(Emacs+Org-Mode) Choosing The Best Writing And Publishing Software

In regards to writing and publishing literature (mostly articles, books, essays, and dissertations) there is a lot of discussion about choosing the right (software) tools for the job. And for good reason—literary endeavors are mentally laborious difficult work. As anybody would expect the software should help you a lot. At best you only want to worry about choosing the right software to help you write.

Yet the sad and all too common reality is that you are really worried about choosing the software that is the least-worst painful impediment to your creative process. Discussions that praise particular tools are pretty difficult to take any value from until you’ve suffered greatly at the hands of the tools deemed inferior by them. When people are suffering that is the worst time to get their feedback. First get them better, then find out what works and what doesn’t.

This post is what I’ve got to share with you, when I am feeling pretty great about life, and have something good to share about the topic, in regards to \(\LaTeX\) and Org-Mode.

If you are considering using \(\LaTeX\) and Org-Mode for some reason then please read on:

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How The Heck Are You Supposed To Choose Your BibTeX Keys?!

There are plenty of ways to do it and this article is one of the best.

It’s checklist is worth reviewing nearly every time you work directly with your BibTeX file.

Here is a copy of the checklist:

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The difference between org-ref and org-bibtex

In case you were wondering, here is an answer:

Some features could be merged, but there is an important difference in that org-ref uses bibtex as the backend database, and reftex for searching, and org-bibtex uses org-mode headings as the backend database, and tag/property searches (I think). It is like the difference between org-contacts and bbdb. They both serve similar needs, but with different data sources, and different ways to think about it.

Both approaches are quite nice. Sometimes it seems easier to be able to share the original, not exported, database with folks even though technically it makes no difference what is the system or origin for that data!

AcroTEX and eqExam for the Truly Impatient

eqExam is just a wonderful LaTeX package for writing things like exams and quizzes. It takes into account most of what you are about right out of the box like whether you are proctoring the exam online or in printed form and whether you want an answer key printed or not. Here is an example of something that I threw together quickly by hacking up one of the example tests.
There are even really advanced things like exporting the answer data for automatic electronic submission; it’s got me really curious how people are using this in the wild.
Setup is really easy, the only caveat is that you must use MiKTEX version 2.8. Version 2.9 seems not to run at this point.
If you have never set up MiKTEX or eqExam before then my directions are attached here. Please let me know how it worked for you if you try them out.
One big question for some of you is why you would use something like this rather than MS Word or Adobe Acrobat Pro and it is a good question. The only answer that I can share is why it is so valuable for me… it is because you get to use all of the power of LaTeX to generate PDF forms and exams. That might sound like not a big deal, but if it doesn’t then you should really dig deeper into LaTeX to see how it could help you to better communicate.