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Open Source The Media

Is Free Software Ready For E-publishing? 221

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the information-wants-to-be-free dept.
johanneswilm writes "Over more than 3 years I have been writing my PhD thesis on the politics of Nicaragua. Being the most professional system for PDF generation, I went with LaTeX, and, to make the text accessible for the editors, I used the LyX editor. Now that the publication date comes near, I found I had to spend considerable time creating a script to convert the manuscript to formats such as Epub as none of the available tools were quite ready to do it automatically. Is LaTeX only good for writers in the natural sciences? Is the open source community boycotting ebook formats, as Richard Stallman has proposed? Are there better tools to do the same?"
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Is Free Software Ready For E-publishing?

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  • by zget (2395308) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @09:32AM (#36984844)

    Being the most professional system for PDF generation, I went with LaTeX

    Now that the publication date comes near, I found I had to spend considerable time creating a script to convert the manuscript to formats such as Epub

    It sure sounds the like most professional system!

    The truth is, if you want your job done, you look at the merits of every possible program without considering if it's open source or not. There are good software like Apache that are mostly good for web hosting (unless you have certain requirements). Then there is lots of shit. The same is true for proprietary software tho. But if you want to get something real done, it's just stupid to limit yourself to only open source OR proprietary software. Pick the best tool for the job.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @09:47AM (#36985002) Journal

      My fourth book (Go Phrasebook) is due to be published soon. I send 3 copies to the publisher:

      • Print, PDF, generated by pdflatex. Black and white with crop marks.
      • eBook PDF, generated by pdflatex, with cross-referencing hyperlinks and colour for the syntax highlighting.
      • XHTML, generated by some code I wrote [gna.org], with hyperlinks and cross references and semantic markup in the code listings generated by clang for [Objective-]C[C++].

      The publisher can then just tweak the CSS for the ePub (XHTML) version. A C code listing has lots of span tags marking words as keywords, typedefs, macro uses, variables, and so on. How these are presented is controlled from the CSS, as is all of the rest of the styling.

      The important thing is to make sure you separate content from presentation. If you use a lot of TeX markup in your chapters, then it's hard to use anything other than [La]TeX to typeset it. If you use simple semantic markup with all of the macros defined in a document class, then you can parse the same markup easily with something else and then transform it into some other format.

      You could use some sort of XML and generate TeX from it, but typing XML is horrible. I like to work in vim, and with a couple of macros entering LaTeX is really easy.

      • by gatzke (2977)

        For mathy stuff, LaTeX is great. I am not sure how to separate that content from the TeX itself. And I never understood why MathML did not just use TeX.

        And I am a huge proponent of LyX. Much easier to get students to use than advocating vi+LaTeX....

        • My code doesn't convert the math stuff yet, but it's pretty easy to do. There are existing libraries out there that will generate MathML from LaTeX, and it's easy for a parser to detect math mode stuff bracketed by dollar signs and just pass that off to a library.

          MathML didn't use TeX because it does more. TeX is great for typesetting maths, but it doesn't give you any semantic information. MathML captures both - how an equation should look and what it means, although both parts are optional.

      • by gatzke (2977)

        What was wrong with using latex2html to generate hyperlinked files and such? What is the advantage of using your code? I did not see a readme or faq.

        I have used latex2html successfully in a few cases, but maybe I am missing something.

        • Because it doesn't work? There is no generic LaTeX to HTML convertor out there, and all of them handle only specific use-cases.

          In particular, all convertors either try to parse part of the LaTeX code or try to interpret the DVI that is produced as a result. With the first approach you'd have to limit your use of packages, because otherwise the convertor will fail unless it's a complete LaTeX implementation. With the second approach you won't be able to use XeLaTeX because it doesn't produce standard DVI fil

          • by gatzke (2977)

            A quick google, looks like latex2html may work on files with UTF-8 chars in them:

            After a lot of research I finally could find the right invocation of latex2html to generate HTML correctly with accents:

            latex2html -html_version 4.0,latin1,unicode book.tex

            From http://miguel.leugim.com.mx/index.php/2008/05/18/latex2html-and-utf8-encoding/ [leugim.com.mx]

            But you are right on use of more interesting packages, latex2html probably can't handle them. But I don't see the advantage of writing my own code and limiting myself to simple cases.

          • by rwa2 (4391) *

            Meh, it worked OK for my thesis. I managed not to need too many international characters, I guess.

            lyx (eventually I migrated it to emacs so I could stop wrestling with the GUI, which was having a cow with some of my larger figures) -> latex -> latex2html -> pluckr

            also had a makefile to generate/update the .dvi -> .ps -> .pdf targets as well.

          • Because it doesn't work? There is no generic LaTeX to HTML convertor out there, and all of them handle only specific use-cases.

            AMEN!

            You cannot convert TeX to anything other than DVI/ps/pdf without getting a mess. Embarrassing. While it does produce incredibly beautiful printed output, note that very few of us are reading printed anymore. Most of us are reading the TeX output on computers, not on paper

            I decided to write my own, without all the disadvantages of TeX[1], but with as many of the benefits as possible[2]

            I did a tiny prototype last September (was in hospital for a week, had nothing else to do) in Lisp that read in my spe

      • by lee1 (219161)

        You could use some sort of XML and generate TeX from it, but typing XML is horrible. I like to work in vim, and with a couple of macros entering LaTeX is really easy.

        I type both xml and LaTeX with vim, and I find both are easy if you use the right plugins. Using the xml plugin vim will type all the angle brackets for you, complete your tags, format, and generally take the drudgery out of writing xml.

      • by CODiNE (27417)
        XHTML, generated by some code I wrote[gna.org], with hyperlinks and cross references and semantic markup in the code listings generated by clang for [Objective-]C[C++].

        Dude I am NOT clicking a GNA link on a Slashdot post. </oldskool>
      • XHTML, generated by some code I wrote [gna.org], with hyperlinks and cross references and semantic markup in the code listings generated by clang for [Objective-]C[C++].

        The problem is, with an URL like that no jaded /.er will click that link!

      • by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @01:33PM (#36987958) Journal

        I'm in the process of preparing three novels, and I took a rather different approach. I'm using AppleWorks as my editing tool (because that's what I started with). From there, I'm:

        • exporting the results as HTML,
        • running a nasty piece of Perl (is there any other kind?) to turn AppleWorks HTML into valid HTML,
        • running another nasty piece of Perl to translate that HTML into DocBook plus a bunch of custom tags, and
        • running dblatex with some rather large custom style files and custom xsl to translate that into suitable code for xelatex.

        The advantage to this process is that I have valid XHTML on the way into the process, and with minimal effort, I could go from there to usable ePub content.

        If I were starting from scratch on a new document, I would be writing XHTML with some custom CSS as my source format. That would give me full semantic markup capabilities (which would give me slightly more flexibility than I have now, but not enough to convince me to ditch the convenience of editing in a WYSIWYG editor for this project). Then, I would tweak my XHTML to DocBook translation tools to handle that. So for ePub, it would just require containerizing the source material, and for nice PDF output, it would just require using the translator bits I already have.

        Of course, none of this is a general solution. Novels and theses are rather different in the way you write them, and the former was made a lot more difficult by LaTeX being designed so heavily for typesetting things like the latter. There are also a lot of flaws in LaTeX stemming out of the core design that make for less than ideal typesetting.

        For example, as far as I can tell, there is no good way to indicate that a section break (three stars, for example) cannot be the first thing on a page, and that at least two lines of the content above it must be pulled down with it. The closest you can do is to make it part of an unbreakable container with the previous whole paragraph, but that doesn't really do what you want most of the time.

        Similarly, it does not support proper widow control. LaTeX supports widow line control—that is, saying that you cannot have fewer than the last n lines of a paragraph on a page/column by themselves. What it lacks is widow paragraph control—that is, treating a single-paragraph line as though it were the last line of the previous paragraph for widow calculation purposes. The result is poor typography if a page break happens to fall near the end of a chapter. You can fix this by hand-tweaking the TeX markup to force a page break earlier, but I assert that good page layout software should produce good layout by default without hackery.

        And LaTeX does not handle UTF-8 very well at all. In my XHTML to DocBook translator, I've had to hack in extra markup (\hspace{0.001pt}) after em dashes, en dashes, and hyphens to force TeX to allow the line to wrap. Without that hack, I get serious overfull hbox problems.

        I could probably go on for hours about all the problems I've encountered, but it suffices to say that I'm not impressed by TeX, and at several points, I was tempted to build my own PDF generator using WebKit and CSS styles, but I didn't want to spend the time. (Yet, in hindsight, it would have been faster than trying to force TeX to behave.) That said, if you started with something like the hyphenator [google.com] project, someone could probably replace most of TeX with a few hundred lines of JavaScript, and that would almost inarguably produce better typesetting with a lot more flexibility (particularly given that pretty much every programmer already understands JavaScript and the DOM).

    • by udoschuermann (158146) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @10:02AM (#36985192) Homepage

      Actually it makes perfect sense if you do not wish to support the mindset of proprietary software, and the dependencies and liabilities that such an association creates (and not just for yourself, either!) Obviously there is a price to be paid for refusing to run with wolves, hence the posted question: Is there a way to accomplish what needs to be done using only FLOSS (Free/Libre/Open Source Software)?

    • But if you want to get something real done, it's just stupid to limit yourself to only open source OR proprietary software. Pick the best tool for the job.

      Be careful: sometimes, especially in cases of works under a "copyleft" or "share-alike" license, a work's copyright license limits which tools for the job are lawful. For example, some licenses require works to be made available in an editable format that isn't Java-trapped [gnu.org].* See, for example, sentences containing "Transparent" in the GNU Free Documentation License [gnu.org] and sentences containing "technological" in CC BY-SA [creativecommons.org]. You can use proprietary tools yourself, but you also have to make sure that the work can

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 04, 2011 @10:57AM (#36985846)

        Be careful: sometimes, especially in cases of works under a "copyleft" or "share-alike" license, a work's copyright license limits which tools for the job are lawful

        What are you talking about? This would only be relevant if we were discussing templates and packages to be embedded as part of the document, it has nothing to do with software.

        (If you still don't understand: GPL/GFDL/CC-SA only affect derivative works [derivative as defined by copyright law], a document made in MS Word is not subject to the copyright of MS Word unless you decompile Word and paste the code into the document. This simple fact is why you can (and many people, most obviously Apple, do) compile proprietary applications using GCC. DISCLAIMER: I'm talking about copyright law here, not contract law. If the MS Word EULA [which is a contract rather than a copyright license] says that all MS Word documents must be copyrighted a certain way then that may be a problem, fortunately I'm not aware of any applications that have such a clause)

        • Transparent (Score:4, Informative)

          by tepples (727027) <tepples@nOSpAM.gmail.com> on Thursday August 04, 2011 @12:07PM (#36986802) Homepage Journal

          This would only be relevant if we were discussing templates and packages to be embedded as part of the document

          In the case of documents under the GFDL, the copyright license requires that those who distribute copies of the document also make copies available in a "Transparent" form, one editable using free software. So those who make derivative works have to make derivative works available in a "Transparent" form. Or perhaps I misunderstood "Transparent" in the GFDL; what am I missing

    • Sorry, I resoundingly disagree.

      Looking at your brand new user name, some members would call your post a broad shill for all proprietary closed programs.

      The entire point of Open Source is that it can be moved to new innovative uses. Open Source will be slightly-to-much harder to use in many cases! But that is not the point of Open Source! The point is that a valid computing experience can be made out of open components. Yes, someone will have locked down the "1-click" version of a feature with a patent. So i

    • by hedwards (940851)

      The truth is, if you want your job done, you look at the merits of every possible program without considering if it's open source or not. There are good software like Apache that are mostly good for web hosting (unless you have certain requirements). Then there is lots of shit. The same is true for proprietary software tho. But if you want to get something real done, it's just stupid to limit yourself to only open source OR proprietary software. Pick the best tool for the job.

      The problem there is that you also need to factor in the cost of Windows or OSX if you want to use proprietary software that's designed for professionals. If you're using one of those platforms then the calculation is much easier, but if you're not interested in giving those companies money then your options are severely limited.

      • The problem is you have to factor the appaling consequences of "vendor lockin" and "proprietry format" on a document you may need access to for the rest of your life. Even in the unlikely event that an MS product is actually useable/fit for purpose, you would want the document saved in an open format, and I for one, have had very badTM experiences of MS's attempt at odt.
  • by fph il quozientatore (971015) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @09:40AM (#36984940) Homepage
    The best way to go seems LaTeX->HTML->ePUB. I guess many of your problems do not come from LaTeX itself, but from the fact that the LaTeX code that LyX outputs is... well... not meant for human editing and for further work. (haven't worked with LyX in a while, though -- maybe the quality of the TeX it produces has considerably improved in the meantime).
    • by gatzke (2977)

      I have been using LyX for over a decade, and I feel it is a great tool for using LaTeX without the headache of LaTeX. The code it produces is not great, but it is reasonably readable.

      • Once you practice a little bit with LaTeX (we're talking using it for a couple of weeks) there really is no headache.

        In fact, the lack of headache from LaTeX is what makes it better than any WYSIWYG editor out there (LyX is good, but still a headache imo)

        • Re:through HTML (Score:4, Interesting)

          by gatzke (2977) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @10:31AM (#36985484) Homepage Journal

          There are some things LyX is better at than pure LaTeX code.

          I can see the current version of my figures, not just rely on the file name.

          I can add references from a list instead of trying to remember what labels I have used.

          I can search bib items and add / order citations easily.

          I can make complex tables without forgetting some damn }

          I can generate and view a new version of my document in a single keypress.

          I can see my equations without having to mentally render them, while still using most of my TeX knowledge (\alpha _12 in LyX is the same as \alpha_{12})

          Students can make the transition from Word a little more readily. Remember, LyX is not WYSIWYG, it is WYSIWYM (what you mean) so the on screen representation is close to the final but not exact.

          Plus you have access to tons of menu options that you may not be aware of. I learn more about LaTeX by using and exploring LyX. And you can always use pure code if you want, for any fancy stuff.

    • The best way to go seems LaTeX->HTML->ePUB.

      Absolutely. Once you're at well-formatted xhtml you can do a lot of boring structuring, TOC and so on with Calibre. Just import xhtml/css, put the right options and class names into the convert pane, and you're done. Epub is the best source format for converting to other ebook formats as well. Once you have a well formatted epub you get most other common formats almost for free, also with Calibre, depending on the complexities of your document and the limitations of those other formats.

      I have no idea how hi

  • calibre (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 04, 2011 @09:40AM (#36984942)

    calibre is a free and open source e-book library management application that can convert to and from most of ebook formats. And does a pretty good job at it.

    http://calibre-ebook.com/

  • ...PROFIT!! (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by djsmiley (752149)

    1. Realise no scripts exist for problem
    2. Write scripts
    3. Release scripts as open source
    4. Don't post pointless problem on slashdot
    5. ???
    7. PROFIT!

    (We don't talk about point. 6)

    • Re:...PROFIT!! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Khan Fused (446871) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @09:59AM (#36985148)

      1. Realise no scripts exist for problem
          1,1 Realize that someone writing a thesis on Nicaraguan politics may not know how to program
          1.2 Begin learning to program
          1.3 Spend more time learning to program
      2. Write scripts
          2.1 Divert time from PhD thesis to write scripts
          2.2 Spend more time (diverted from PhD program) learning to program sufficiently to write workable scripts to solve stated issue
      3. Release scripts as open source
          3.1 Fail to complete PhD thesis in time due to time spent programming

      • by kravlor (597242)
        This is very true. I wish I had mod points!
      • by dstar (34869) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @10:23AM (#36985406)

        4. Realize this is exactly what happened to Knuth.
                4.1 Take consolation in the fact that at least it's just a thesis, not the next volume of TAOCP.

      • by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @11:28AM (#36986232) Homepage

        I don't think any of you twits realize how much work goes into any PhD thesis.

        A little programming overhead is not going to be that much of a burden really.

        This is why most stuff gets invented. It's really not that much of a tragedy when people who don't specialize in selling a particular technology to others have to develop solutions for themselves involving that technology.

        If real people thought like you weenies then we never would have had the original killer app for the PC.

        • You're shitting me.

          Someone so brilliant as to be so intimately versed in what it takes to get a PhD that he can with impunity berate all others who don't have his amazing insight into the process used the phrase

          "the original killer app for the PC"?
        • If real people thought like you weenies then we never would have had the original killer app for the PC.

          Solitaire? I think Microsoft would have built it anyway...

  • RE: Stallman link (Score:3, Interesting)

    by craftycoder (1851452) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @09:48AM (#36985032)

    Stallman complains about DRM and a lack of anonymity with eBooks. It seems to me that this story relates very closely to legally acquired music. While it is still difficult to legally acquire digital music anonymously, it is easy to get it without DRM. I suspect books will follow this same path if consumers value it as a feature. In practice there is in fact little anonymity in the purchase of real books as everyone wants you to swipe your "club" card and use your debit card to make the purchase but his point is well taken. The option to buy an unpopular book in secret is nice.

    With time and interest from consumers we will have DRM free books.

    Anonymity is dead and gone and I didn't even get an invitation to the funeral. We should all mourn it's passing.

    • I don't think anonymity is dead, I think its quite alive and kicking.

      What did die was the expectation that others should protect your anonymity for you.

    • Cash is hard to use why? I walk into a store. I pick out a CD, a DVD and a book. I proceed to checkout and pull out a fifty. I get change and leave.

      Wherein lies the difficulty?
  • I went to arxiv.org and picked a dozen or so papers from the "new" list and clicked their other format links. They're available in pdf, ps, and dvi formats. This is hardly a complete analysis since I don't have any access to the "real" journals, but I have to wonder how many journals and universities are demanding papers in ebook format.

    Open Source generally scratches itches. You may be one of the first people with the itch of converting theses to ebook formats.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @09:55AM (#36985108) Journal
      I've not published anything in a journal for a couple of years, but in computer science every journal worth reading accepts PDF submissions and either provide a LaTeX style, asks for your LaTeX source to edit themselves, or tells you which standard LaTeX style to use. It's a good first check for a journal - if they don't encourage LaTeX submissions, they probably suck. Apparently the same is true in mathematics and physics, but less so in other subjects. In the humanities it's common for journals to require MS Word documents (and place insanely strict requirements on the formatting of the bibliography that are trivial with BibTeX and very hard with MS Word, from what I've heard).
      • by jank1887 (815982)

        forget references. proper equation formatting and referencing in MS word for most physical sciences journals. still a bitch.

    • by Phillip2 (203612)

      Short answer; none want epub formats as submissions. But this doesn't mean to say that there is not a desire to produce them from submissions. Lots of scientists and academics want to read articles on the go, without having to carry around lots of paper.

      My own experience, however, is that the big move up is from PDF to HTML. This improves the reading experience enormously. EPUB on the other hand is limited. Many ebook readers don't work that well for academic content: mathematics is dealt with badly with no

  • "Is the open source community boycotting ebook formats?"

    Hardly. Calibre [calibre-ebook.com] is an excelent converter, library manager and it's compatible with most of the readers out there for syncing. You could try converting from pdf to e-pub with it, although PDF is a lousy input format.
  • Pandoc (Score:5, Informative)

    by bbk (33798) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @09:51AM (#36985062) Homepage
    I've found pandoc (here: http://johnmacfarlane.net/pandoc/ [johnmacfarlane.net]) to be very useful for generating PDF/ePub/LaTeX/etc from Markdown formatted text files.
  • Others have told me that the financial gain of publishing an academic book may be up to 700 USD. In comparison to current Scandinavian wages that really means very little, so I don’t think that earning another 700 USD should be a motive to restrict the access to one’s thoughts.

    First of all I would like to commend you and thank you for this sentiment.

    Is the open source community boycotting ebook formats, as Richard Stallman has proposed?

    I don't understand, Stallman decries e-book formats that aren't open. There are many open e-book formats [wikipedia.org]--including ePub. Granted, there are tools out there that allow you (to varying degrees of success like Calibre) to crack and convert to these formats but why bother? As you can see in that table, most everyone supports PDF. You are misunderstanding Stallman's gripe. It's not that we are boycotting e-books, it's that e-book makers are trying to carve out their own proprietary section of the electronic market, reader and creators included. So let them take their ball and play elsewhere. As you noted in your blog, this isn't the only problem:

    Most ebook-readers out there so not implement the Epub-standard perfectly. That means that although one has an Epub that follows all the standards, one can be quite sure that it will not display properly on all the readers. Kovid Goyal, the creator of the Calibre ebook management software has done a good job in creating conversion scripts that create Epubs for all the different readers. Unfortunately they do this by breaking compatibility with the standard, and many distribution sites will only check whether your Epub complies to the standards and not whether the book will actually look good in the reader.

    Most readers handle PDF, I would just stick to the output of LaTeX. I might suggest that your expectations are misdirected at the open source community and might be better directed at the makers of readers that apparently force you to break standards. It's the IE6 conundrum all over again.

    Stallman didn't suggest boycotting ebook formats, just the DRM associated with them (big surprise there). The problem you are experiencing is that sometimes it's difficult to go from one open standard to another. The tools are lacking in maturity and I'm guessing that since my Android phone can easily display PDFs for me that there's not a lot of people demanding this ePub support that apparently needs multiple flavors for each device (and Calibre helps you with this). The tools exist [johnmacfarlane.net] but they'll only get you so far and I think the really special stuff that LaTeX does well is what you'll find yourself needing to fine tune in the end product. Look at how long it's taken LaTeX to get that beautiful and I think you'll discover that making a magical cure-all converter to ${random format} can be a non-trivial task.

    If you start a kickstarter and get your university to donate hosting to making an open free market for any academic papers in any open format, I'd definitely throw in $20 (I've spent about $200 on kickstarter in the past two years). Either that or maybe throw your lot in with arxiv and work with them to fund more format support [arxiv.org]?

    • There is an open free market for Scientific publishing called PLoS http://www.plos.org./ [www.plos.org] PDF's suck on eReaders mainly due to the fact the text does not reflow for different size readers. The reason eReaders don't support ePub as well as they should is because most eReaders are not sold for profit but to hook you into the distributor's DRM'd products ala Amazon. It is not their priority. Converts just suck. Enough said.
  • Pandoc (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cyocum (793488) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @09:55AM (#36985098) Homepage
    The solution to your problems is Pandoc [johnmacfarlane.net] which can convert LaTeX to EPUB if you like. Now, it will probably take some fiddling on your part with the output but it very much smooths the process.
  • by spf13 (1468419) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @10:03AM (#36985194) Homepage

    While he states "We must reject e-books until they respect our freedom." He also outlines 7 things amazon's e-books do that violate this freedom. Fortunately epub is the most widely accepted e-book format and it has none of these 7.

    1. Available anonymously.
    2. Standard ownership applies.
    3. License determined by vendor, but many have very liberal licenses including CC and public domain.
    4. Open format based on html.
    5. Lending rules same as physical book.
    6. No inherent DRM (though Adobe has a version compatible with DRM).
    7. No one can remotely delete it any more than any other file on your computer.

    RMS isn't against e-books. He's against amazon's approach to e-books.

    • In fact, he specifically mention "Project Gutenberg" as freedom respecting ebooks, and they distribute EPUBs.

    • by Enry (630)

      No one can remotely delete it any more than any other file on your computer

      Given you can copy the .amz file to your local system and save it (thus preventing Amazon from deleting it), this doesn't sound like much of a problem.

  • Is there some reason MS Word or OpenOffice + stylesheets aren't up to the task? It sounds like you might be overcomplicating things.

    • by kravlor (597242)

      Setting aside the fact that LaTeX will perform typesetting, those word processing tools utterly fail for creation of documents with lots of (or complex) equations.

      They are also very cumbersome for generating cross-references, bibliographic formatting, and management of figures/tables.

      One killer feature MS Word *does* have over TeX-based solutions for now is excellent commenting, change tracking and shared collaboration features.

      I know both worlds well, having used MS Word for collaborative proposal writing,

      • One killer feature MS Word *does* have over TeX-based solutions for now is excellent commenting, change tracking and shared collaboration features.

        I have done some cooperative writing.

        Latex supports comments trivially and always has. Anything starting with a %. There are also packages which allow you to insert them into the text as well.

        For change tracking, word is OK if you pass the document around from one person to another in sequence. However, since LaTeX uses plain text files, you can use it with any V

        • by reg106 (256893)
          The real magic of Word's Track Changes feature is the way it allows you to quickly see what's been changed and commented on in the *formatted* document. Marginal comments and changes pop out visually when you scroll through the document, and the displayed comments can be filtered based on the user who wrote them. This is an especially nice feature for giving feedback to the main author on collaborative writing projects. I can imagine a Latex package that would allow you to place comments in the margin w
          • The real magic of Word's Track Changes feature is the way it allows you to quickly see what's been changed and commented on in the *formatted* document.

            I know how they work--I've used them. The whole thing fails miserably when several people make concurrent edits to a document, then you have a merge nightmare. Also, the whole attribution thing fails when people don't setup windows with their real name (noone I know ever seems to do that).

            The visual display is nice, but it is way too brittle. Having done th

      • by Phillip2 (203612)

        I sometime Google docs these days for collaborative writing as it avoids the "pass the word doc" around nightmare. Although with dropbox the latter has got easier.
        In the end, the proposal gets turned into a word doc though for final formatting, because it is what people expect.

        In terms of change tracking, I find this only works in word for a view people. Otherwise, you end up with change tracks everywhere and it's just an unreadable mess. Tex/latex in a versioning system can also work, although again only w

    • Is there some reason MS Word or OpenOffice + stylesheets aren't up to the task?

      Have you ever written a long document in either word/OO and latex?

      Basically everything that should be trivial, e.g. cross referencing, references and bibliographies, contents, figures, applying consistent styles (including bibliographic styles), separating content from presentation, quality typography is trivial in latex.

      Also, since latex is in text files, you can use any version control system you wish.

      It sounds like you might b

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Any text processing tool that requires you to use the mouse is overcomplicating things.

  • I have helped to create a site for scientists to post their articles on the web. One of the problems is that academics tend to love their tools and do not want to switch, often because they have relatively elaborate workflows and practices, which can cope with their lives; whether this involves writing lots of maths, spending lots of time offline travelling, collaboration or whatever.

    We got around this just using Wordpress. Many of the tools out there can already communicate with a blog: this includes Word

  • First semantic markup refers to enhancing the text by providing information about its meaning. HTML (CSS) and LaTEX specify the layout of the text regardless of its meaning. Secondly the open source packages are a little behind the curve regarding ePub and support for MathML in browsers. Having a coherent tool that publishes to PDF, HTML , ePub and supports equations well would be a great boon to scientific and technical publishing. BTW it also needs to be scriptable. That said if people know of somethin
  • My version of e-publishing was, "write the thesis in LaTeX, output in PDF via pdfLaTeX, and upload the PDF to Google Books." Instant global accessibility for anyone that wants it (well, instant after the processing period) -- certainly a heck of a lot better than any exposure my University can offer, although I gave them the PDF too, and they supposedly make it available somewhere. It's not EPUB, sure, and I would convert it to other formats if I felt that the effort was worth it, but maximising availabilit

  • While it's true that ebooks present the possibility of digital restrictions management, Smashwords [smashwords.com], a ebooks distributor site, doesn't use DRM, AFAIK.

  • http://johnmacfarlane.net/pandoc/ [johnmacfarlane.net]

    Unless you do some really wacky latex stuff, pandoc works great

  • Write a new DVI outputter for epub?

    I really like TeX and LaTeX (But don't google on the latter without some additional modifying keywords...) and used to maintain my resume in it. Turns out most contracting companies don't want a static document they can't modify, so I ended up dropping the whole thing into a big E-Lisp data structure which I serialize into eieo objects and then emit to some other markup language. I wrote emitters for HTML and Plain Text, but really you can do anything. I have it on my to

  • LaTeX is a formatter: it does an excellent job of typesetting and can produce publication-quality PDF (my company uses it all the time for this).

    But it is not a reusable file format. The only processor that really groks it is TeX, and that can only output PDF or DVI. If you want multiple formats of output under program control, you need to use a output-agnostic file format like XML, from which you can generate LaTeX and any other kind of appropriate source code to create PDF and other kinds of output (eg HT

  • Even grandpa can do it!

    CutePDF writer (www.cutepdf.com) Just print from your application.
    Calibre to convert PDF to any other format (calibre-ebook.com).

  • I wanted to have an article readable on my kobo on the go. That was not so easy but not so difficult as well. epub is mainly compressed xml (or xhtml can not remember).

    The procedure to obtain the proper html goes through compiling the latex with pdflatex and bibtext so as to have a proper pdf AND intermediate latex files. Extract the bibliography information from the intermediate file. Regenerate the bibliography in html format using bibtex2html. Play with head and tail to cut header and footer.

    Then, genera

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