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Ask Slashdot: Do You Use Markdown and Pandoc?

timothy posted about 10 months ago | from the a-is-a-href dept.

Programming 204

BartlebyScrivener writes "I am a author, screenwriter, law prof, and a hobbyist programmer. I love MacVim and write almost everything in it: Exams, novels, even screenplays now that Fountain is available. I use LaTeX and WordPress and so on, but several years ago I discovered Markdown and the wonderful Pandoc. I searched Slashdot expecting to find lively discussions of both Markdown and Pandoc, but found nothing. Do Slashdotters look down their noses at these tools and do their work in HTML and LaTeX? I can't imagine computer geeks using Word instead of their favorite text editors. If not Markdown and Pandoc, what tools do Slashdotters use when they create documents that probably need to be distributed in more than one format: HTML, PDF, EPUB or perhaps even docx?" And then there's DocBook, LyX, and a host of other markup languages. What do you use, in what context?

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Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182631)

Markdown, Pandoc, and Vim/MacVim are my primary working tools for writing documentation.

Re:Yes (2, Informative)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 10 months ago | (#45183095)

Markdown, Pandoc, and Vim/MacVim are my primary working tools for writing documentation.

I believed "Markdown and Pandoc" to be a work of 16th century French literature. By Alcofribas Nasier, is it not?

Re:Yes (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 10 months ago | (#45183243)

You got it wrong; Markdowngrua and Pandocgruel is a famous work of Early Modern Portuguese literature.

Re:Yes (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 10 months ago | (#45183277)

Oh, crap. I've mixed up countries again! At least both these languages are Slavic, aren't they? /s

Re:Yes (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 10 months ago | (#45183463)

I believed "Markdown and Pandoc" to be a work of 16th century French literature.

I'm pretty sure those are the names of the defensive tackles for the Browns.

Re:Yes (2)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 10 months ago | (#45183431)

I wrote my own in Python; uses PostgreSQL to hold the data, gives me unlimited stylesheet and substitution capabilities, generates HTML or whatever I want directly. Table of contents, indexes in various formats, footnotes, endnotes (references), chaptering and sub-sectioning, local and global variables, image handling and conversions, etc. Works a charm. And since I wrote it, I can add to it, fix it, etc.

Here's an example of an output document:

SdrDx Manual []

When I want to typeset something crazy, I do it in an image manipulation system and then shovel the image in; that's about the only thing I've run into that would require more work than I'm willing to put in.

landslide, brada (1)

xvzf (3111567) | about 10 months ago | (#45182637)

I use landslide. Somewhat fancier html5 slide output.

what colleagues and boss use... (0)

fonske (1224340) | about 10 months ago | (#45182639) good enough for me. I will not get any more explicit than that.

I use (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182641)

reStructuredText. It is a lot more powerful than Markdown while still maintaining beauty. It is a bit more strict with formatting though, as is always the tradeoff for more power.

Sense the lose of dos for the GUI (-1, Troll)

Ralph Ostrander (2846785) | about 10 months ago | (#45182647)

We dont write we click.

Yes (4, Informative)

Ardeaem (625311) | about 10 months ago | (#45182651)

I used to use LaTeX for everything, but I have switched to markdown for presentations, papers, tech reports, and even everyday statistical analysis (probably, they'll turn into tech reports anyway). LaTeX is way too finicky for everyday use. markdown doesn't completely fail over a misplaced character, while LaTeX will. Of course, you're giving up a lot of power by moving to markdown, but I find for most things markdown provides a good balance of usability and flexibility. I still use LaTeX for papers I'm going to submit to scientific journals, which is where I need the features of LaTeX.

I use the Rmarkdown flavor of markdown.

Re:Yes (4, Interesting)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about 10 months ago | (#45182693)

LyX for reports and paper writing, with some raw LaTeX sprinkled in. I have a short python script that can merge multiple documents so I don't have extremely long bulks of content. And there is the python environment for LaTeX [] , which is awesome with sympy and matplotlib.
LibreOffice for quick documents perhaps with images for a quick WYSIWYG. There is no reason to do everything in text, for some (many?) things the feedback loop is just way too long.
reStructuredText [] for code documentation, anything that should be readable from command line, but also can be used to make pretty html websites. Sphinx [] helps. rst exports into plenty of formats via docutils [] (just expand for rst2* commands).
Converters to epub for stuff I want to read on my ebook reader (from Calibre [] ).
For the text formats my usual editor is gedit. Simple and plain.

It doesn't matter much if you prefer Markdown or rst, that's like arguing which wiki has the best syntax. There are plenty of utilities that can cross-convert and export (pandoc is one of them).

Re:Yes (3, Informative)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 10 months ago | (#45182985)

LyX for reports and paper writing, with some raw LaTeX sprinkled in. I have a short python script that can merge multiple documents so I don't have extremely long bulks of content.

\input{file.tex} is your friend, it's basically the latex equivalent of the include statement in many languages. It's particularly nice if you have a simulation, gnuplot etc. generating a splash of latex that you want to integrate in the full paper.

Re:Yes (4, Interesting)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | about 10 months ago | (#45184005)

Since wiki syntax has been mentioned, I'll jump in.

I now use wikitext for nearly all my writing, usually using gedit as the editor. My writing does not require the level of formating that LaTeX and its ilk are capable of. A good portion of my writing is in collaboration with others, and I want to grow that percentage since the text is consistently better when more than one person is stirring the word pot.

I've used several wiki engines since about 2003. At the moment Dokuwiki is my favorite: it has good ACL security, it handles embedded images and files okay, and it produces clean HTML5 pages. Mostly it behaves like Markdown in the way it gets out of my way when I'm using a plaintext editor.

An advantage of Dokuwiki and wikitext is that the semi-wysiwyg browser editor allows wider collaboration and effective proof-reading, by persons who don't want to learn a mark-up language, even a simple one.

When I need to do a brochure, business card, or other authoring task which is more about presentation than writing, then I use other tools. Inkscape is good, and I have done posters and slides in Gimp with little effort. But that is more about publishing than writing.

Re:Yes (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182721)

I tend to not be the typical hollywood homo who believes that typing on only a Mac will magically make his script more appealing to the Lesbians and Jews scrutinizing his submitted screenplay.

Hence, the tools I use to write my screenplays are a 10 year-old Dell machine running Linux Mint. Alternately, Microsoft's Notepad is a simple yet powerful and flexible text editor.

I met the Simpsons writer who ensures that all computers featured in The Simpsons are Macs. I smacked him in the mouth with a rolled-up screenplay.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182787)

Why the downvote ... this is funny. And true? Has Macs a special place among hollywood workers for real?

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182821)

This certainly explains why you're here posting anonymously on Slashdot rather than having a fulfilling life as a successful screenwriter.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45183307)

Hello? He put his name at the bottom. Good to see you're still on-form EF.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45183411)

I still basically use latex for almost everything. I do use emacs org-mode sometimes to generate the latex, especially for shorter documents and presentations. I suppose markdown would probably work as well (if not better) as org-mode, but I do like being able to include raw latex in org mode and writing macros in latex, including them, and then using the macro in org mode... I don't find latex 'finicky' but I guess I just used too much of it... I do hate the longer feedback loop for including images / making tables, but the end result is so much nicer than Office that it is not even funny. A good Makefile does turn the feedback loop into a single command, and on a modern computer non-book length documents render pretty quickly (I guess you could even make a script to watch the input files and re-make as needed, so your pdf reader auto-updates).

Re:Yes (2)

fermion (181285) | about 10 months ago | (#45183633)

I use LaTeX(beamer class) when it makes sense, which is anything that is going to be production. It does require a level of discipline, but to me, the text based input and the precise output makes it worth any limitations. I use python script to output LaTex. Given that LaTex output to PDF is routine any past issues are past.

For other things, Openoffice does everything I need. When I need a certain kind of fancy presentation I use Keynote.

Its not controversial? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182653)

Perhaps there's no conversation because there's no particular controversy, and thus, nothing to discuss?

vi (0, Flamebait)

slashmojo (818930) | about 10 months ago | (#45182659)

is the only tool real geeks need to write multi format documents.. and bbcode of course. ;)

Re:vi (2)

UnderCoverPenguin (1001627) | about 10 months ago | (#45183479)

vi with Doxygen, since most of what I write is code. Also for other documents (yes, Doxygen is designed to extract markup from special comments, but it doesn't care if the input file is one block comment. Just start the file with /** and end with */). Makes sense to use the same tool.

FYI, Doxygen also understands some HTML and recently added a subset of Markdown. I use a few HTML and Markdown elements, usually for lists and tables.

For some documents, I use pure HTML, such as my resume. This gives me more control of the formatting. Also, MS Word understands HTML, so to provide a ".doc" file, I just make a copy with the .doc extension.

I have tried other tools, like LateX and Lyx, but Doxygen and HTML cover %99.9 of my needs. (Wold be nice if Doxygen supported reStructuredText and MediaWiki markups.)

(FWIW, I prefer MediaWiki markup over Markdown. My biggest complaint with Markdown as compared to MediaWiki is the link syntax and link handling. I think MediaWiki links are much better than Markdown links.)

markdown is great (1)

mcfedr (1081629) | about 10 months ago | (#45182663)

I use markdown all the time. Mostly moc on Mac to edit it.

Re:markdown is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182855)

What is "moc" ?

Re:markdown is great (2)

cr_nucleus (518205) | about 10 months ago | (#45182871)

A bit of search told me that it's actually Mou [] , not Moc.

Markdown is gaining popularity again (2)

tomer (313505) | about 10 months ago | (#45182671)

Markdown is gaining popularity again thanks to the environment and community around GitHub. That said, I afraid that most people still would prefer wysiwyg systems, as it easier to use than 'feel like a programmer' when using weird codes such as HTML, MarkDown, bbcodes, MediaWiki etc.

Re:Markdown is gaining popularity again (1)

tangent (3677) | about 10 months ago | (#45182979)

Markdown is gaining popularity again thanks to the environment and community around GitHub.

...and StackExchange.

Re: Markdown is gaining popularity again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45183167)

+ bitbucket too

Re: Markdown is gaining popularity again (1)

tomer (313505) | about 10 months ago | (#45183465)

+ bitbucket too

I am not sure if Bitbucket haven't just copied some of the functionality of Github.

Re:Markdown is gaining popularity again (1)

tomer (313505) | about 10 months ago | (#45183471)

...and StackExchange.


Re:Markdown is gaining popularity again (3, Interesting)

gd2shoe (747932) | about 10 months ago | (#45183365)

That said, I afraid that most people still would prefer wysiwyg systems, as it easier to use than 'feel like a programmer' when using weird codes such as HTML, MarkDown, bbcodes, MediaWiki etc.

"Feel like a programmer" isn't the problem. Knowing that something is technically correct, but being unable to instantly verify that it is aesthetically pleasing is a major hangup. Unless you're making a professional report, or writing a book, there's no benefit to: hand-encoding a text, rendering it, editing the code, re-rendering it, tweaking the code, re-re-rendering it, tweaking the code again, re-re-re-rendering it... ad infinitum. In order for all that work to be worth it, the project must call for absolute perfection.

For a vast majority of writings out there, "good enough" is good enough.

(In today's day there really is no good reason why we can't have LaTeX quality wysiwyg. Computationally expensive, blah, blah, blah. We've got very, very fast computers on every desk today. Caching, and clever use of pre-rendering would permit a vast majority of changes to be rendered in real-time.)

Re:Markdown is gaining popularity again (1)

tomer (313505) | about 10 months ago | (#45183621)

I still remember the days we had document processing programs running it text mode and the text color was an hint about the decoration the text would have when printing instead of allowing to print text in colors, which is not what you'd expect from such programs today There is no problem to have side by side document processing software [] , so one the left you'd continue to type in Markdown (or any other text markup language of your choice) and live preview on the other side of the screen, but I am not sure if most people would find it useful and easy to use. Most people prefer software like Microsoft Word or LibreOffice/OpenOffice Writer, and will never understand why others (we?) ever prefer to code documents instead of write them. Instead of using markup, I'd suggest to use LibreOffice but configure hotkeys for everything so we could write documents without leaving the keyboard and using the mouse or trackpad.

Re:Markdown is gaining popularity again (2)

djmurdoch (306849) | about 10 months ago | (#45183777)

I think the problem with wysiwyg is that it is not "what you see is what you mean". LaTeX rendering only works because the code says what you mean. It is very, very hard to design a wysiwyg editor that forces you to type what you mean, instead of what you think you want it to look like.

Any LaTeX user who has co-authored something with a Scientific Word user knows this: the LaTeX it outputs is nonsensical, but it looks sort of okay when rendered. Just not as good as LaTeX from someone who speaks it as a native.

not about CPU limitations, it's about grep + Emacs (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | about 10 months ago | (#45183923)

Avoiding "Computationally expensive" stuff isn't the reason for using Latex.

When I use Latex, it's because I need to make a complex document with footnotes etc. and I want to use a real (i.e. programmable) text editor (GNU Emacs in my case).

LibreOffice has its uses, but you can't grep .odt files.

(Actually, instead of "LaTeX quality wysiwyg", which sounds like you want software other than Latex, but which gives equal quality, you probably meant to say "wysiwyg LaTeX". If that's the case, I agree. But since I'd written my comment before I spotted this, I'm posting it anyway.)

Re:not about CPU limitations, it's about grep + Em (3, Informative)

gd2shoe (747932) | about 10 months ago | (#45184249)

LibreOffice has its uses, but you can't grep .odt files.

Depends on what you're doing. You can't use grep, specifically, but you can search by regular expression in LibreOffice.

(Actually, instead of "LaTeX quality wysiwyg", which sounds like you want software other than Latex, but which gives equal quality, you probably meant to say "wysiwyg LaTeX". If that's the case, I agree...

That's one way to slice it, but not the only way. I think publishing has an unhealthy relationship with LaTeX. Markup languages have come a long ways since 1980. Why are we so stuck on this one? Another language that is (1) more human readable (2) easier to machine parse (3) renders to equal or better quality (4) is wysiwyg friendly, should be quite possible.

Re:Markdown is gaining popularity again (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | about 10 months ago | (#45184185)

In today's day there really is no good reason why we can't have LaTeX quality wysiwyg.

Actually there's a very good reason: only geeks use LaTeX, and geeks are completely incapable of writing usable (read: wysiwyg) software.

Re:Markdown is gaining popularity again (1)

devent (1627873) | about 10 months ago | (#45184313)

You contradict yourself. If ""good enough" is good enough." then you just write the text once, render it, finish.
There are technical limitations to wysiwyg, and the core issue is: wysiwyg is a lie: []

<markdown> markup in HTML (1)

jaromil (104349) | about 10 months ago | (#45182675)

shamelessly putting forward a young project of mine but look, here I'm using markdown (piped to anything, pandoc works fine) inside HTML documents and in multiple blocks throught the document.
webnomad [] is a minimal implementation to use <markdown> </markdown>inside a plain html and bootstrap styled website. I hope this inspires someone. I'd advocate for markup tags inside HTML6 eheh


psergiu (67614) | about 10 months ago | (#45182677)

I use the BEST editor there is - $EDITOR.

I save files as 7bit ASCII, hard-wrap at column 72, and if a file extension is required, i use .txt.

Re:$EDITOR (1)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | about 10 months ago | (#45182833)

Welcome to the 1970's.

Seriously 7-bit Ascii?
Hard Wrap at 72? Are you still using punched cards? I stopped using them in 1974!

Get with in MAN. Use UTF-8.

Re:$EDITOR (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182917)

Get with in MAN. Use UTF-8.

Says someone on Slashdot.

I use the best editor -- timothy! For he will read "I am a author" and not cringe and edit it, but leave it the way it was typed.

Re:$EDITOR (1)

excelsior_gr (969383) | about 10 months ago | (#45182865)

hard-wrap at column 72, and if a file extension is required

Really? My FORTRAN 77 cards had 80 columns. Where do you write your ID-sequences? What happens when, on your way to the mainframe room, you stumble and spread all the cards all around the floor? Dude, I'm telling you 80 columns is the way to go nowadays...

favorites... (2)

excelsior_gr (969383) | about 10 months ago | (#45182685)

I can't imagine computer geeks using Word instead of their favorite text editors.

Indeed, everyone has his favorites. People have argued text editors to death. Find what works for you and use it (and stop flaming us). Also, programmers write software, not documentation. All document conversions are left to the secretary (and she may do it in any way she pleases).

Re:favorites... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182991)

Amen to this. If I'm writing documentation, I use word or writer depending on if I'm on windows or linux at that very second. I'm not going to use a markup language for internal documentation because I honestly don't give a crap about how pretty it is.

Re:favorites... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45184083)

"Also, programmers write software, not documentation."

And that, sir, is the biggest problem with programming.

HTML or InDesign (1)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | about 10 months ago | (#45182687)

I use HTML when I just want a document that works everywhere. When I want to impress or actually care about typography, I use InDesign and render to PDF—nothing beats its optical margins and paragraph-optimized justification.

Markdown strikes me as something really great for people who don't know HTML. Otherwise, it doesn't really save you a significant amount of typing and it is significantly less powerful.

Re:HTML or InDesign (1)

Gertlex (722812) | about 10 months ago | (#45183853)

Regarding the second half of your comment, I use ReStructuredText a lot, and have used Github's modified Markdown a fair bit, too... and in addition to disagreeing with your assertion about not saving much typing over HTML, text in ReST/Markdown is so much more readable than HTML when not rendered (aka when you're writing it...) (though now I realize that since I have very few images/links in my ReST text, that's a big part of why it's so readable)

Re:HTML or InDesign (1)

bensyverson (732781) | about 10 months ago | (#45184247)

If you're marking up arbitrary prewritten text, then yes, I agree. But if you mark up as you write, then Markdown really does save you a ton of time. You can try out new headings, split paragraphs, etc—without worrying about balancing tags.

It's really intended to be a writing aid, not a markup or styling tool. I've been writing HTML since 1994 and swear by Markdown—so much so that I ported it to Objective C [] . I use InDesign to layout print materials, but I would never write directly in it.

For writing on the Mac, I swear by Mou. []

WYSIWYM vs. WYSIWYG and other axis (2)

jbolden (176878) | about 10 months ago | (#45182689)

I think you have a bunch of axis going on here at the same time.
1) Open source tools vs. closed source
2) General use vs. specialized
3) WYSIWYM vs. WYSIWYG editing.

Let's start with (3). I generally like WYSIWYM more than WYSIWYG environments. That being said WYSIWYG is very useful for content where consistency doesn't matter as much. While there are WYSIWYM systems for presentations but they only really work for data publishing better than WYSIWYG. I think a fairer comparison on this axis might be LyX vs. Word or FrameMarker vs. Word. Going up something like higher end composition engines vs. something like InDesign.

Then there is general use vs specialized. LaTeX is optimized for text with equations which is specialized. Fountain is for screenplays. That's not the same as a product like Word which is all purpose.

Finally open source vs. closed source is a complicating factor. When we consider Word do we consider all the myriad additional cost extensions, for example SharePoint or just the core product? For OpenSource do we consider the entire platform and how these components work together? More importantly closed vs. open goes beyond editing to broader computing issues.

Re:WYSIWYM vs. WYSIWYG and other axis (1)

manicb (1633645) | about 10 months ago | (#45183439)

Is MS Word really "all-purpose"? I'd say it was optimised for middle management.

Re:WYSIWYM vs. WYSIWYG and other axis (1)

jbolden (176878) | about 10 months ago | (#45183759)

It is far too advanced for middle management. Middle management doesn't need things like bibliographic support, long complex multi author change tracking, styles, complex tab adjustments, multiple keyboards for foreign languages.... Those are features for people who spend much more time authoring documents than middle management.

I use pandoc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182695)

I'm using pandoc sometimes, but in my experience it is a bit like programming in BASIC or using some RAD tool in programming - 90% is easy and achieving the remaining 10% of functionality is almost impossible without reverse engineering. That being said, you only get problems when tweaking slides or when you have a lot of formulas. For screenwriting and non-math-extensive documents it should be fine and sure beats any word processor. In summary, let's just say pandoc is better than MacFarlane's philosophy. *ducksforcover*

Minutes (2)

hlub (153437) | about 10 months ago | (#45182711)

I use asciidoc [] as a quick and easy way to take minutes of meetings. I usualy mail the participants a quite decent-looking pdf version of the minutes immediately after the end of the meeting. I also use gitit [] as a personal wiki. I must admit that I sometimes confuse the syntax of the markdown used by gitit with the quite similar asciidoc. I could switch to pandoc for my minutes, of course, but the pdf produced by asciidoc looks a lot nicer than pandoc's

Sphinx (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182717)

I've been using Sphinx to write user's and developer's manuals, as well as a host of other things. It supports a number of output formats and uses reStructuredText as the input format. reStructuredText can be a bit much, but using snippets helps relieve that pain tremendously. It's a really fantastic tool.

"I am a author" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182725)

That's classic!

Re:"I am a author" (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 10 months ago | (#45182831)

He didn't say he was a good author...

I write my shopping lists w/ markdown (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182731)

Not even joking. It's habit. I use it for my creative and technical writing and find myself doing this:

###to buy
  * toilet paper


Yeah I do. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182733)

Yeah I do. I use macvim, pandoc, markdown, latex, and apvlv, and ... every day. Not sure what I would discuss about it. Not sure that I am lively either.

Scrivener (4, Informative)

Tridus (79566) | about 10 months ago | (#45182761)

If you're writing a novel, a tool like Scrivener is a lot better than a text editor of any particular sort. It's designed for writers and makes it easy to do things like keep track of and organize all your notes, which if you're writing a novel is going to be far more important than whatever command is used to change the font.

Re:Scrivener (1)

Evil Pete (73279) | about 10 months ago | (#45184009)

Seconded. A wonderful tool.

The "old reliables" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182789)

I only use the old reliables - WordStar and WordPefect. Markup the way nature intended.

Oh dear God! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182797)

I searched Slashdot expecting to find lively discussions of both Markdown and Pandoc, but found nothing.


Have you seen the comments today?! It's like being in a bar with a bunch of angry drunks arguing about football, politics and religion - all at the same time.

And you're bound to get at least one "Well, I programmed emacs in Lisp an Scheme and I have a ''do my fucking work for me'' app because I'm fucking smarter than all of you morons. And I just sit home and drink beer and collect a paycheck. "

And I'll get flamed for calling it an "app".

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm a fucking moron - there, I saved you some typing.

Your welcome.

Re:Oh dear God! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45183163)

Your welcome.

My welcome? What does that even mean?

We use it for training materials, doc, websites... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182809)

Pretty much the only thing we use at this point. Everything is MD + Pandoc!

org (org-mode) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182811)

User org and export to whatever format you need. It is the swiss army knife of text mode. You can write blogs (octopress-mode), documents (exporting to latex), and programming (babel-org). And on top of that you can do todos and agenda. Check

TEX to Writer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182827)

pandoc your-file.tex -o your-file.odt
this is all I know about pandoc. I am new to latex, but learning it and want to use it for journal papers, books and presentations.
I use latex2html to convert tex to html. I've used vim, nano, emacs but could adopt them. My favourite text editor is gedit.

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182853)

We are working on compiling an (e)book with texts from several sources, all collected within etherpads for doing proofreading and translation with multiple editors. One suggested markdown for typography. To get further from there I stumpled upon pandoc. After getting rid of some special-character-issues (thus installing some latex-extensions for that), it does a pretty good job for exporting pdf or odt (haven't checked out epub yet). Seems like I will use odt for final design & typography and export the epub and print-pdf from there. I get the txt-exports from etherpad-URLs with kind of a shell-script. There wil be a another shellscript for renaming the files to get them in a particular order (so there will be csv-file with "pad-id/name/slug" and "number-for-sorting"). In the end it will be a book by the german blog about the NSA.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182909)

two more things to get work done: I use "--latex-engine=xelatex" for getting rid of the special-character-issues and had to compile pandoc on my own so that I can use "+RTS -K64m -RTS" for having a bigger buffer.

another plant post by john gruber (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182875)

John Gruber is an intellectually bankrupt opportunist and markdown still makes me laugh. Apparently HTML is just so hard as a tagging language...

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182877)

And you've failed to convince me that either one is necessary.

I use vim and lyx when I edit latex.

Now get off my lawn, and stop betteridging headlines.

Re: No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45183231)

LaTeX + Latexian here. Markdown only for github

AsciiDoc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182897)

I am more of an AsciiDoc-fan myself. AsciiDoc syntax is straightforward and maps to DocBook,so it's perfect for writing books with all its specifics.

LibreOffice? (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about 10 months ago | (#45182929)

I use LibreOffice, because I hardly do html and need to keep compatible with the crap they use at the customer and the employer when it comes to office formats.

In general, most commercial text editors are lousy at both editing and layout, but they contain all the "features" that people who don't understand either find handy to mangle their documents with. LibreOffice isn't that different from the others in that respect, but at least it's free and it runs on all the systems I use for daily work, regardless of their OS.

When I have to work on code or markup languages, I generally use VIM, since it's also on practically all the systems I use for this sort of work.

Since I have to often rely on systems with nothing but generic stuff installed, I don't want to have to bother with setting up the "perfect environment" all the time, so I adapt by using what's easily available.

I use markmin2html+markmin2pdf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182945)

I use Markmin. It is more flexible than markdown. For example it supports LaTeX formula & references, HTML5 media tags, QR codes, colors, and classes.
The converters (markmin2html, markmin2latex, markmin2pdf) are single files without dependencies.

So what is the question really about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182951)

Sounds like you really want a confirmation that your preferred choices are shared by others. Well, not shared by me.

Personally I use troff for letters and such (PostScript for the printer or PDF otherwise, editing not required), with a custom macro set that does letterhead and so on, I use nvi (no vim, no emacs, TYVM) and I cooked up my own vehicle (in awk) to ease writing html and css. I'm not expecting anyone to use the latter (it's not released) and troff, well, that particular lawn is nice and empty. Note that these are very much my preferences, and that's all there is to it. I don't need to share anything whatsoever, except the end results that aren't ment to be editable by others.

NIH? With the awk thing, sure. Same thing with markdown (which I don't like very much, though it's not the worst in use. for say a wiki I'd prefer CREOLE) and all the many other attempts. Upshot for me is that if I need to change the output I can do so relatively easily. It's my vehicle, I know how to deal with it. If I would need interop, well, plain text does amazingly well, especially if I stir in a little scripting.

Otherwise, it heavily depends on just what you're doing, who you're working with, how much they are married to broken systems from convicted monopolist vendors, how much you can afford to tell them to take a hike, and so on, and so forth. There really isn't a good, "universal" answer, and while many fields could be improved immeasurably, perhaps such an "universal" answer is impossible, if it even makes sense to strive for this. Better conversability would be useful, though. While I'm taking swipes, we've seen the mess with a certain widely touted solve-it-all from the guys who tried to standardise the web, for example, though quite often the real horrors get to hide behind the facade it so nicely bloats the actual content with. Small favours, right up until they up and munge or eat your data. Yes, I've seen that happen.

Curiously, I heard $author relate how O'Reilly dealt with his troff source for a book: Convert it to docbook, then run that through their own scripts to generate troff again.

Context is important, one could surmise.

Joe with Trac Syntax Highlighting (1)

phrank (112038) | about 10 months ago | (#45182957)

I take notes using the syntax of my employers wiki which makes it easy to cut and paste from my $EDITOR="joe". My custom syntax highlight file might not be perfect, but it certainly makes the text more colourful: trac.jsf []

Whatever floats your boat (2)

frisket (149522) | about 10 months ago | (#45182963)

I use Emacs for writing; most of it is in XML (usually DocBook, sometimes TEI, occasionally XHTML). I use XSLT to transform it to LaTeX if I want publication-quality PDF, but more often the document is the input to other people's toolchains which want XML first. I occasionally transform to other formats (HTML, Word, or some wiki formats which are largely MarkDown-ish).

I author in XML because most of what I write involves quite detailed and very specific structure, and DocBook and TEI provide appropriate levels of markup for this. I made a conscious decision to go this way a very long time ago, when it was all still SGML, and I have never regretted it.

Most people don't have that level of specificity to adhere to. All the formats you mention have their areas of application, even Word, but there is a growing undercurrent towards using HTML5 as the default format, driven partly by the fact that Ebooks use it. The publishing industry is very interested, as they hate and detest Word, and only use it because its change tracking is useful and it has usable style-editing, which OpenOffice and friends don't have (ie they have no style margin like Word). It was very clear at the XML SummerSchool [] last month that there is growing support for HTML5 in editing tools, and some new advances in editorial control (eg systems like Xopus [] , FidusWriter [] , and Poetica [] ) mean there may even be a way to escape from Word :-)

Disclaimer: editor interfaces are my thesis topic; I have no connection with any of the above except the XML SummerSchool.

I thXank 7ou for your time (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182965)

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It has been a while... (2)

vikingpower (768921) | about 10 months ago | (#45182969)

...that any Slashdot posting opened up a new world to me. This is one of those - way too rare - postings. I use to write flat text, and hand that to secretaries or colleagues for formatting it into whatever they want or need: html, word, slides, whatever. Software documentation, to me, is generated javadoc - so basically html generated out of flat-text code comments. Of course I knew and know about the existence of LaTex et al.. Yet, as a software architect, I guess I have been, for decades, plain lazy. I simply write flat text in emacs or notepad++. Man, you opened up a universe to me !

DITA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45182983)

It depends what you're trying to do but for documents DITA is fairly robust. It's a steep learning curve to get into xslt, xslfo, and xpath if you're not used to them.

All the time at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45183113)

We use markdown in git for all our documentation.

Documentation about internal processes is a bunch of markdown files, with a haskell program which uses pandoc's libraries to add an #include statement, so the documents can be split up nicely.

We also use ikiwiki for project wikis, so it's also markdown in git, albeit a different dialect.

We also have other tools for more structured documentation, but these are yaml files with text portions being markdown, in a git repository.

All of this is designed so we can use git workflows for documentation work, rather than just the coding work, since it allows patch review, merging and powerful history tracking.

yes - with Sphinx for multi-page docs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45183139)

Mou ( + pandoc on mac for me. Really nice environment. Mou is a lovely app to use and pandoc is sublime; a great example of the unix philosophy of simple but powerful tools that can be composed.

For multi-part docs I combine them with Sphinx ( I write in markdown, use pandoc to convert to rst then sphinx to generate pdf/html as required. I know I could write in rst and simplify the chain, but prefer markdown to write in - particularly with good authoring tools like Mou about.

Going back to Word/LibeOffice feels cumbersome now.

WYSIWYGs vs Markdown (2)

Dracos (107777) | about 10 months ago | (#45183185)

As a web developer, I understand the need to allow users to create content. However, I consider full blown web-based WYSIWYGs (such as TinyMCE and CK Editor) to be terrible tools. Yes, they take care of most of the dirty details, but they also have the capacity produce bloated garbage markup. I've always found bbCode annoying. I've used a couple of Wiki syntaxes as well (MediaWiki, Jira), and find them only slightly less annoying than bbCode. Because I know HTML, I prefer to just write HTML when I know the final format will be HTML.

Markdown syntax is clean, succinct, and can be extended when needed. The vast majority of non-savvy users only need to do basic formatting (bold, italics, headlines, lists) and Markdown covers that very well, in a way that the user can't do much damage to the prescribed styling of the content.

I've very briefly experimented with LaTEX, not enough to have actually used it for anything. I was not aware of PanDoc, but it looks very interesting.

Org mode (2)

PybusJ (30549) | about 10 months ago | (#45183291)

I like the emacs org mode [] (also available for vim [] , and even your mobile [] ), though primarily for structured outlines/note-taking, its markup allows document formatting and it can export to a range of formats including PDF.

Notes, documents, TODOs, all in one format.

Latex (1)

devent (1627873) | about 10 months ago | (#45183399)

I use Latex for almost all my texts: small, large, letters, presentations, what-have-you.
Also I copy texts from web sites to Latex and print it out for reading.
For texts that are only for me I use: plain text.

I don't understand why some (most) people are scared of Latex. In Linux you just install per package manage Latex+Kile and then you are one mouse click away from a nice Pdf document.

Small example from []
Gives you a very nice document to print out and read at your leisure.

\begin{multicols}{2}[\section{Cargo Cult Science}]
During the Middle Ages there were all kinds of crazy ideas, such as that a piece
of of rhinoceros horn would increase potency. Then a method was discovered for
separating the ideas--which was to try one to see if it worked, and if it didn't
work, to eliminate it. This method became organized, of course, into science. ...

Re:Latex (1)

devent (1627873) | about 10 months ago | (#45183425)

Edit: forget to add mulicols package.
Fonts: []

% unicode
% font
\linespread{1.05} % Palatino needs more leading (space between lines)
% page size
% page columns
% the document
\begin{multicols}{2}[\section{Cargo Cult Science}]
During the Middle Ages there were all kinds of crazy ideas, such as that a piece
of of rhinoceros horn would increase potency. Then a method was discovered for
separating the ideas--which was to try one to see if it worked, and if it didn't
work, to eliminate it. This method became organized, of course, into science. ...

Re:Latex (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 10 months ago | (#45183703)

I don't understand why some (most) people are scared of Latex.

As a regular latex user for the last 8 years, I have to say that I am not scared of latex.

I hate latex.

I could rant forever about how latex turns writing mathematics from a joy into a constant chore, or how errors and typos can take long to fix than it took to type the document, or how pages never, ever come out satisfactorally.

But I'll just note that the biggest issue with Latex is that it has its own idea of how your document should look, and if you disagree or ever dare attempt to override its page and space wasting decisions, you are in for a world of pain.

I(and the rest fo the world) need a handwriting recognition system for written mathematics. Something I can use to prepare "typed" documents by hand, writing my mathematics whereever I will on the page. Preferably, I need this before Latex ends up giving me another ulcer.

Re:Latex (1)

devent (1627873) | about 10 months ago | (#45184351)

I think you have a really high standard, like 80 stores buildings high.

What I really like with Latex is:
* that even the most simple document looks great, compared with anything MS Office or Open Office.
I mean, I have experience with Latex from Google search but my documents looking better then anything I saw yet, both from private and provisionals.

* I can define my own style and use it in all my documents
* It's plain text so I can use version control
* I don't have to worry to have the same version of Office then my co-worker.

Love it (1)

chad_r (79875) | about 10 months ago | (#45183491)

I use it for blog postings, with the tables and footnotes plugins. I also use it when converting simple text files into e-books with Calibre, which has a built-in markdown converter. I have nothing against html, but typing an open and close tag for everything gets to be tedious when you just want to write something simple, especially for tables.

I've had to edit other people's book-length Word documents before. These tend to be a mess, because many people don't know how to use styles, so the formatting is a big mess. I copied the text in Markdown, formatted the headings as H1 and H2, wrote some simple html for the embedded images, converted the document to HTML, and imported it back into Word. It sounds like a lot of steps, but I was able to do this faster than clicking on 200 pages of the Word document to fix all the inconsistencies. It goes without saying that the person got the document back, and then messed up the formatting again, because they didn't think Word styles were a real thing.

As I recall, Cory Doctorow at a book signing mentioned he used Markdown or something similar in his writings, and then kept the documents under a version control system to be able to see the changes. This is something Markdown should excel at, much better than a wysiwyg editor.

Arthor? It is "An" not "A" (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 10 months ago | (#45183551)

It is "AN author", not "A author".

Markdown as a writing tool (1) (1935296) | about 10 months ago | (#45183601)

Yes, definitely. I've found Markdown an excellent tool for writing. Pandoc (combined with Apple's TextUtil) has proven useful for converting older documents, to a certain degree, but I find I only use Markdown for serious writing. Am currently in the process of building a toolchain that converts Markdown writing into a variety of format, blogging about it here: []

and here: []

I would use markdown... (1)

dohzer (867770) | about 10 months ago | (#45183603)

... if I knew where to look on /. for a guide to it. I don't even know how to quote a post.

Microsoft Office (1)

elmer at web-axis (697307) | about 10 months ago | (#45183745)

It works. Has good basic functionality. Allows good review markup. And importantly everyone knows how to use it. Once the document is written I print it as a PDF and link to that PDF on a wiki for sharing. Burn me now?

LyX for all cases (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45183989)

LyX rules. All the advantages of LaTeX, without having to know LaTeX. The simplicity of normal word processing. So no "compile errors" when printing, for example.

Articles, 30-page reports and even a book - lyx handles it all well. At least none of the problem word users around me complain about. No "screwups" when documents go above a certain size. No sudden changes/resets of styles. Cross references are always right. Even in special cases, like having a file with a chapter included into two different reports - so that the chapter and page numbers for the stuff turn out different in each of the two documents.

LyX+beamer for presentations. Works well, and I can make animations using Tikz too. Well, those animations are perhaps not for beginners.

LyX makes any kind of output that LaTeX can make. Usually PDF, as anybody is capable of receiving PDF. But also html when needed.

tool for the job (1)

Tom (822) | about 10 months ago | (#45184017)

If you use one tool for everything, you're lost in the amateur world.

Professionals in every profession on this planet have a vast array of tools and pick the right tool for the right job. It's one of the things that makes you a professional.

I personally use WYSIWYG editors for general text editing like letters, articles and some books. Stuff like Pages or iBooks Author (since I'm on a Mac).

For longer books and fiction, Scrivener is my tool of choice and since it can export epub, it was my tool of choice for the book I published last year. As an author's tool, it's fantastic and not at least knowing it (even if you find it's not to your taste) is like being a programmer and not knowing what an IDE is.

Speaking of which, I abhor IDEs for programming because all I've ever tested are sluggish and more confusing than worthwhile, and they never work the way I want, and I pity everyone who uses Eclipse. So for programming, HTML and such, Sublime Text 2 is my choice, though I've used TextMate for years and it was fantastic. For Subl, there is better plugin support, however, and its auto-completion and coding tools do almost everything that IDEs do, at least for the stuff I code (which is mostly web-programming, so I don't need a compiler and debugger built-in).

There's also LaTeX and LyX, which I haven't touched in a long time but I still love and I'm sure I'll find my way back to it eventually. There's also a bundle of other text-based tools I use for specific parts, like graphviz (which really shines if you use the GUI tool to get an instant-preview). Basically, to end where I started: I always try to look at the job and find the best tool for it. Swiss army knifes are cute if you're trecking and can't bring much stuff, but when you're on your computer and can bring whatever tools you want, bring the best ones, not the cute one.

Wiki (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45184137)

Confluence by preference
Word or openoffice for docs
Vi or Notepadd++ for text

Yes, and I made a thing to use it in email (1)

vesper76 (608205) | about 10 months ago | (#45184289)

At one point I found myself composing some email (started with notes for a conference, then code-heavy email) in Github's editor, rendering, and then pasting into an email. And then I realized that I'm a programmer and can make stuff to do stuff. So I made Markdown Here [] (or the project page on Github [] ). It's a Chrome/Firefox/Safari/Opera/Thunderbird/Postbox extension that allows you to write email in your normal email editor, but in Markdown, and then render it before sending. It also supports syntax highlighting and some TeX math support. And it works in Google Groups posts, Evernote (web interface) notes, Blogger posts, and so on -- anywhere that uses contentEditable or designMode for the editor (including TinyMCE-based and CKEditor-based ones).

So, yeah, I use Markdown for email. There are about 15,000 Markdown Here users, so I guess they're part of the answer too.

Please put an end to structured doc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45184385)

The idea that a text be complete is stupid!

We write text, then assemble article, then bind book, then collection series.....

No document should have a fixed type and be complete!

Please stop the school of structure documents.

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