9 Mar 2010 djcb   » (Journeyer)

Yesterday, I found that, unfortunately, advogato.org does not work anymore – it's last version was from 2004 or so, and it expects to find browser cookies in some text file. However, times have changed, and these days, those cookies are stored in an SQLite-database.

Anyway, it's actually not too hard to publish by hand. I am using org-mode in emacs, which has some light-weight markup syntax, as I discussed here. I can simply type things there, and when I am done, I run org-export-as-html. That will also put the result in my 'kill-ring' (i.e., paste buffer), so I can paste in the advogato web form, et voilà!.

LaTeX (and to a lesser extend, HTML) is sometimes promoted over WYSIWYG word processors because it allegedly focuses on the contents and allows you to describe semantics, not looks. That is only partly true, as anyone who wants to insert e.g., a table in a document can attest to: in MS-Word or Writer, it's much easier to concentrate on table contents than it is in LaTeX. Programs like LyX alleviate this to some extent, but for me it's a bit too much on the WYSIWYG side.

So, I used to endure the pain of raw LaTeX (and HTML) editing, because it still we was the least painful way to get the what I want. For LaTeX that is, book-quality rendering, with all the magic of maths, indices, numbering, source code blobs and so on. For HTML, it would be standards-compliant 'clean' blobs that I can still understand, and can paste into e.g., a blog.

However, with org-mode the pain is mostly gone! I can export to both HTML and LaTeX and it really allows me to focus only on the contents of what I want to write (as said, org-mode-markup is really lightweight); still it allows for a lot of massaging of the output if needed. I can imagine that this 'output massage' would be quite hard if I hadn't already spent quite a bit of time using 'raw' HTML and LaTeX - anyway, for me it works very well. Coming back to adding tables in documents: this is easy in org-mode, and I can even use the tables as little spreadsheets, with all the power of GNU Calc formulae.

As a bonus, I can easily generate presentations from org-mode, by exporting it through the LaTeX 'beamer' class. This works beautifully well for a lot of the presentation I do for colleagues at work: getting PDFs with the beauty of LaTeX, but without the headaches.

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