With Pith

Ethan Petuchowski

Markdown to LaTeX

Installation guide for Mac OSX

One day, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Markdown to LaTeX converter.” Theoretically, one could combine these two tools to quickly create beautiful documents. That’s how I found Multimarkdown which is basically a souped up version of regular markdown. The documentation made it sound like this would be a breeze, but it actually took me way to long to get this to work on my machine. So I made a step-by-step guide.

For the uninitiated, Markdown is a simplified way of writing html markup. If you don’t know about it please check it out. It is in fact how this very webpage was created.

Then today I had to install it all over again on a different computer. To save my future self and you a lot of trouble, this time I noted what I did to get it to work (Mac OSX only).

Install a lot of software

First you must install homebrew the lifesaving Mac package manager.

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.github.com/Homebrew/homebrew/go/install)"

Then you should install multimarkdown et al. by running

brew install multimarkdown pkg-config glib gettext

I’m not sure every one of those is necessary, but I don’t have another computer to test which ones can be left out. Probably at least the first one is necessary.

Now go to the Mac App Store and buy MultiMarkdown Composer for $12. Or don’t, it isn’t actually necessary, but I like that it live-renders LaTeX equations and has a hotkey for exporting markdown to different formats. You can export using the command-line too and that’s also quite simple (and free) (see below for script).

Install TeXworks. This is a gui for running LaTeX commands, and it’s free, but again you can use the terminal for anything you can do in here if that’s your thing.

Get the base latex installation and multimarkdown template files

Download the multimarkdown latex support files from github. And put them in a (likely new) directory called ~/Library/texmf/tex/latex/mmd. Personally, I put the files in …/texmf/text/latex/… and that cost me a half-hour of my life so do yourself a favor and just copy and paste the following command

mkdir -p ~/Library/texmf/tex/latex/mmd
mv myunzipped_latex_support_files ~/Library/texmf/tex/latex/mmd

Install mactex-2013. For whatever amazing reasons, you can’t use homebrew for this. You have to go to that website, download a 4+ GB file and run the installer.

Create your first latex-ready markdown document

Now create a file Yayaya.md in Multimarkdown Composer (or Vim or whatever) and paste the following header at the top, verbatim:

latex input:        mmd-article-header
Title:              Hello Dr. Fourier
Author:             My Name
Base Header Level:  1
latex mode:         memoir
Keywords:           Math, DSP, Digital Signal Processing, Fourier Transform
CSS:                http://fletcherpenney.net/css/document.css
xhtml header:       <script type="text/javascript" src="http://cdn.mathjax.org/mathjax/latest/MathJax.js?config=TeX-AMS-MML_HTMLorMML"></script>
copyright:          2014 My Name
latex input:        mmd-natbib-plain
latex input:        mmd-article-begin-doc
latex footer:       mmd-memoir-footer

That was just telling Multimarkdown how to format the LaTeX output. After that paste the actual contents of the document, e.g.

# Simpler LaTeXing #

## The Fourier Transform ##

**Sometimes** *this* formula comes in quite handy.

### The Formulation ###

What follows is the formula for the Fourier transform.


Then go to file->export-> "Export as: asdf" , "Format: LaTeX" (or use the script below).

This should have produced the following raw latex file:

\def\mytitle{Hello Dr. Fourier}
\def\myauthor{My Name}
\def\keywords{Math, DSP, Digital Signal Processing, Fourier Transform}
\def\mycopyright{2014 My Name}
\part{Simpler LaTeXing}

\chapter{The Fourier Transform}

\textbf{Sometimes} \emph{this} formula comes in quite handy.

\section{The Formulation}

What follows is the formula for the Fourier transform.




Open asdf.tex in TeXworks (if you used the script verbatim, it will be in ~/Desktop/Latex), hit the green “play” button in the top-left corner. A bunch of garbage will pile up in the Console Output area, but then your beautiful PDF will have been generated. This is just stellar, I’m telling you. Now you can open the asdf.pdf file in your favorite pdf viewer.

Bask in its glory

How about that. Hmm, indeed.

Comprehensive troubleshooting guide

If in the console of TeXworks, you get something like mmd-article-header.tex: not found, it means you put the multimarkdown-latex-support files in the wrong place or you forgot to download them or something. Because I kept getting that error message I was convinced there was some command I needed to run to tell mactex that this new directory exists on my machine and contains latex templates. Believe: there is no such command, mactex just looks in this directory of its own accord.

Much simpler, use my script

# open mmd as pdf, saved in ~/Desktop/Latex
function mtx {
    TEX_NAME=$(basename "$1" | sed s'|.md|.tex|')
    PDF_NAME=$(basename "$1" | sed s'|.md|.pdf|')
    multimarkdown -t latex "$1" > "$TEX_LOC"
    pdflatex --output-directory "$LATEX_DIR" "$TEX_LOC" > /dev/null
    open -a /Applications/Preview.app "$LATEX_DIR"/"$PDF_NAME"

This assumes you have a directory on your Desktop called Latex. For now, I’m comfortable just having that there polluting that desktop. If you’re not, you can change LATEX_DIR, or add something like the following to the script.

mkdir -p "$LATEX_DIR"
... # create pdf
rm -rf "$LATEX_DIR"

You run the script like

$ mtx My\ Markdown\ File.md

and next thing you know, a Preview window opens with your beautiful document.

Then after you’ve made changes to the document, run the command again, and the new version will show up in the same window.