Photo by Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash

Photo by Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash

Laying out documents with Markdown and Pandoc

In Shape

Article from ADMIN 69/2022
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We show you how to use Markdown and Pandoc to transform your technical documentation into a number of formats and create sophisticated presentations along the way.

Text editing programs such as Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, and the open source LibreOffice suite can be used to create documentation and instructions. All of these programs mix different elements of a document together. For example, good documentation or a good manual does not consist of just plain text; it also contains images, graphics, tables, lists, and other elements. Conversely, this means that when writing, attention must be paid not only to the content of the document but also to coordinating the individual elements neatly in terms of the layout.

Unsurprisingly, this what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) principle is very popular. Another type of tool maintains a division between the content of a document and the layout (e.g., in web development). No one would think of mixing the layout of a web page with the page content. Instead, a style sheet is used for the layout, typically available as a CSS (cascading style sheet) file [1]. To create a layout for the web page, you only need to modify the CSS, without having to change any of the page content.

TeX, LaTeX, and Markdown

If you prefer a logical division between content and layout, you can always use text typesetting systems such as TeX [2] or LaTeX [3]. However, these tools are complex, with syntax that is not necessarily intuitive, and require a certain period of familiarization. LaTeX is, strictly speaking, only a collection of macros that are intended to simplify the use of TeX.

Markdown [4] is far easier to use. This simple markup language can be learned, and therefore also used, by anyone in a short amount of time. Another advantage is that you can write a Markdown document in any text editor – you do

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