What is a digital comic file? (DRM, CBZ, CBR, etc)

Re-Updated on 2014-09-10


Comic books served digitally come in many different forms. These can be broken down into two categories of digital comics, those protected with digital rights management (DRM) and those without. The former can come in many shapes and sizes, where the most popular is those delivered by Comixology. These are typically not ‘files,’ but a proprietary viewer that allows the user to read the comics. The user does not ‘own’ the comics and the service is ‘allowing’ the user to read the comics they purchase. It works and it can work well, but you are at the mercy of the company you buy from since you do not ‘own’ them.

This is where comic files that are not DRM protected come in play. You can think of these types of files as any other you may have on your computer, such as a picture, word document, or PDF file. The files have no built-in protection and can be viewed by a variety of readers. There is no standard file format for comic files, but there is a de-facto standard.

You may see a variety of formats for DRM-unprotected comic files:

  • CBZ
  • CBR
  • CB7
  • CBT
  • CBA
  • CB and some other letter

 

What this represents in the file’s extension. For instance, you may see a comic file named “XMen 013.cbz”. This is X-Men issue #13 in the CBZ format. The good thing is that you don’t need to care. The ones that are bold are the ones you typically encounter and the vast majority of comic reader applications support both.

A comic file is merely a ‘zipping’ of a set of images. In this case, the ‘Z’ in CBZ indicates this uses zip compression, the most common method for file compression. If you want to learn how to create a comic file, read the earlier post.

Now, you say, how do I get DRM-free comic files? As of very recently, there are now several publishers that distribute their comics in CBZ format, such as Image Comics. You can also get an increasing number from digital publishers, such as Comixology (although they are not all available in CBZ!). Unfortunately, this does not include the top 2 publishers: DC and Marvel. This means that if you want to read comics not available in this format, you will need to create your own files (eg: scan the pages) or download them “some-how.”

Once you have located a comic file you want to read, you can grab a variety of readers, but I would suggest the reader linked to this blog, the Comic Seer readers.

 


Comic Seer for Windows 8.1 and Windows RT tablets

Comic Seer for Windows 8.1 and Windows RT tablets

Comic Seer for the Windows desktop and Linux

Comic Seer for the Windows desktop and Linux


 

 

You can use one of these reading applications to open the files directly. You can also synchronize your files between devices (desktop, laptop, tablet, phone) using typical cloud storage solutions, such as Dropbox or Microsoft’s OneDrive.

If you combine a comic reader with a cloud solution, you can can have a great experience across all of your devices without having to worry about where your files are. This can give you all of the benefits of a DRM-protected digital comic service with the freedom to use your files as you prefer.

 

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Adding a new language to Comic Seer desktop (localization)

Note: to avoid some initial bugs, please utilize Comic Seer v2.21-3 or newer

Starting with Comic Seer v2.21, one of the new features available is localization. More specifically, Comic Seer now allows the changing of the language for all of the text in the application from English to something else. Only English will be distributed with Comic Seer, but anyone can create their own language files for their native language. If you create a language file, you can send it to comicseer@xylasoft.com to be uploaded to the main site for others. This article explains the process of creating and using a language file. You don’t need to be a programmer to create a language file and the only tool you need is a text editor (eg: Notepad). If you are only interested in using a language file that has already been created, you can skip to the last section.

Creating a translation

The first step is locating the sample translation file. This will be installed with Comic Seer or you can download it from the Comic Seer website. The install location defaults to “<ProgramFiles>/Xylasoft/ComicSeer” on Windows and “/usr/share/doc/comicseer” on Linux. Downloading the translation file from the website is recommended since it will always be the most current.

 

Comic Seer language file location

 

Once you’ve located the file, make a copy of it and change the file from “comicseer_sample.ts” to “comicseer_<language_abbr>.ts” where the language abbreviation can be found by looking it up (this is a good reference) or when you open the application, you can see the abbreviation in the lower right.

 

Comic Seer language indicator

 

If you hold your mouse over the indicator in the lower right, the tooltip will display the status of the custom language and the full file name it is expecting for later reference.

 

 

Comic Seer language indicator tooltip

Comic Seer language indicator tooltip

 

Once you have your file, you can open it open in any text editor, such as Notepad or Notepad++ on Windows, and gEdit or nano on Linux. This file will have a list of all text that can be translated. For each entry, you will see the currently displayed text (don’t edit this) and a place for the translation to be entered. If your text editor provides an encoding option, UTF-8 should be used.

 

Comic Seer sample file content

Comic Seer sample file content

 

You can then add your new language text between the “translation” elements. You also have to change “unfinished” to “finished.” If you do not change the type to finished, it will not be included in the translation generation. It is not required to change all of the text in the file. If you do not add a translation, the original English text will be displayed.

 

Comic Seer language file with modified text

Comic Seer language file with modified text

 

Once you have changed all of the text desired, there are two options.

  • Recommended: You can download the Qt libraries on Windows or install “qt4-linguist-tools” on Linux. These tools can be used compile your own language and try it out.
    • On Ubuntu, you can run from the terminal “sudo apt-get install qt4-linguist-tools”
  • Alternative for non-technical: You can send the file (.ts) to comicseer@xylasoft.com with your name. I will compile it and send the resulting file (.qm) back to you.

If you want to skip compiling your own translation, move to the last section.

Compiling a translation

When you have downloaded and installed the Qt libraries, there is a executable call “lrelease” which will compile your text language file (.ts) into a compiled language file (.qm). If on Windows, you will need to locate where this file was installed. By default, it will be installed to “C:\Qt\<version>\bin.” This is typically not required for Linux.

Open up a command prompt (Windows) or terminal (Linux). You need to traverse (cd) to where this “lrelease” is located (if on Windows). Then type:

 

lrelease <path_to_my_ts_file> [-qm <path_where_i_want_my_qm_file>]

 

For example, you can convert a Japanese language file into a compile language file in the current directory.

 

lrelease comicseer_ja.ts

 

This will create “comicseer_ja.qm” file.

Using a translation

When you have a translation file (.qm) you want to use with Comic Seer, you can add this file in the same directory you run Comic Seer from or to the primary configuration directory. The configuration directory is recommended since it will always have write permissions. This directory is:

  • Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\<user>\Application Data\Xylasoft\ComicSeer
  • Windows Vista+: C:\Users\<user>\AppData\Local\Xylasoft\ComicSeer
  • Linux: /home/<user>/.local/share/data/Xylasoft/ComicSeer

 

Comic Seer directory with new language file

Comic Seer directory with new language file

 

When you re-open Comic Seer, it should now load your language file. If it did not appear to load the file, check the tooltip in the lower right to make sure you have the file name and path correct.

 

Comic Seer Japanese sample

Comic Seer Japanese sample

 

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Enhancing “Smart” Comic Naming

This article is obsolete with version 2.21 or newer. The algorithm is no longer user-visible.

Comic Seer sorts, organizes, and displays comics based on their file name. It tries to make a ‘best guess’ on what that name should be, but it is not always perfect. Starting with Comic Seer version 2.00, how this “smart” naming works is configurable if you are familiar with perl-style regular expressions.

Regular Expressions are a tool used for reading and parsing text. In this case, they are used to parse a comic file name and put it into four components: base name, volume, part, and issue. These components are then taken separately and put back together to make a pretty name. For example, “ComicABC Volume01 023.cbz” will be shown in Comic Seer as “ComicABC V1 #23.”

In the v2.00 release of Comic Seer, there was a problem such that “Mind the Gap 001” was being shown incorrectly.

 

NameProblem

 

Luckily, this can now be fixed without a new version of Comic Seer. (Although, a fixed regular expression will be provided in the next release)

When you run Comic Seer on your computer, a file by the name of “ComicSeer.ini” is created in your user preferences directory (ie on Windows 7: this is C:Users<user>AppDataLocalXylasoftComicSeer”). This is where all of your preferences are stored and this is where the regular expression is stored for parsing comic file names.

 

RegexLocationInFile

 

The “ComicNameRegex” string can be edited and replaced as you desire, where the most current “recommended” can always be found in the forums.

 

By replacing this text (after the equal ‘=’ sign) and opening Comic Seer again, it will use the updated regular expression and you will now see the updated naming. (Note: if there is a problem with your regular expression and the comic name is not being recognized, your comic names will default to the original file name)

 

NameFixed

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