January 21, 2015

Markdown Magic

I spend a lot of my time at work with typing. Mostly these texts have the nature of simple notes that help me to keep track of my different projects, coordinate my students, etc. So things like Latex or Word, OpenOffice or Pages are overkill.

For notes I have been using DokuWiki on a private server for some time. But I am not (never was) really happy with this because a browser is not the best editor in my opinion. Furthermore, creating and organizing documents is a pain. However, I like the simple syntax to generate headlines, links and stuff.

Since a couple of weeks I have been playing more and more with Markdown. Markdown provides an even simpler syntax compared to DokuWiki but can do more or less the same. The nice thing about markdown is that there are several things you can do with your markdown files. For instance:

Creating PDF files

Markdown is really nicely readable. But sometimes you need something nicer. Or something somebody else can not modify super easily. You want a PDF. There are two options I am aware of:

  1. You install the Atom text editor and a plugin called markdown-pdf. However, this plugin is a little limited. You, for instance, have no control about fonts or you can not include things as page numbers or a table of contents. (OK, maybe there is an option but I am not aware of this way.)
  2. You install pandoc, which in turn needs a fully working Latex installation on your machine. pandoc is able to transform markdown to latex and latex to PDF. The nice thing is that you can create your own template for pandoc and tell it to insert the generated latex-code into this template. Options are endless… It is also worth mentioning that pandoc is able to transform markdown to HTML or a couple of other formats, for instance, a document using the DokuWiki syntax.

Blogging

This blog post was written in markdown. I use the application Jekyll to transform a couple of markdown files to my entirely static (=no php, no data base) Web page. Neat. If you do not have an own web server or webpage just push your markdown to GitHub and GitHub will take care of the conversion and hosting.

Organizing and Syncing

As there is obviously no need for a Wiki-like system to handle your markdown files you simply keep them on your machine. I moved all documents from my deprecated wiki to my machine and ordered them in a hierarchical folder structure that suits my needs.

Of cause you can put your folder into your OwnCloud or Dropbox or, as I do, use unison to sync files between my machines via a private server.

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