academic writing workflow: Scrivener 3 + MultiMarkdown + ??

Jeff's Avatar


06 May, 2019 05:10 AM

I’ve been lurking around these MMD resources for a week or so now trying to revise my writing workflow, so first thank you Fletcher for creating them.

tl;dr: As a complete MMD and LaTeX beginner, what is the simplest workflow I could adopt that allows me to use existing LaTeX templates from publishers?

As a PhD student I am revising my workflow to be as efficient as possible while also avoiding having to go down the rabbit hole of LaTeX. However, since LaTeX templates are almost always provided for most of my writing projects, I want to take advantage of them to automate formatting. But I have no LaTeX experience.

My current workflow primarily consists of MacOS Scrivener 3 for writing + Papers 3 for references/library. They do play nice together with Paper’s “magic” cite key features. However, I don’t take full advantage of Scrivener’s compile features and embedded MMD functionality. I almost always end up compiling as a .doc and then doing a bit of formatting in Word before sending to colleagues. I still need to use .doc/x with colleagues from time to time.

I would like to start taking advantage of LaTex templates since 90% of my writing projects have one available, however I have never used these templates or LaTeX itself. My writing projects include:

1. PhD dissertation in University-required formatting (a LaTeX template exists).
2. Individual papers for submission to academic journals in their required formatting (often a LaTeX template exists).
3. Maintaining working versions of these papers, and generating high quality PDFs of them as needed (presumably using LaTeX to enable this, using a template).

Again, I have no need/time to go deep into LaTeX for these projects. However, what is the simplest workflow I could adopt that allows me to use existing LaTeX templates from publishers?

? Scrivener > MultiMarkdown > text editor and/or converter? > .PDF & .DOC ?

I suppose my beginner’s questions are:

- In what step of a workflow does the LaTeX template come into play? Paste template and containing LaTeX code into Scrivener?
- Do I need both a text editor (e.g. TextMate) AND a document converter program (e.g. Pandoc, MultiMarkdown Converter) as separate steps in this workflow? Or could I avoid the editor altogether and simply use a converter as the last step (or vice versa)?

Am I overcomplicating things? To summarize, what should I add to my existing Scrivener + Papers workflow in order to take simple advantage of LaTeX templates. Cheers!

  1. Support Staff 1 Posted by fletcher on 06 May, 2019 03:47 PM

    fletcher's Avatar


    TeX/LaTeX is a complex system of programs. Powerful to be sure, but complex.

    MultiMarkdown makes using LaTeX much easier, for the most common ~ 90% of things that most people do. But you still have to get into the weeds for the other 10%, or for customization of the "look and feel".

    MultiMarkdown includes some configuration to handle a few basic setups (e.g. article, memoir, tufte, etc.) The idea is that you write using MultiMarkdown, and it handles things like bold, italics, lists, chapters, etc. for you.

    If you want to use an existing template specific to a certain publisher, you would have to modify those templates to fit the file structure that would work with MultiMarkdown (this usually means splitting the template into a few different files).

    My personal workflow:

    * Use an editor (I use MultiMarkdown Composer of course) to write my document
    * The metadata in the document specifies which LaTeX "templates" are used (these are already installed on my system)
    * When I am ready to "publish", I use MultiMarkdown on the command line to convert from text -> LaTeX, and then to process the LaTeX. I use the `mmd2pdf` script to automate this.

    The conversion process takes a few keystrokes and a few seconds to run. This is all easy.

    The time investment was spent getting the system up and running the way I like it, and getting the LaTeX templates working.

    You can use any editor you want -- if it truly supports MultiMarkdown (some do, relatively few do so perfectly, except Composer of course) then you could just export to LaTeX directly. You'll definitely want to run LaTeX from the command line so you can see any errors and "debug" your document in order to fix them.

    Only you can decide if the pay off is worth the effort required. For me, the quality of the documents I generate was definitely worth it, but not everyone cares. Some people think that Microsoft Word does a fine job and it's not worth spending time on something better.

    If you decide to pursue it, there are tons of resources online for LaTeX and I've always been able to find someone who experienced the same problem I did and posted a fix somewhere. Scrivener's forums used to have an active MMD/LaTeX section. I'm not sure if they still do or not.


    Fletcher T. Penney
    [email blocked]

  2. 2 Posted by Jeff on 06 May, 2019 06:50 PM

    Jeff's Avatar

    Thanks for the quick reply Fletcher. That makes sense that most of the investment is spent getting the system up and working.

    Can you elaborate on the second step in your workflow where the use of template files come into play?

    When you say you use metadata in your document to specify which LaTeX 'template' to use ... do you mean the typical LaTeX files such as class files (.cls) and reference (.bib and .bst) files and the like which you have stored in your system directory? Thanks again.

  3. Support Staff 3 Posted by fletcher on 07 May, 2019 03:53 PM

    fletcher's Avatar

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