My latest article on LaTeX was about the initial struggles I encountered while writing my bachelors thesis. In it I suggested to learn MultiMarkdown (MMD from now on) and to only use MMD while writing. The reactions I received to this suggestion were mixed, a lot of people do think that it is rather unwise to mix markup languages. If your final product ends up to be in LaTeX you should just use pure LaTeX, so their thinking. To a degree I agree.

Mixing markup languages certainly isn’t the most hassle free way to do this. At first glance.

A lot can go wrong in the transition from MMD to LaTeX. That is completely right, I agree 100%. But I do think that there is a choice to be made: __Either you accept that things might go wrong when transitioning from MMD to LaTeX or you live with the fact that editing your writing in LaTeX is going to be a pain in the ass.

Let me explain: Assuming that you wrote something in plain LaTeX. Further assuming you write great first drafts so that you just wrote it in one pass and sent off a pdf to a colleague or professor for proofreading. They send you back a marked up pdf and now you have to implement those changes into your .tex file. Only problem is: Your .tex file looks crazy. There are markups everywhere and commands like \cite{Somethingveryimportant}{p. 225} or \footnote{That are very long and and tell you things you don't need to correct or know right at this moment.}that really don’t enhance readability.

If editing a file that looks like this does not bother you, that is great and I am happy for you. You will be more than fine writing in plain LaTeX without anything else. If you are like me, tough, editing a file that looks this way rather sucks.

This is why I use MMD before I use LaTeX. I do want the powerful features and the beautiful documents LaTeX offers but I want them when I am done. When my words are set, when they were proofread and corrected then I want the power and beauty of LaTeX. Not one step sooner. Editing and reviewing a text is arduous when it is full of markup commands.

Having said that, here is something to bear in mind: I am a Humanities major, I don’t have to use formulas, I get by without images in most cases and tables are used very sparingly in the things I write. Those that use these features: Your text will look a mess no matter what, so I get the argument that you might as well just use LaTeX. This point wasn’t made clear enough by me, the workflow I presented is one that, I hope, works well in fields and documents where you have to use little to none of the math and graphics features LaTeX offers. MMD does offer some of those features but the little experience I had with them points strongly to just using plain LaTeX.

Sometimes you might still want to use certain features of LaTeX that aren’t supported by MMD while writing and the great thing is: You can. The conversion engine will just leave your LaTeX commands untouched.

To summarize: Writing in LaTeX from start makes the editing process a lot more arduous for me and the kind of writing I do. My solution to avoid this is to write in MMD and to parse my .md file to LaTeX. That is one point of my argument, the initial reason to use MMD. The stronger point for using MMD will follow in the next section: __With the right tools converting from MMD to LaTeX is easy and (almost) hassle-free.

Going from MMD to LaTeX: pandoc

The easiest way to convert your .md file into a fully grown .tex file is by using pandoc. If I want to convert my file I just open up Terminal, navigate to the directory my file is in and type: pandoc -f markdown -t latex -s -o file1.tex

The picture you see above shows the things as they were. I did not tinker with them one bit. And I don’t see how this is not absolutely hassle-free. I also don’t see how using LaTeX from start would make things easier or more convenient than this. How much more convenience is there than such an easy conversion? (Please, don’t whisper Word right now.)

Pandoc comes also with some great documentation here as html and here as pdf for those that want to get themselves up to speed on those matters.

And this is the real reason why I use MMD: pandoc. This tool is absolutely great. It is also by a philosopher, maybe that’s why. I don’t think about the output one bit. Before using pandoc, if I wanted to send out a pdf to a colleague for proofreading, I had to tinker around with LaTeX quite a bit until my document was ready to send off. Now, I just save the document, fire up the terminal and send off a pdf that looks very similar to the thing that will be my final product.

Of course, I won’t just hand in my papers after pandoc processing, I will configure the LaTeX settings but if you were to ask me to send you a pdf of anything I’ve written in MMD I would be able to email you a pdf in a matter of seconds.

That is why I mix two markup languages.

And yes, this workflow is very much still a work in progress. Nothing is written in sand yet. If you’ve come up with better or even more hassle-free solutions I’m happy to hear about it.