The main way I write nowadays is in either Kramdown, Org-mode or in LaTeX.

For writing blog posts, webpages, comments, emails, and the like, I generally use Kramdown. That’s because it is simple to write, follows an intuitive (to me, at least) syntax, and generally stays out of my way while I get things typed up. When I need to write something fast, get it out there, or compile it to HTML quickly, it’s my go-to markup language.

Org-mode, on the other hand, I use when I need more structure than a simple page or blog post. When a Kramdown file gets too big, I convert it over to Org-mode. And story/campaign outlines, itineraries, world building, and even straight-up writing prose are all tasks I leave solely to Org-mode.

There are many reasons, but a few of the more important ones are: I use Emacs for all of my plain text editing, and Org-mode is a part of Emacs. It exports to a lot of different formats, should I need to export my writing somewhere, including PDF, LaTex, and even Open Document Format and Microsoft Word. And it supports only the most lexical of markups, removing the temptation to fuss with CSS/SASS/whatever to make my work look better.

Finally, there’s LaTeX. And that’s really the reason I’m writing this post (if You couldn’t tell from the title). Up until now, when something is going to be printed, I wrote it in (or converted it to, and edited it in) LaTeX: Game handouts, booklets, zines, worksheets, sheet music. It let me define a template, stick my content in, and compile it to a PDF ready for the printer. No messing around with fonts or styling (after the initial setup for the document) and no problems.

Except, of course, for how old it is. Newer standards, like Unicode support, TrueType fonts, and hyperlinking in PDFs all require packages that, frankly, don’t play well together in LaTeX.

That’s why, starting today, I’m migrating away from LaTeX and towards ConTeXt.

ConTeXt is another layer on top of the original TeX system by Knuth that implements a lot of the things I found wanting in LaTeX packages as a part of its core features. I don’t need to include a package to use a different character set, or to add a hyperlink, or to use more than one column per page. That’s all baked in.

And while I’m sure in 9 years I’ll be speaking of ConTeXt like I am now of LaTeX, for now, I just need something that will work, reliably. And that’s what ConTeXt is offering me.

Once I feel comfortable with it, I’m sure I’ll talk more about it here. As it stands, I’ve only just made a “Hello World” document.

Stay Tuned.

Categories:  writing 
Tags:  context  latex  markup