Tools for Writing a Book

Posted by Jan Vantomme on 11 November 2012.
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In this short article, I’ll take you through the applications I’ve used to write my book on Processing. I’ve mainly used three small pieces of software to keep my productivity high: iA Writer, Github for Mac and MiniShadow.

Distraction-free writing

To deliver each chapter for my book to my publisher, I had to use Microsoft Word with the exact formatting they need to style the book for layout. I don’t like word processing software. It’s usually bloated with features I don’t need, and it doesn’t give me the typographic control I’m used to. As for writing, it’s even worse, so I’ve used iA Writer. It’s a great app with a minimal interface, so you can focus on writing, and it uses markdown to format the text. In the end, I still had to use Word to format the text, but not using it to write saved me some headaches.

Syncing Across Computers

The fact that iA writer uses markdown for formatting made it really easy to sync my content across all my computers. I’ve created a private Github repository to store all my code examples and markdown files. A nice thing about writing in markdown, is that Github automatically converts it to html when you view these files on the website. Using Github also made it easier to test the code on different operating systems, and different versions of Processing.

Cleaning up Screenshots

When you take screenshots on Mac OS X using Cmd + Shift + 4 and the spacebar, you’ll end up with an image of the window you need. Unfortunately, this image will also include the default Mac OS X shadow. To avoid manual cropping, I’ve used MiniShadow by Blue Crowbar Software. This nifty app removed the nasty shadows automatically, and made my screenshots ready for publishing. No more cropping in Photoshop saved me a lot of time, so that $2 for the app was spent really well.

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Oldskool Comments (3)

Gravatar for Marcin

From: Marcin
Date: 13.11.2012

Hi you can disable screenshot shadows by typing in the Terminal: defaults write com.apple.screencapture disable-shadow -bool true You’ll then need to restart SystemUIServer by killing it: killall SystemUIServer And boom! No shadows anymore :)

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Gravatar for Jan Vantomme

From: Jan Vantomme
Date: 14.11.2012

I know. Discovered that trick after buying MiniShadow. Love MiniShadow though because you can also use it to add more subtle shadows and create PNG's with or without transparent pixels.

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Gravatar for Ángel

From: Ángel
Date: 26.12.2012

Nice advices! Now adding Shiffman experience with Nature of Code it's pretty clear that auto-edition is a really good point to start. Thanks & regards.

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