same standard HTML coding structure to reference these media files from within either our Markdown or HTML files.

Inline Media versus Manifold Resource Annotations

While it is not possible to embed inline audio or video into your Word and Google Docs, you can always place Manifold Resources as annotations onto any Text in Manifold. The annotations are denoted by a cube marker in the text (not unlike a note number) and a thumbnail in the left margin that readers can click to view the media. That isn’t the same experience as baking these elements into the fabric of the text, but it may be a viable alternative for you.

Embedding Content#

If you want to include audio inline with your text you can use the following examples as templates. This first example shows how to reference an MP3 that is saved within a subfolder folder named audio, as we have it in the directory example above.

Audio Embed Code
<audio controls>
<source src="audio/interview_01.mp3" type="audio/mpeg">
Your browser does not support the <code>audio</code> element.

Images rely on <figure> tags, which also allow for an optional caption. This sample demonstrates how to reference an image saved in the images folder from the sample directory above.

Image Embed Code
<img src="images/photo_01.png" alt="Short description">
<figcaption>Optional caption.</figcaption>

The embed code for videos is very much like that for audio. Here is an example of what the code would be for an MP4 video saved within the video subfolder:

Video Embed Code
<video controls>
<source src="video/field_test_01.mp4" type="video/mp4">
Your browser does not support this <code>video</code> element.

The Mozilla Web Docs details more about how the audio embed, image embed, and video embed code works and how you might want to adapt them to better meet your needs. Manifold will respect any of the adjustments mentioned in that documentation.


In the same way that you cannot add playable audio or video to Word or Google documents, you likewise cannot reference an external stylesheet (CSS) from within them either. If you are keen to control how different elements of your text render (like headings or lists or blockquotes, etc.), we suggest you avoid using Google altogether. And for Word, you’ll need to leverage a style map. More on that soon(ish) in a forthcoming walkthrough speaking to structures and styles and all that fun stuff.

That said, to call on an external stylesheet from a Markdown or HTML document as a means to inform how your content will render, you need only add one line to your file, formatted per the HTML spec:

Stylesheet Link Code
<link rel="stylesheet" href="stylesheet.css">

Everything about that line is boilerplate, except for the href value, which should match the name of your stylesheet file exactly.

In Markdown files, that link should follow after the header block and before your body content begins, as in this example:

Linking to a Stylesheet from a Markdown Document
title: "Chapter 1. The Eve of the War"
date: "2022-07-01"
language: "en-US"
rights: "This publication is in the public domain."
description: "Sample description or abstract."
creator: "H. G. Wells"
contributor: "Anonymous Rex"
<link rel="stylesheet" href="stylesheet.css">
# Chapter 1. The Eve of the War
No one would have believed in the last years . . .

For HTML files, the line should appear between the <head> tags at the top of the document:

Linking to a Stylesheet from an HTML File
<!DOCTYPE html>
<title>Chapter 1. The Eve of the War</title>
<meta charset="UTF-8">
<meta name="" content="2022-07-01">
<meta name="dc.title" content="Chapter 1. The Eve of the War">
<meta name="dc.language" content="en-US">
<meta name="dc.rights" content="This publication is in the public domain.">
<meta name="dc.description" content="Sample description or abstract.">
<meta name="dc.creator" content="H. G. Wells">
<meta name="dc.contributor" content="Anonymous Rex">
<link rel="stylesheet" href="stylesheet.css">
<h1>Chapter 1. The Eve of the War</h1>
<p>No one would have believed in the last years . . .</p>

The Manifest YAML File#

The manifest (or YAML file) tends to be the component of a Manifest Ingest that gets all of the attention for this process, and not in a good way. YAML is one of those coding languages that is not very well known outside of developer circles and is also very unforgiving. Mistype a file name? Error. Have one line incorrectly indented? Error. We get it. We on Team Manifold have fallen victim to all of that. However, we have developed some good strategies that can help you confidently compose your manifest file and use it to successfully create a viable Manifold Ingest.

Our first tool is the following template, which you can copy/paste into your preferred plain text editor, like Notepad, TextEdit, Sublime Text, Atom, or Visual Studio Code, to name a few. This sample file is annotated to help provide context for what each line is doing. Annotations are identified by lines beginning with a hash mark (#). They (the whole line of annotation, that is) can also be safely removed from the file if you prefer to go without them. Alternatively, they won’t hurt anything if you leave them in.

Sample Manifest YAML Template
# This is where you describe the text you
# are having Manifold assemble.
title: 'Title of the Entire Text'
# It is best practice to enclose text
# here in the meta section within single
# quote marks and use curly quotes within
# as needed.
date: 'YYYY-MM-DD'
language: 'en-US'
# Language codes can be found here:
rights: 'Rights / License statement'
# This rights statement will appear in the
# footer block in the Manifold reader
description: 'Brief abstract / description'
# The description can be set to appear
# in the Texts content block
- name: 'Author One'
- name: 'Author Two'
# You can add more names as needed.
# This creator/contributor model is
# built off the epub spec.
- name: 'Contributor One'
- name: 'Contributor Two'
# You can add more names as needed.
# This is where you tell Manifold
# what the Text is made of and how
# it should be ordered.
- label: 'Book 1. The Coming of the Martians'
# A label decsribes the title of a section.
# Be sure to enclose these with single quotes.
# The source path tells Manifold where to
# find the code it will ingest: in the zip
# archive or from a url. These are case
# sensitive. It's easy for this to go sideways
# with a simple misspelling.
start_section: true
# The start section attribute is optional
# and just tells Manifold what section
# to open the Manifold reader to.
# Children describe nested TOC elements
# using the same attributes an additional indent.
- label: 'Chapter 1. The Eve of the War'
source_path: chapter_01.docx
# You can nest files or sections of files within
# already nested components if needed.
- label: 'A Heading within the Parent File'
source_path: chapter_01.docx#heading_01
- label: 'Chapter 2. The Falling Star'
source_path: chapter_02.docx
- label: 'Chapter 3. On Horsell Common'
source_path: chapter_03.html

On first glance this feels overwhelming, but for as many lines as we see, there are basically two parts to this file: the meta section and the toc. Let’s consider each in turn:

Meta Attributes#

The meta component of the manifest provides Manifold with basic information about the Text (as a whole) you are asking the system to create: What is its title, who authored it, what language is it written in, etc. The full complement of metadata properties this section supports are:

  • title
  • date
  • language
  • rights
  • description
  • creators
  • contributors

The only required element in this section is title; the rest are optional. And as mentioned in the template, it is best to surround the values you provide for each of these elements in single (or double) quotation marks.

A Word about Quotation Marks

If you have a title or a description, say, that contain internal quotation marks, make sure they are not standard straight quotation marks but instead true “curly” marks. Otherwise you will likely get an error. Straight quotation marks are meant to surround content in a YAML file. Internal marks of the same kind will prevent the file from being parsed correctly.

This is correct, with a curly mark indicating the possessive:

title: 'Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Tales'

Having a straight mark to indicate the possessive will cause problems; the system will think the title ends with the a at the end of Dracula and then find the rest of the line invalid:

title: 'Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Tales'

This concern tends to crop up for the title and description sections the most.

TOC Components#

The second part of the manifest file, the TOC, is where you list for Manifold all of the different files you are asking the system to combine together in the order in which they should appear.

Let’s step back for a moment. In Manifold, a Text is something that you open to read in the Manifold Reader. Every Manifold Text is made up of one or more Text Sections. A Text Section is the part of a Text that is contained in the Reader at any one time and which correlates specifically to one source file.

If I load one Word Document into Manifold, the result will be one Text with one Text Section. That Text Section might be one line long or a thousand paragraphs (though please don’t do that; your readers won’t thank you). Likewise, if I use a manifest to load two Word Documents, I’ll have one Text with two Text Sections.

Within Manifold, you experience the boundaries of Text Sections by scrolling down the page and clicking on the Next button at the bottom. That Next button denotes the end of one section and the path to start the one following.

So what we are doing here in the TOC section is to list out for Manifold each Text Section that the system will then synthesize into one Text.

Each listing is made up of two elements, a label and a source_path, both of which are required for every listing.

  1. The label corresponds to the title of that section. In the War of the Worlds example we’ve been using here, the listing for the first chapter would have a label with a value of Chapter 1. The Eve of the War.

    It’s important to note that the title itself will not automatically appear in the Manifold Reader at the top of the section. By including the title here, we have only told Manifold the name of the section as it should appear in the Contents dropdown within the Manifold Reader (or in a Table of Contents content block on the project’s homepage). If you want the title to appear as the first bit of text for this section, you will need to make sure it is included in the body of the document you are uploading.

    As we did in the meta section above, it is best practice to enclose label values within quotation marks and convert any internal quotation marks to the curly variety:

    - label: 'Chapter 1. The Eve of the War'
  2. The source_path is the space where you tell Manifold where to find the file that contains the content for the section. The most common value you will include here will be the pathway to the file in your manifest folder or the URL for a Google Doc that has privacy settings that allow it to be viewed publicly.

    Note that, unlike for most of the other attributes in the YAML file, you should not enclose the path to your file or the URL for your Google Doc within quotation marks.

    Using our War of the Worlds example again, the source_path value I would include for the first chapter would be chapter_01.docx. I can simply list the filename here because that chapter 1 file is in the same folder (or directory) as my manifest YAML file is. If I had tucked the chapter 1 file into a subfolder, then I would reference it here in the same way you call a media file from within a source text. For example, if I tucked the chapter 1 file in a subfolder called texts my value here would instead be texts/chapter_01.docx.

    Remember: spelling and case matter here. If the name of the file and the value you save in this space don’t match exactly, the system will throw an error. Likewise, you also need to include the file extension at the end of the filename (i.e., .html, .md, .docx). If you don’t, yep, you’ll get an error.

    For Google Docs you need only include the URL for the Google Doc that appears in your browser’s address bar, like this:


    In situations where you are using only Google Docs to make up your manifest, the only file in your manifest folder will be your manifest (YAML) file. We’ll talk more about that in the Ingesting section below.

    Naming Files

    It is best practice to name files with short descriptive phrases that do not include spaces. Avoid names like Chapter 1. The Eve of the War.docx in favor of something simpler and easier to sort in your file system, like chapter_01.docx.

Declaring the Opening Section#

By default, the Manifold Reader will open the text to the first section listed in the manifest. Most of the time that makes good sense. But there are occasions when it might not. If you need to designate a specific section the Manifold Reader should open, you can include the optional start_section: true attribute in the toc section of the manifest.

Using the Start Section Attribute
- label: 'Book 2. The Earth Under the Martians'
start_section: true

The attribute should be placed on the line following the source_path of the section to which you want to open. In the example above, we are having the Manifold Reader open the text to the second part title page for War of the Worlds instead of the first one.

This attribute can only be included once in the manifest file.

Nesting Elements#

Manifold renders the overall hierarchy of a Text in two spaces: on the homepage of a Project, in Table of Contents content blocks, and in the Contents dropdown within the Manifold Reader. In those two spaces readers will be provided a visual sense, through different levels of indentation and font weights/sizes, of how sections of a text relate to one another. For readers using assistive technology, hierarchy will be correctly structured as an HTML list.

There are two ways to nest content in your manifest, and you are free to employ one or both methods within the same YAML file. The first method is to nest an entire file:

Using our example here, War of the Worlds is made up of two parts, with each part containing a number of chapters. Assuming our part title pages and chapters are all individual files, we could situate the chapters as children of the parts or, in other words, nest the chapters into their respective parts.

To do this we don’t have to do anything to the individual files. Instead we simply indicate in the toc section of the Manifest that the chapters are children of the parts with the children: attribute:

Nesting Whole Files
- label: 'Book 1. The Coming of the Martians'
start_section: true
- label: 'Chapter 1. The Eve of the War'
source_path: chapter_01.docx
- label: 'Chapter 2. The Falling Star'
source_path: chapter_02.docx

In the example above we have listings for three text sections, the first part title (Book 1. The Coming of the Martians) and the first two chapters. We want Manifold to show in the hierarchy of this Text that those two chapters are contained within the first part. To achieve that, we add the children: attribute on its own line, following the parent element.

Note that children: is indented so that it lines up with the lines preceding it. The children: attribute will normally follow the source_path of the parent, except in cases where the parent is the section to which Manifold is meant to open. In that case, children: will follow on the line after start_section.

Now all we have to do is list out all the sections that are to be nested as children. We can do that in the same way we normally would with a label and source_path. The only difference is that these need to be indented under the children attribute. There should be one level of indentation for - label: and two levels of indentation for source_path, so that the text of both attributes line up over one another exactly, as shown above.

We can use this same process again to nest sections within already nested sections. Simply place another children attribute beneath the next parent element and list out the label and source_path attributes. As before, the - label and source_path attributes should be indented beneath the children attribute, as show in the following example.

Nesting within already Nested Sections
- label: 'Book 1. The Coming of the Martians'
start_section: true
- label: 'Chapter 1. The Eve of the War'
source_path: chapter_01.docx
- label: 'Chapter 2. The Falling Star'
source_path: chapter_02.docx
- label: 'Chapter 3. On Horsell Common'
source_path: chapter_03.html
- label: 'Chapter 4. The Cylinder Opens'

Manifold supports six levels of hierarchy. This example displays three: the main, and then two nested levels.

Monospace Fonts

It is useful to have your text editor display content in a monospace or fixed-width font (like Courier or Courier New) so that you can more easily see how things are lining up (or not) in your manifest file.

In addition to being able to nest individual files as text sections, you can also nest sections within an individual file. Suppose you have a chapter whose internal heading structure you want to call attention to in the Text’s hierarchy. You can include the ID for that section in the Manifest as a “hash value,” and the system will render it as part of the overall structure of the Text. The method to add an ID to a heading breaks depends on the format of the source file. For Word and Google Docs, the process involves adding a bookmark. For HTML and Markdown, you hard code the ID into your file. Let’s investigate both in detail:

Adding IDs to Word and Google Docs#

In Word and Google Docs, you can use the Insert menu to add a Bookmark to a section of text, which will function as an ID for Manifold. The process to add a bookmark is almost identical for both applications: Place your cursor at the start of a heading, navigate to Insert in the menu, and then select Bookmark. In Word, the system will prompt you for a name. That name will be the ID for the section, and like filenames, it should be short, descriptive, and avoid spaces. Something like heading_01, heading_02 or along those lines is suggested. Google does not allow you to name the ID, instead generating one for you automatically. More on that later in the “Applying IDs to Nested Elements” section.

Adding IDs to Markdown and HTML Files#

To add an ID to heading in Markdown and HTML, we can follow the standard HTML practice by enclosing an ID name within quote marks as an attribute of the heading tag:

A Heading ID in HTML
<h2 id="heading_01">This is a Sample Heading</h2>

Normally in Markdown you would express a heading like the one above like this:

A Standard Markdown Heading
## This is a Sample Heading

Because Markdown gets translated into HTML, however, we can simply use the same code structure we did in HTML for the Markdown file.

HTML in Markdown

While you can pepper HTML code into Markdown files, you cannot mix HTML and Markdown syntax on the same line. So if you want to include italics, say, in the example we use here, you would need to do that using <em> or <i> tags instead of asterisks.

Applying IDs to Nested Elements#

Now that we’ve added IDs to our headings in the source files, let’s now switch gears to getting those IDs into the manifest file. In the following example we have four parent files, corresponding to Word, Google, HTML, and Markdown, respectively:

Sample Parent Files
- label: 'A Parent Word File'
source_path: parent_01.docx
- label: 'A Parent Google Document'
- label: 'A Parent HTML File'
source_path: parent_03.html
- label: 'A Parent Markdown File'

Now want to nest beneath them a specific section that exists within those same parent files. In terms of formatting, it follows the exact same process as described above, with the use of the children attribute and indented - label and source_path. For all but the Google Doc, you will use the same source_path value as the parent, with the addition of a hash mark and the id you gave to the section after the filename.

For instance, in the example below, the parent Word file is parent_01.docx. Let’s imagine we added a bookmark to that file and gave it a title (ID) of heading_01. To properly reference that here in the manifest our source_path value will be parent_01.docx#heading_01. You do likewise for the HTML and Markdown files. Instead of allowing you to name the section, Google Docs instead provides the opportunity to copy the URL for the bookmarked section, which is the value you want to copy/paste into the source_path here. You will notice that is also follows the same structure, separating the main filename from the section name with a hash tag.

Nesting Headings within Files
- label: 'A Parent Word File'
source_path: parent_01.docx
- label: 'A Heading within the Parent File'
source_path: parent_file.docx#heading_01
- label: 'A Parent Google Document'
- label: 'A Heading within the Parent Google Document'
- label: 'A Parent HTML File'
source_path: parent_03.html
- label: 'A Heading within the Parent File'
source_path: parent_03.html#heading_01
- label: 'A Parent Markdown File'
- label: 'A Heading within the Parent File'

As mentioned above, you can employ both nesting strategies (nesting whole files or named sections within files) in a single manifest (YAML) file.

Validating Your File#

None one element of this manifest is particularly difficult, but in aggregate there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of opportunities to miss a space or an indent. Because the YAML format is so unforgiving, we strongly recommend you validate your YAML file before attempting to upload your manifest into Manifold. They can’t prevent every possible error, but they get those that tend to be the most obvious, overlooked, and infuriating. Two that we recommend are:

For both of these you can copy/paste the contents of your YAML file into the browser window, and those systems will confirm you have a valid file or not.

Curiously, both claim to be the “best” YAML validators. We will let you decide. (To be honest, we’re not even sure they are actually different.)

Ingesting Your Manifest#

Now that we have formatted source files, filed away our media assets in our directory of folders, and validated our manifest (YAML) file, we can now ingest everything into the system. This is the easy part: you just need to compress (or ZIP) all of these files you’ve been working with into a ZIP archive.

Most folks, ourselves included, tend to keep all of their materials in a manifest folder that contains subfolders with various media. You want to select the files for compression at the folder level where you can see your manifest (YAML) file, instead of selecting the containing folder and simply turning that into a ZIP archive, which would likely lead to errors. You want the manifest (YAML) file to be in the main folder (or directory) that gets compressed.

Once you have that ZIP archive you can ingest into Manifold using the Texts sidebar within your Manifold Project.

If your manifest is made up entirely of Google Docs, then you can load just the manifest (YAML) file into Manifold. You don’t need to compress it. Manifold will accept the YAML file as is, so long as everything is formatted correctly.

That’s it! Congrats. If you made it this far, you can definitely create a successful manifest ingest!