Converting documents using Pandoc

I’ve recently found myself needing to do a lot of document conversion, and maintaining documentation that needs to be available in a variety of formats (HTML, Word documents, Markdown and PDF). My tool of choice for this sort of thing is Pandoc, which is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, although most of my usage so far has been on Linux (it’s a command line package that outputs to Dropbox, so it doesn’t matter where it runs really).

There are instructions for installing Pandoc on quite a few platforms. I’ve found that following these is generally enough, although it’s worth installing the latest version of the .deb packages rather than the one in the Debian repositories which does odd things to some of my html.

On Debian/Ubuntu I also add the texlive-latex-extra package, but that’s largely because it gives me a specific Beamer theme I like to use.

If you’re using Pandoc on Mac OS X there is one more command you’ll need to issue prior to the first time you want to create a PDF file:

sudo ln -s /Library/TeX/texbin/pdflatex /usr/local/bin/

This will ensure Pandoc knows where to find pdflatex. If this step isn’t followed then you’ll likely get an error message along the lines of pandoc: pdflatex not found. pdflatex is needed for pdf output.

Pandoc works for me because I write everything in markdown, and Pandoc is great at taking markdown and converting it into almost anything else. The syntax is fairly simple for most document types:

For example:

pandoc -s -o output.docx
pandoc -s -o output.html
pandoc -s -o output.epub

Conversion to PDF works the same, although I’m not a fan of wide margins, so I tweak it slightly:

pandoc -V geometry:margin=1in -s -o output.pdf

For a Beamer slide show you’ll need something like:

pandoc -t beamer -V theme:metropolis -o output.pdf

Pandoc does a lot more, but the documentation is great, and the commands above should be enough to get you started.