The Ship of State? A question.


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Who, exactly, was Livy borrowing from when he wrote 24.8.12-13. He would have surely already had this concept in his mind. The source of the metaphor is supposedly Plato’s Republic IV, but I wonder if Livy would have read that? If he’s reading Polybius I suppose he may have been taught Greek philosophy at some stage. He probably would have read Horace Carm 1.14 O navis referent in mare te novi, traditionally titled as “To the Ship of State” but the ship in question could well have been a woman or Horace’s own life, although Quintillian Inst 8.6.44 seems entirely sure the ship in the poem, and its struggles to reach the safe harbour of pace atque concordia (Quintillian’s words), are an allegory for the state. Although I’ll note that Fraenkel, E, Horace 1957 Oxford:Clarendon Press p. 155 fn 4, appears to take umbrage at the notion that Horace’s ode was about Horace’s own life, and usually I prefer to believe Fraenkel’s lucid and learned interpretations of Horace.

Meanwhile, in book 24, Livy has Q. Fabius Maximus use this direct nautical metaphor in a speech about who should be elected the consuls for the next year (214):

quilibet nautarum vectorumque tranquillo mari gubernare potest; ubi saeva orta tempestas est ac turbato maria rapitur vento navis, tum viro et gubernatore opus est. non tranquillo navigamus, sed iam aliquot procellis submersi paene sumus; itaque quis ad gubernacula sedeat summa cura providendum ac praecavendum vobis est. (Livy 24.8.12-13)

While the sea is tranquil anyone of the sailors or passengers is able to helm (the ship); when a savage storm has arisen and the ship is ravaged by winds on a turbulent sea, then the job is for a (real) man and a (proper) pilot. We do not sail in tranquil weather, but recently we have been nearly sunk by several hurricanes; and thus (the question of) who would sit at the helm you ought to guard and give attention to with the highest of care.

The “several hurricanes” being events such as the battles of Trasimene and of course, Cannae.

I am finding it off that something of Cicero’s doesn’t seem to pop up here initially: we go straight from Plato to the poets. I should expect that there’s a rich literature on this metaphor that has somehow bypassed my research so far. Time to correct that.

Pac Rim 28 | 28th Pacific Rim Roman Literature Seminar



Pac Rim 28 | 28th Pacific Rim Roman Literature Seminar.

I can personally vouch for the Pac Rim Roman Lit Seminar; it was a great event last year and everyone I speak to who has been usually recommends it too. It’s a ‘seminar’ format, so single sessions in which everyone sits. You get a lot of really useful feedback on your paper too.

Dates: 6th July 2014 to 9th July 2014 (n.b. Sunday 6th July is the opening night reception and papers will begin on Monday 7th July)

Location: La Trobe University City Campus, 360 Collins St Melbourne Victoria 3000

Ancient and modern scholars alike have described, represented, deciphered and constructed Rome in a multiplicity of ways. Both now and in the past, writers have attempted to make sense of Rome’s identity/identities as an urban landscape, as a political entity, as a producer and consumer of culture, as an idea and as an empire. Rome is cast in a myriad of ways in literary texts: an ideal society, a fallen state, a reinvigorated civilisation, a mirror or an historical parallel, and scholars increasingly recognise that even Roman texts which nominally set their action in entirely different time periods and geographical locations or in the realms of mythology cannot escape dealing with and therefore theorising Rome itself. As a concept ‘Rome’ is flexible and mutable, and in the hands of skilled writers the boundaries of this concept might be reinforced, questioned or challenged.

This conference invites papers that examine the different ways that the idea of Rome has been, and still is, theorised in literary texts. This theme may be interpreted widely to include papers on how Rome is theorised as a literary artefact in scholarship and/or in literature. Papers on the wide range of areas which intersect with Latin literary study are invited; these include (but are not limited to) literary theory, philosophy, politics, geography and reception studies.

Papers on this theme of either 20 or 45 minutes duration are invited. 20-minute papers will be delivered in sessions of 30 minutes each and 45-minute papers in sessions of 60 minutes, to give adequate time for discussion. Depending upon the response to this call it may be necessary to limit the number of 45-minute papers to ensure that the conference does not go over time.

See the website link above for more information on submitting a paper.

Mendeley versus Papers: research software smackdown


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Regular readers of my blog may already know of the struggles I’ve had with Papers, the bibliographic database and research tool. That last link goes to what is by far (a huge margin) my single most popular blog page. That is because the Wikipedia entry for Papers links to it. But if you need verification of my negative appraisal of Papers in those posts, or in this one, just have a look at the comments. Anyway, I took the decision a couple of weeks ago to stop trying to make Papers work for me at all and try another tool in its place. Ditching it and moving over to Mendeley was relatively straightforward for me.

Mendeley web application.

The Mendeley web application interface

Mendeley comes in three major components.

The first part is the web application, where you sign up for an account. The account is free, and you get up to 2 gigabytes of storage space for your research database. If you need more you can purchase a plan to get more space. I’ve got several hundred papers in my database and it uses 600 megabytes, less than half the allocated free space. Technically, all you actually need is the web application. The Mendeley web app also has this social networking aspect, but I think these features are actually rubbish in a general sense.

The continual focus by Papers on extending its ‘social networking’, rather than fixing the serious data reliability issues and extending its core research and citation features was one of the reasons I decided to cut it loose in the end. On this account I don’t care for similar features in Mendeley. If I want to get a social network of academic research interests, there’s always That is, besides regular networking at conferences, and participating on relevant mailing lists. Mendeley uses the social network to retrieve articles off those which other people upload into their databases. Yet the usefulness of this feature is going to depend how many Mendeley users there are in your research area.

The second part of Mendeley is “Mendeley Desktop”, a free download from the site. It’s your local application that you run as a native app on your Mac or PC. It downloads your research database from your online account. It uploads any new papers that you add to the desktop app to the database in the web application. There are Desktop versions for Windows (XP and later) and Linux as well as Mac OSX. The Desktop app can also import your Papers library into Mendeley if you are converting. It directly imports your Papers2 database. I am not sure if it can import a Papers3 database. Papers3 does its darnedest to hide the database from you: you may have to export your Papers3 database to a .bib file and allow Mendeley to import that. Mendeley Desktop also has some neat features and some drawbacks compared to Papers (see below).

The third part of Mendeley is an iOS app. The Mendeley iOS app is free, unlike the Papers iOS app. For Papers, you have to buy the iOS app as a separate item to the Mac or Windows app. The Mendeley iOS app, just like the Desktop program and basic levels of web storage, is completely free. Like the Desktop app, the Mendeley iOS app syncs to the central web-based data repository. Papers2 tries to cross-sync its iOS app to the desktop via your wifi network, an inferior solution. The Papers3 iOS app syncs to your desktop via Dropbox, or iCloud. The Mendeley iOS app lets you carry around your research database on your iPhone or iPad or both. This is great for reading research articles on the train or bus, during lunch, or just sitting around under a shady tree in beautiful Queensland weather (did I mention I go to the University with the most beautiful campus in all Australia?). The Papers iOS apps have this functionality too of course, but at a cost. There is also the matter of the two different iOS apps depending whether you use Papers2 or Papers3.

There are some nice features that you gain from switching from Papers over to Mendeley:

  1. Mendeley automatically syncs its database to a nominated .bib file for BibTeX or BibLaTeX so you can always have one up to date with your research data. This is important for people like me who use plain-text tools like Pandoc and LaTeX to create and edit their articles. Having to remember when I last performed a manual export of the .bib file from Papers was a pain in the neck.
  2. Mendeley generates citation keys in much nicer format. The default is a straight author-date format (Mcphee2014). This way you don’t have to remember those awful random appendices that Papers tacked onto the end of its cite keys. And Mendeley doesn’t generate the colon between the author and the year (Mcphee:2014zkwel). To convert from the Papers format to the one used by Mendeley, I had to do a bulk ‘regular expressions’ search and replace on documents. I had already created. But that didn’t take long (because I use simple marked-up plain text as my main document format). Now it’s much nicer to insert references into my documents, as it’s easy to recall the citation key.

  3. It’s free if you have less than 2GB of PDFs (I mentioned this already but it bears repeating).

  4. I feel that Mendeley’s duplicate paper detection and merge is superior to Paper’s. But, Papers has an author merge and journal merge feature that Mendeley doesn’t. This is pretty neat when you get several variants of Author or Journal names, and Mendeley doesn’t have this feature. Instead you have to edit the offending documents one by one so all the relevant authors and journals match. This is not as nice as Papers’ superior method of dealing with duplicate authors and journals.

  5. I far prefer the central-server sync scheme used by Mendeley to the Dropbox or iCloud style database file sharing, or inter-device wi-fi sync that Papers uses. The Papers developers clearly have struggled with these latter mechanisms (and cross-sync can be hellish to do successfully at the best of times). Furthermore, Mendeley Desktop’s local configuration and data store is sqlite, a standard lightweight application storage database. This means that standard tools exist which allow a geek like me to hack into my local Mendeley database if needs be. I have found this feature useful to clean up the horrible citation keys that Mendeley imported from my Papers database. But if this last point sounds like gobbledegook to you, just remember that Mendeley’s storage of your precious research data is more reliable than Papers.

What you do lose when you switch from Papers to Mendeley is the internal search hook into the online article databases (e.g. JSTOR, Web of Science, Pub Med, ArXiv, etc). With Mendeley, you have to go to each database that you use one at a time and use their various web search facilities. Then you have to import each result into Mendeley with the supplied browser bookmarklet. This is an ugly throwback to go about searching for people used to Papers’ integrated search. Papers itself can search research databases and import the selected results directly. Mendeley does not have this feature. Yet the Mendeley website lists “Search across external databases” in the feature comparison matrix as “Almost there!” With luck, this is an important feature that Mendeley won’t lack for too long.

Mendeley can auto-import PDFs that you save into a configurable directory. When I last checked this feature out a few years ago, it didn’t read JSTOR metadata in the PDFs in a correct manner. You had to do a tedious clean up of the resultant data by hand in the Desktop app. If this applied to you, it negates the feature and creates dispiriting extra manual work. Later version may have fixed this defect, but I have not yet tried it with the current version yet. (Update 2014-09-09: I have tried this out, and it still imports PDFs from JSTOR terribly. Mendeley, please fix this defect!)

Mendeley does have a search tool for searching papers that other users have imported into Mendeley. This is helpful if you are in a field that has a lot of Mendeley users. But if you are not not, then you won’t find many results. I tried searching for something obvious in my field and got only two pages of results. Most of which I already had in my library. Any one of the relevant online databases would have given back hundreds of results. So you need a large pool of researchers in your field for this to be a great feature.

There are also some other minor drawbacks to using Mendeley.

  1. In the desktop application, online, and in the iOS app the columns you can view and sort in your research database is limited. They are not at all flexible or in anyway configurable. For example, you can’t view and sort by citation key. You can filter by publication or by Author name using a side-bar on the left. You can search you own collection though and that’s pretty flexible.
  • The reference manager, which inserts citations into documents and builds your bibliography automatically, is only available for Word. Also the documentation implies that Open Office and LaTeX options are available also. Although Word was the only option on the menu that I saw. I don’t use Word or Open Office for my research publications (and you should not either, word processors suck!). I use Pandoc so I guess I’m plumb out of luck. You can insert citations in several different portable flavours with Papers’ These include Pandoc and Multimarkdown, as well as Papers’ own format. Papers has more options for citations — if only I could have gotten it to be reliable. Both products use the CSL format for citation formatting (as does, for example, the citeproc tool which Pandoc relies on). Mendeley needs to add Pandoc and Multimarkdown citation insertion support. But, Mendeley’s sensible citation key generation, combined with Pandoc’s simple reference style, makes manual insertion of citations pretty easy: @Mcphee2014 p. 1.

  • In Mendeley, author names that have apostrophes in them, such as “O’Dwyer”, generate invalid citation keys in the .bib file (e.g. “O’Dwyer1999″). You have to perform a manual edit of the citation key in the desktop app to fix it to something valid, e.g. “ODwyer1998″. This is a known bug in Mendeley, let’s hope they fix it soon.

    However, putting up with those drawbacks beats losing research data to database corruptions! If Papers didn’t have such a large range of very fatal data reliability bugs it would have many more interesting features than Mendeley. Trust in your research database’s reliability has to be absolute for any researcher. The Papers team have left their users in the lurch on this score. Promising to fix it in future updates just doesn’t cut it. Such fatal bugs should never be in a public release. And once detected post-release, an emergency patch should be available within hours. It shows fundamental misunderstanding of software engineering principles. Mendeley, is not as flashy or as feature-rich as Papers, and lacks many advanced features, but gets the basics right. Also, the Papers developers shut down public threads on their support site, to keep negative comments being visible. This is a terrible, non-open way to approach support issues! Without a public forum, users can’t solve each other’s problems. They have to rely on official support channels only, which can take weeks to answer the simplest of queries. Or they use unreliable unofficial channels. Without public forums, critical bug reports, generated by their hasty release of a poor-quality beta version of Papers3 (that they had the gall to charge money for), overwhelmed the support staff. The desire to control what their users were saying about their product resulted in a major loss of reputation.

    I will sum up with an analogy. Mendeley is like a basic model car that is unremarkable in features and gizmos and only only comes in one color. But it gets you from A to B with pretty good fuel economy and in a reliable fashion too (imagine a 1980s Japanese sedan). In contrast, Papers is like a nice-looking car with tons of nice styling and loads of gizmos and advanced features as standard. But every third morning it won’t start without a complete oil change and full service. Once a year it tends to dump its gearbox on the freeway while you are in the middle of driving it (imagine a 1970s Fiat, Rover or Leyland). Thus, while I’d love to have a beautiful, stylish car, with all the bells and whistles, the tow truck and mechanic’s bills (and the time wasted) is killing me. And preventing me from getting to work on time, and sometimes not at all, so … no. Mendeley it is.

    Athenian Democracy and War


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    Dr. David Pritchard, Senior Lecturer in Greek History in my department at the University of Queensland, talks to Dr Anastasia Bakogianni of Open University about his research dealing with the Athenian Democracy and its relationship with Athenian war-making, for Classics Confidential’s very worthwhile video series. Visit Classics Confidential – The Dark Side of Democracy, with David Pritchard

    Obscurity and Livy 25.1 – some research notes.


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    Livy's book 25 opens with a most remarkable sequence of non-events. Almost the entirety of 25,1 seems to deal with 'unimportant' details, right from the start. For example, at the beginning we learn that Hannibal was campaigning in the Sallentine region as part of his goal to capture the city of Tarentum, and:

    Ipsorum interum Sallentinorum ignobiles urbes ad eum defecerunt (Livy 25.1.1)

    In the interim, obscure (i.e. unimportant, undistinguished) cities of the Sallentines themselves defected to him.

    These unworthy towns are left unnamed.

    But then, a certain Titus Pomponius Veientanus accidentally managed to gather the appearance of a general on account of some random actions and had apparently dashed together a disordered army (which probably should be considered a rabble, but Livy uses the proper term for 'army' i.e. exercitus, but qualified with 'irregular': tumultuarius). He promptly lost a battle with Hanno, somewhere in Bruttium, probably:

    et plures redissent, ni T. Pomponius Veientanus, praefectus socium, prosperis aliquot populationibus in agro Bruttio iusti ducis speciem nactus tumultuario exercitu coacto cum Hannone conflixisset (Livy 25.1.3)

    and more (cities) would have returned (to the Roman side), if T. Pomponius Veientanus, a prefect of the allies, accidentally gathering the appearance of a legitimate general by favorably plundering Bruttian territory several times, had not fought Hanno with an irregularly assembled army.

    Of course this army, a disordered lumpen mass of agricultural labourers and slaves (inconditae turbae agrestium servorumque), was defeated by Hanno with great loss of life, but the least notable thing about this military disaster was the capture of its leader (i.e. Pomponius), who was an unimportant waste of space:

    minimum iacturae fuit quod praefectus inter ceteros est captus, et tum temerariae pugnae auctor et ante publicanus omnibus malis artibus et rei publicae et societatibus infidus damnosusque (Livy 25.1.4)

    The least of the damage was that, along with the others, the prefect was captured, who at that time was the author of a imprudent battle, and who before that was a tax-collector skilled in every wrong-doing, and was treacherous and pernicious to both the republic and to societies.

    This obscurity, unimportant and unmemorable history extends even to Sempronius the consul, who fights many puny battles (multa proelia parva, 25.1.5) and forcibly subdued a range of 'unimportant' Lucanian towns (ignobilia oppida Lucanorum aliquot expugnavit, 25.1.5).

    All of these obscure and unworthy people, towns and events, aren't worth mentioning, really. Except of course, they are! Livy even names one of the unimportant people and expends a sentence telling us about his terrible life and what thoroughgoing rotter he really was. He's even mentioned again, by name, later in connection with another tax-collector at 25.3.9, relating to a species of ancient insurance fraud involving 'pretend shipwrecks' (falsa naufragia). This last event leads to a state crisis all through 25.4.

    Then, immediately following these repeatedly obscure and un-note-worthy, yet briefly noted, events, at 25.1.6, we're now told that at Rome, due to the uncertain nature of events with wins and losses on both sides, men are now grasped by superstition, and proper Roman rites are abandoned, not just in the home, but in public too. In the forum and on the Capitoline, a crowd of women gathered and obeyed the customs of the fathers in neither sacrifices nor in prayers to the gods. 'Sacrificers and soothsayers' captured the minds of men (sacrificuli et vates ceperant hominum mentes), and rustics crowded the city abandoning their farms and profiting from ignorance. All this badness naturally led to civil disorder, and so the Senate ordered the city praetor to take the task in hand.

    A contione was held and the praetor read the senate's decree, and order that books of prophesies and prayers or sacrificial guidelines written down must be surendered to him by April, and that no foreign or novel ritual was allowed to be performed in any public or consecrated place.

    And straight after this we are given a list of state priests that died that year, at 25.2.1-2. Surely an ill omen.

    Are these matters like the lists of prodigies which often open important sections of Livy? What to make of them? Why do these obscure events lead to an outbreak of public superstition? (Proximity in Livy is often a good indicator of 'causation'). Bear in mind the large, early losses of the Romans against the Carthaginians, such as at Trasimene and Cannae, three years before, are starting to fade into the background of Hannibal's campaign in the south of Italy, and an increasing focus on Spain and Sicily. It's not really until 25.6 that the focus starts to move off internal politics and the dangerous instability engendered by the clash of the tax-famers and the plebs at 25.4. But even 25.6 is about the disgraced veterans of Cannae and their pleading to Marcellus to be allowed to recover their honour. At 25.7.7-8 there is the list of the usual types of prodigies which must be then expiated at 25.9. It's a very confused and muddled beginning, for Livy's third decade at least, like we are leading up to a major military disaster.

    But in this book, one of the greatest military triumphs ever accomplished by a Roman – the capture of Syracuse ('the most beautiful of the Greek cities') by Marcellus – is about to be recorded from 25.24 onwards.

    I wonder if the connection between these 'facts of obscurity', corrupt tax-farmers, political instability, and the capture of Syracuse is the fact that the booty that Marcellus stripped from Syracuse (which is no longer visible in the city of Rome, in Livy's day, i.e. obscure), is also connected, via Livy's preface,to the blame he places on luxuria for 'modern' Rome's moral downfall? More research required.

    Pandoc referencing for Sublime Text 3: a plugin


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    I have been writing my thesis using the Pandoc markup format which is a flavour of Markdown. Recently I also switched to using the Sublime Text plain text editor for this purpose. As Sublime Text is fantastically extensible with easy-to-write Python 3.3. plugins, thus on week nights I’ve also been building some tools that help me with some of the basic Pandoc/Markdown mark up text. In particular that bane of all those who write theses of any sort: footnotes and references.

    I wrote the plugin PandocReferencr. It’s available in the Package Control system for Sublime Text (to install, type CMD-SHIFT-P (CTRL-SHIFT-P on Windows and Linux), type “Package” select “Package Control: Install” from the drop down menu, wait until it fetches the package list, then type “Pandoc Ref” and select the package to install).

    There are two main commands: one (check_footnotes) scans the current file and makes sure every footnote that has been inserted has a corresponding entry somewhere else in the file. It also checks if every footnote text entry also has a footnote insert to match.

    This block of footnoted Pandoc/Markdown has two errors and one successful footnote. 
    This text has a successful footnote.[^footnote1] This bit of text has a footnote 
    that's broken because it doesn't have the matching text entry.[^notexist0]
    [^footnote1]: this is the text of the successful footnote number 1.
    [^missing1]: there is nowhere that inserts the 'missing1' footnote.

    The other useful command (insert_footnote) asks for a footnote id (if you have selected any text, it uses the selection as the default), and then inserts it at the end of the selection (if nothing is selected it acts as expected – inserts at the current cursor position). Then it asks for the footnote text data, and when that’s completed (i.e. you press enter) it puts the footnote text at the end of the current buffer (i.e. at the end of the file).

    I’ve got some other ideas for functionality to add in the near future, like:

    • default key bindings installed with the package

    • stop the crazy big warning dialogue for files with many (>15 or so) footnote referencing errors 😳

    • manual-fix and auto-fix broken footnote refs found

    • ability to put footnote text after each paragraph the footnote insert appears in rather than the end of the entire file, by configuration.

    • footnote clean up, i.e. move footnotes to paragraphs or all to end of file according to user preference of footnote placement (above).

    • footnote auto-renumbering, with automatic prefixing.

    • restrict to working with only relevant markdown and pandoc contexts (currently doesn’t care what sort of file it’s invoked in).

    Papers App – Junk that corrupts your research database


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    My latest support email to the Mekentosj Papers support – who rarely answer support emails anyway. They don’t dare have a public forum like nearly every other software company because it would be flooded with complaints. This particular complaint applies to Papers version 2, which I had to go back to after I found Papers 3 to be unusable junk. Turns out the same thing applies to the Papers 2 version. I wonder how much other research articles it has managed to disappear? I’m sick of it. I want my money back. I’m going to sick a lawyer onto them for the 70 euro refund just from the principle of the thing.

    If your data integrity is shite then it doesn’t matter diddly squat how many dancing gizmos and nice icons your so-called beautiful interface has. I want a research database that doesn’t lose articles then insists the article is still in its database when it’s plainly not.

    I found today a citekey reference for [an] item in an oldish article using a cite key, that clearly I [once] had [in my papers database]. I even found the article title in a manually list of references in the article.

    I looked for the article in the Papers 2 database. Nothing.

    Then I searched for the article in JSTOR using Papers. It didn’t find it. Papers search is unreliable, terribly unreliable, so I went manually to JSTOR and found the article. Pasted the JSTOR URL into a new browser window of Papers. Imported OK. Then I decided the easiest thing would be to assign the original citekey to the item. Edited the article’s details.

    Changed the citekey. Papers warns me there is an item with the same citekey in the database already!

    Looked at the list of every item in the papers2 database sorted by citekey. The citekey is not to be found in the database. Conclusion: Papers database corrupted again.

    I just paid for an “upgrade” to Papers3 and that was unusable for other reasons (Citations busted). I’ve paid for your product (Papers2) twice. I want my money back. Every time I open it, there’s some new random problem with it. You don’t answer your support calls. Everything about your product is is either junk or corrupt or broken or a black hole which you never answer questions about serious problems.

    I want my money back. Give me my money back or talk to my lawyers.

    Fragments of the Roman Historians


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    What do we know about the works that have been lost? From the evidence of surviving texts we can recover the names of over one hundred Roman historians who lived and worked in the centuries between around 200 BC and AD 250 (that is, roughly, from the time of Hannibal’s defeat to the start of the barbarian invasions). Some are little more than names, but in most cases we can recover something about their lives and the scope and content of their historical works; the evidence consists of quotations, references and allusions in the works of later authors whose texts do happen to survive. By collecting these fragments (as they are conventionally called) we can attempt to reconstruct at least a vague outline of the lost works, and gain some idea of the history and development of Roman historical writing, as well as extracting crucially important pieces of evidence for Roman history itself.

    A new Fragments of the Roman Historians has been published … I can’t wait until its available in my University Library, but I’ll have to wait until they get it. It’s £275.00 to buy in it three-volume hardcover binding. No electronic edition.

    Write your thesis in Plain Text!


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    I really don't understand why most people in the Humanities insist on using Microsoft Word to write their material. Universities habituate their undergraduate humanities students to Word and they really ought to stop it. I recently got a shock to my anti-Word stance when I wrote an article and was looking to submit it to a journal that only takes MS Word format articles. The journal also had a really nasty custom citation format, which complicated it even further.

    In the past I've written about using LaTeX and other tools to write my PhD. I start in Scrivener, and export to LaTeX for layout. LaTeX of course won't export to Word's .docx format without a lot of rigmarole. I needed another tool.

    On the other hand Scrivener has excellent abilities to work with snippets of text, which are presented as index cards which you can rearrange – excellent for organising your thoughts and notes. Its only major defect is that it uses RTF underneath the hood to store your text. They suggest using Multimarkdown format (and have some built in tools to support it) but the underlying data is still saved in RTF replete with WYSIWYG markup. You have to fiddle with it in order to force it look like a plain text editor (e.g. set the font to Courier). The developers should just create a "plain text mode" which not only behaves like a plain text editor – it also stores the content as plain text. This one flaw prevents me from fully embracing Scrivener. Nowadays for me it's just an organisation tool I use when my writing needs to be extensively re-organised.

    Instead I've fully embraced Markdown syntax in plain text files via a tool called Pandoc. This is a command-line tool that converts to and from many formats. It can convert Markdown to RTF, DOCX, HTML, LaTeX, or PDF (via LaTeX) among many others. Pandoc has saved my bacon! It also has some excellent markup extensions that support things like citations, and it can integrate with bibliography data like .bib files, via bibLaTeX coupled with custom-styled CSL citation formats that allow me to produce the desired citation style in all target formats. So I write in this Pandoc-extended Markdown format and export to LaTeX/PDF or Word or RTF as necessary. The plain text files that make up my thesis and article writing as version-controlled via git on github – not that you'll see my thesis there, as it's in a private repository, sorry!

    My editor of choice is Sublime Text. It was BBEdit, which still sometimes gets used for some things. Sublime Text is easily extensible via Packages, and it's easy to program your own. I wouldn't fully recommend Sublime Text to a non-programmer though – even the preferences are just stored as files with JSON objects! I'm still running Pandoc on the command line at the moment rather than using one of the Pandoc integration packages in Sublime Text.

    I also had a look at [Ullysses III]. However it doesn't really fully support academically-styled Markdown – it doesn't know how to do Pandoc's citations for example. Also it tends to default to write its files into Apple's iCloud, which means you can't get at them on the command line. Although you can import 'external' folders into it, it's much more of a tool for 'creative' writers who just need simple formatting in plain text rather than academics who need to do complex things with citations and maybe tables, diagrams, and LaTeX math snippets, which are important to people in physics, maths and computer science.

    In short, I am quite happily using plain text files and Pandoc to organise all my writing needs. Plain text being plain text, I can easily switch tools to handle specific tasks which that tool is particularly better at. I can write my thesis on my iPad (and I frequently do, using a bluetooth keyboard, which makes a fantastic portable writing toolkit). I can reproduce any journal's custom citation format easily (and switch between them), and target whatever document format they prefer. I can still use LaTeX for its fantastic layout abilities which creates far nicer looking PDFs than Word ever can. And if anyone still requires it in Word format, I can send them that too. You'll find yourself having less nightmares than you will with Word doing weird things to your formatting, and more to the point, when you need to just write using plain text allows you get all those jumping Microsoft distractions and hideous "ribbon" menus out of the way and concentrate on just the thing you need to say.

    Update: If this sound terribly technical, this is a sample of how to write in Pandoc/Markdown:

    #The header of this text is easily readable#
    Writing in Pandoc is super-easy. Fire up your plain text editor 
    (e.g. Notepad or TextEdit) and start writing now! A guide - this 
    is in *italics*, this is **bold** and this has a footnote.[^footnote] 
    Blank lines separate paragraphs.^[this is a pandoc-only inline 
    [^footnote]: the 'footnote' reference text must be unique. Pandoc will 
    auto-number it. The footnote text can be at the end of the document or 
    after the paragraph, it doesn't matter. You can also create references 
    as follows: [@ACitationReference1999 p. 1] says so. Pandoc will invoke 
    your chosen bibliographic software to extract the reference and format 
    the citation according to your chosen citation format.