Scrivener + MMD --> LaTeX = Revolutionary

[While this was lifted out of a longer private email to Keith and Fletcher, I thought it would be approprtiate to post with modifications here, just to show my appreciation, and to see what others think.]

Keith and Fletcher,

First of all, a big thank you for all your hard work. To be honest, it is because of your collaboration that I am most interested in Scrivener. The intrinsic capabilities of Scrivener are, of course, wonderful; but the fact that it allows for exporting to different formats through your MMD – and especially LaTeX – is what I’ve been looking for for a long time. This might actually get me to finally commit in practice to where my mind has already committed – the separation for content and style.

While the theory of LaTeX, the separation of content and style, attracts many people, the fiddling with computer gibbly-gook turns many (including me) off. It’s not that it’s impossible. I can learn what Fink is. I can hunt for the Terminal, and try to do command line. I can spend hours and days and weeks trying to figure out how to install this package, and that package. But it takes me hours and days and weeks, because I’m not a programmer, I’m not coming from a Unix-background, I’m not a comp sci person for whom this is all second nature. So I always gave up. Then I’d always come back because I needed the power of LaTeX (and for academics, even – especially? – in the humanities, it is very powerful; try to do margin notes in any other program currently available). Then I’d give up again, because of the complexity of getting it all working. Ad nauseum.

Then I was introduced to OS X. Switched. XeLaTeX can do unicode fonts, right-to-left scripts. Wonderful. Still can’t figure out all that CTAN stuff though. Back to word processors.

Until now. What Keith and Fletcher are doing here should be touted loudly on all LaTeX forums, advertised on all Mac writing groups, etc. This functionality should be proclaimed loud to all those people sitting on the LaTeX fence who use a Mac. Believe me, there are tons of people in academia who are convinced about the benefits and philosophy of LaTeX, but who (like me) could never just get it to work.

I hope you both realize that these MMD additions aren’t just small niceties…they are something wonderful. Everyone who takes writing seriously, and – for these purposes – academic writing, should be told:

You can write in a BRILLIANT writing environmet, then decide: Short piece, and the editor or prof only wants a basic RTF file? That’s what Scrivener is intrinscially for. Much longer document, very structured, and you don’t want to worry about style and layout and design, just the argument and structure of your writing? That’s what Scrivener (+ Multimarkdown) is for.

Keith’s Scrivener is, regardless of the MMD export functionality, the best of the breed of writing apps (in my opinion); but what MMD is doing behind the scenes is taking it to a completely different level.

Keith, the only thing I’ve found myself disagreeing with you on as to the philosophy of your software, is when you once said that 99% of your users probably won’t care about the LaTeX thing. I think nothing could be further from the truth. There are tens of thousands of LaTeX users around the world. Just read TeX discussion forums – many of them have been looking for something like this for a long time. I think this element should actually be played UP, and advertised. And actively pursued.

Honestly, what the two of you (and AmberV!!!) are doing here is really revolutionary, in more ways than one. Keep up the good work.

(This essay is officially finished. Please use Scrivener + MMD + Lulu.com to get your own official hardback copy, today.) :wink:

Thanks for your comments and enthusiasm, talazem. :slight_smile: When I said that 99% of my users won’t be using MMD, I meant my target users. I don’t doubt that there are thousands of LaTeX and potential MMD users out there. Scrivener provides that functionality for those who want it by providing a front end for aspects of Fletcher’s MMD. The reason I am not targetting those users specifically, however, is that I don’t want to turn Scrivener into an MMD/LaTeX app and therefore do not want to falsely advertise it. It will always be, predominantly, an RTF app that has MMD functionality, purely because that is where my own preference lies and I don’t want to spend lots of development time on features that I won’t use. :slight_smile:

Thanks again and all the best,
Keith

P.S. I will let Fletcher field the e-mail you sent, as it seems to be more of an MMD request than an interface one.

Keith: thanks for the reply, and thanks for the great app. But may I just note: the brilliance in Scrivener, for me, is the writing environment…the ease in which I can organize and structure, take notes and metadata…well, I’m talking to its developer, I don’t have to extol its virtues to you.

But, ultimately, (most) writing is about output, in some form or another. And the fact that you’ve included the ability to output into various formats is brilliant, very innovative. Very few apps I know can do that. Its already a plus with the MMD-LaTeX integration it has, and – time will tell – could be even more so as your software further develops. In other words, I just hope you allow for that element to develop naturally into its full potential – a beautiful writing environment, with very powerful output/export abilities, to suit a wide range of writing needs.

Thanks again.

Then we 1%-users have to shout it out loud, that LaTeX-export via MMD is a killerfeature of Scrivener. I am playing around for some days with it and only step by step understand MMD. I had to try out the settings but now…

… now I manage to export footnotes. This is indispensably for scientific writers. Great!

And when you do your outline like this:

Draft
'--Part I
   '--Chapter 1
   '  '--Section 1
   '  '--Section 2
   '  '--Section 3
   '--Chapter 2

you will get right this in latex-markup. This is wonderful.

The missing rest, tables, references and so on can be done in the final text corpus in TeXShop.

So not being your target user, I can say: I am happy with Scrivener!

juh

Actually, you can do tables, figures, math, glossary, and I am fairly sure you can do citations using BibTex. Some of those are new features and may not be fully documented yet. I’m sure fletcher will catch up to this thread and have something to say.

I should clarify that my target users can be narrowed down to: me. Other users just happen to have helped make Scrivener into an even better application for me… :slight_smile: Seriously, though, I am really happy that MMD users are finding Scrivener to be useful. I am only being cautious here because, not using MMD myself, I don’t want to make it into an “MMD app”. If I advertise it as such then I am duty-bound to add more features in this department, which is somewhat outside of my original vision. Also, I am not qualified to take it in that direction as I would be stabbing around in the dark.

But really, I’m happy to have all users who find a use for Scrivener in their workflow. :slight_smile: So: thanks.

All the best,
Keith

You are correct, and most of this is documented. I think glossaries are not, but the rest should be on my website.

Wow - a lot to respond to. I’ll try and be complete, yet brief.

The first, and most important, thing is this — I would like to get a group of people to help write some propaganda, er, I mean documentation that includes:

  • Why using Scrivener+MMD+LaTeX is so attractive

  • A “Quick Start” guide to installing the necessary software

  • A more friendly user’s guide to MMD syntax

Right now, Scrivener+MMD+LaTeX is sort of a “you either get it or you don’t” sort of thing. If you get it, you realize how powerful it can be. If you don’t, it seems like a bunch of gibberish…

Back to the other points raised…

Talazem, I agree with you in that I would love to see the MMD+LaTeX thing played up (and grab some more customers for Keith), but I understand why Keith wants to minimize this. From the beginning, he has been supportive of adding MMD features, but has made it clear that this is a “secondary” feature. This is fine, and I have tried to make MMD sort of a “drop in” addition to minimize the work Keith had to do (though he certainly put in his share of time working on this, and I like to think that Scrivener is a better product for his efforts).

But that doesn’t prevent enthusiastic users from pushing Scrivener as a MMD+LaTeX tool of choice in other venues. I agree that Scrivener is close to meeting every feature I had in mind when I started working on my own MMD writing tool a while ago (I gave up on it when I (temporarily) switched to OmniOutliner). It’s a great writing environment, and as long as it can export to a MMD text file, it should be able to do everything else we need.

I don’t want to change perception of Scrivener into a MMD+LaTeX only app and scare off anyone. But for those who use MMD+LaTeX, I would love for Scrivener to be known as the THE app to use.

But we do need some good documentation, sample documents that show off features, etc. to help demonstrate why this is such a better way to work than hand-tweaking citations, equations, table of contents, indexes, etc.

What I propose is this:

I would like for anyone who “gets” MMD+LaTeX+Scrivener who is interested in helping out to email me off-list. (Bonus points if you’re good at writing easy to read, persuasive, and entertaining documents :wink: ) We could then collaborate on creating some high quality documentation for MMD itself, as well as the MMD+LaTeX workflow, as well as how to do this within Scrivener.

Additionally, and they don’t have to be the same people, I would love to hear about other XSLT files users have found useful. I envision a library where people can see a sample pdf, and then download the XSLT for different document types.

I welcome feedback on these ideas.

And most importantly, thank you to everyone who has written supportive remarks about MMD. :slight_smile:

On the propaganda front, I’ve written some of my thoughts on S+MMD->LaTeX to Ted Goranson, who is compiling a follow-up article on writing software for the Mac. He was interested in hearing about any implementations that push the envelope on what you can do to get work done. Hopefully he picks up on that and puts in a few words next month. Scrivener got an icon in the last issue, and it would be nice if it got a paragraph in January. Given that so many writing applications for the Mac have zero semantic structure, and he is big on that idea, I hope the concept of using MMD as a gateway into that appeals.

I also put in some good words on some of Scrivener’s other novel features, such as Edit Scrivenings, and its over-all fantastic writing environment. This just feels like a writing tool when I use it, and I think it is important to note that at this point in time, it is one of the very few applications out there that provides that level of experience while simultaneously offering the ability to export a 99-100% ready to publish text. Ulysses is the other primary player in this area, but it does not allow nearly the same level of flexibility that the MMD+XSLT system does. Not to mention a huge swath of tools for non-structural writers. Though they have yet to unveil their new LaTeX exporter in the beta, I am guessing you will still have to know Objective-C to make any serious modifications to its behaviour. We’ll see.

About the public’s perception of what Scrivener is, that is an important point. I am always weighing the things that I say on this forum; making sure that I do not lend to the notion that Scrivener has nothing to offer if you are not a LaTeX user. It is definitely possible for structuralists and stylists to co-exist in one application’s forum. I’ve seen it done with the Ulysses boards. The one different here is that I’ve noticed more people who do not know what it is, become curious about what it is. There have been several extensive threads on the pros and cons. To my knowledge none of that ever happened in U Land. Everyone just kind of stuck to their own threads. So it is a different culture, here.

To get things rolling, I pasted the current draft of a MMD User’s Guide to writeboard.

123.writeboard.com/17c0553de25fe31ec

password: scrivenerMMD

The document is a MMD text file, parts of which writeboard correctly formats, and parts of which appear incorrectly formatted.

I recommend downloading the text and viewing in the program of your choice (Scrivener… :wink: )

I’m looking forward to the MMD documentation, I’ll take a look at that link shortly :slight_smile:

I seem to have converted a few people Scrivener based half on the LaTeX export and half on the great Scrivener interface. The only thing that was an issue, really, was trying to explain how to get the MMD export options set up correctly to do a lulu 6x9 export - however apart from docs, which I know are on the way, I’m not sure how to improve the usability of MMD export. Maybe a list of available preset metadata key names when creating a new key instead of making you look them up and type them in?

At any rate, I appreciate that you don’t want to promote Scrivener as an MMD+LaTeX app, but promoting that as one of the features would sure get a lot of interest! I know until MMD was integrated I was basically looking at using plaintext export from Scrivener and my own little simple markup conversion scripts - the complete lack of structure in RTF drives me nuts. (Also why I tried then dropped VoodooPad - no structure within a document and support for tables was too limited.)

Hm, it didn’t ask me for a password and just handed me an xml file with no style associated with it…

I changed the URL. This should be correct:

123.writeboard.com/17c0553de25fe31ec

To try and keep my momentum going, I created a Google Group for MultiMarkdown discussion.

I welcome anyone who is interested to join. Any MMD specific questions, feature requests, etc can be directed to my wiki or the new list. Anything that is specific to Scrivener and MMD is welcome in either location as well, or it can remain here at the Scrivener forum.

But this would be a good chance to pull some of the more MMD-centric discussions (that don’t involve Scrivener) off of this board.

groups.google.com/group/multimarkdown

This is Keith’s app, and I’m not trying to conflate the two. With all due respect to Fletcher (who deserves a lot), I wouldn’t be interested in MMD if it weren’t for (1) its ability to produce LaTeX, and (2) its integration as a backend to a brilliant writing environment called Scrivener. If I wanted to do my writing in plain text, I would just learn LaTeX and write in TexShop. But I hope people can see that – as an invisible backend to Scrivener – MMD is making it a much stronger and more professional app…and I’m sure MMD is benefiting as well.

Scrivener: write. MMD export: produce LaTeX. Me: help to get this working smoothly and automatically. Though I wouldn’t know an XSLT if it smacked me upside the head, I’d be happy to help in small ways as much as I can.