First Steps with GraphViz

This year I moved my whole presentations toolchain over to LaTeX and PDF, and where I added diagrams (which doesn't happen a lot!) I used graphviz to generate them. Graphviz is a way of describing items and their relationships in a textual manner, and rendering them into a graph - and the results can be saved as an image, or included in LaTeX documents.

I found graphviz frustrating at times but on the whole it draws clean, symmetrical graphs far beyond anything else I can manage, even if I do use a mouse or tablet. Since I'm not able to use a pointing device on a regular basis, and I'm marking up my presentations in text also, it turned out to be a really good fit. I thought I'd share how I got on with it and some of my own graphs - as much to remind me next time conference season comes around as anything.

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Marking up Tables in LaTeX

Recently I've been writing a LOT of LaTeX for slides (using powerdot) and I'm trying to collect some of what I've learned here so I can refer back to it later (and so it'll be in words I can understand, some LaTeX documentation is slightly too academic for my tastes!)

I find the default formatting for table output in LaTeX can look a bit ... squashed, so I always precede my tables with this:

\renewcommand{\arraystretch}{1.5}

To define a table, you use the tabular keyword and define your columns using l, r or c depending whether you want each one right, left or centre justified:

\begin{tabular}{l | l}

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Slide Markup with LaTeX: First Steps

Since starting to create (a large number of) presentations using LaTeX, I've been impressed at how easy this is to pick up and also how quick it is to work with marked up content rather than dragging objects around in Impress or equivalent. With that in mind, I thought I'd outline the very basics of the markup (with probably more snippets to follow as I discover them).

Start at the very beginning

First of all, LaTeX templates are fussy things, start with someone else's outline (for example the one Dave posted, which I use), or one you made earlier. There is some preamble and then the main contents of the presentation go between the \begin{document} and \end{document} bits.

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Creating Presentations with LaTeX

This spring/summer, I'm giving quite a few talks at conferences, and I have a number of my own clients that I'm writing new training materials for. That's a lot of content in total and so, inspired by Dave's article about LaTeX and powerdot (and with some help from Dave himself!), I've started to write my own presentations this way too.

Getting started was a struggle, I've never really used anything like it before and if there's one thing LaTeX doesn't do well, it's error messages! The blog post I linked above has a sample presentation in it and I used that as my starting point. The source code goes in a file with a ".tex" suffix, e.g. presentation.tex. I then installed the texlive-latex-extra, latexmk, vim-latexsuite, latex-fonts-recommended and texlive-fonts-extra packages from aptitude, and generated a PDF by running:

latexmk -f -pdfps presentation.tex

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