Saturday, July 16th, 2011

I was perusing the threads at my favorite message board when I came across a thread discussing Word vs. LaTeX. I’ve always liked the idea of LaTeX but since I don’t do much writing, it’s always been far more powerful than I need. That power leads to complexity that I have to learn and manage with no gain. So I usually just turn to a word processor when I need to bang out some paragraphs. And, of course, I always get supremely frustrated with trying to use styles in Word or Pages. They work, but they’re terrible.

So I asked myself, “Why can’t writing for print be as simple as styling my blog posts with CSS?”. So I typed something similar into Google and found A List Apart’s article about writing their book in CSS.

So, people who actually produce books are thinking about it. Neat! I’m sure there’s a lot more work that could be done to ease the workflow, but the basics seem pretty solid. The only sticking-point is that the tool they use to go from CSS+HTML to PDF is an expensive piece of commercial software. I went through the article assuming it would be open-source. But alas, no.

I can’t fault anyone for making money with their hard work (I enjoy profiting from my company’s software, after all!), but I don’t think it’s something I’ll be able justify playing around with any time soon.

But, if I were a professional publishing type, I’d take a hard look at it. It feels like this sort of workflow could fit in a sweet spot between Word and InDesign.

As an aside, CSS3 is really powerful. I’m really looking forward to increased browser support for some of this stuff. And I’m not even really a web developer!

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