I am using LeanPub to create some manuals and it’s a very nice service. You just have to use Markdown to write your document and it generates a good looking pdf document from it. Well, as far as I’ve read today it’s actually kramdown a superset written in Ruby. Everything was fine but that my partners wanted to add a custom header image in the manual. This is not supported by Leanpub, in fact it’s not supported by Markdown as far as I know. So I decided to manipulate the pdf using my preferred OS (linux). It’s not easy!
Pdftk (the pdf toolkit) is great!
pdftk it’s a powerful command line tool to manipulate pdfs. The tool that has saved me eventually. Thanks Sid Steward! What I’ve done is:
- Use LibreOffice to insert the header image into an empty document and then save it as pdf (header.pdf)
- Use LibreOffice to create a cover for the book (cover.pdf)
- Remove the first two pages from my_book.pdf, generated by Leanpub:
pdftk my_book.pdf cat 3-end output tmp.pdf
- Add the cover:
pdftk cover.pdf tmp.pdf cat output tmp2.pdf
- Add the background:
pdftk tmp2.pdf background header.pdf output my_final_book.pdf
See more powerful examples of pdftk.
Things that didn’t work so well:
- Xournal: this tool is great when it comes to adding some text to a pdf document among other things. Probably the best pdf tool with GUI I’ve tried. However, it doesn’t support adding images or headers. There is a patch to insert images but I didn’t spend the time trying to compile it.
- PDFedit: looks powerful but I didn’t know how to use it. I could remove text from the document easily but nothing more.
- uPDF: looks interesting but it’s buggy, like experimental. It didn’t work for me, freezes when saving the document and the GUI is quite hard.
- PDF Mod: this one is looking very good! but I knew about it when I already solved the problem and didn’t try it out. The doc says it modifies pdf but I don’t know whether it supports headers/backgrounds and things like that.
- LibreOffice-pdfimport: Right, it opens up the pdf document but it looses its format and images at least for my pdf book.
- Pandoc: In desperation I tried to generate the pdf myself skipping Leanpub, from the markdown text. Pandoc is brilliant and very powerful converter. Together with latex-beamer it has generated a pdf for me:
pandoc -t beamer -o my_book.pdf -i my_book.txt
The problem was that I don’t have a nice latex template to use so I just loose all the nice formatting provided by Leanpub.
I also tried two commercial tools for Windows but none of them were very good either. The prices were reasonable so I though I would just buy them but the trial version was good enough to realize the software wasn’t good.
This story has taken me way much time I thought, I hope you save some time reading this if you face the same problem 🙂