Skip to content


Switch branches/tags

Name already in use

A tag already exists with the provided branch name. Many Git commands accept both tag and branch names, so creating this branch may cause unexpected behavior. Are you sure you want to create this branch?

Latest commit


Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time

Controlling Pandoc Using Rake

This directory contains a Rakefile that can compile your manuscript for you, using Rake, the Ruby Automated Build System.

Rake allows users to run predefined "tasks" that automate certain repetitive command line tasks. In this document, you will find an explanation of the directory structure this Rakefile expects, some notes on using YAML metadata to title your chapters, and a list of tasks you can run using Rake.

Quick Start

If you want to quickly get started with this Rakefile, you need to install ruby (should be included on OSX and Linux) and install Rake (run gem install rake). You will also need to install Pandoc (and Pandoc Citeproc, if you need citations) to compile your markdown files.

Once you have Ruby, Rake, and Pandoc, follow these quick steps to get started:

  1. Chapters should be named starting with numbers and stored in the chapters/ directory (for example: my-awesome-book/chapters/
    • The name after the numbers is entirely up to you!
    • I recommend zero padding (adding a leading zero to single digit numbers) for clearer file sorting.
  2. Footnotes can be stored in the my-awesome-book/chapters/notes/ directory and the number must match the chapter the notes are associated with (for example: my-awesome-book/chapters/notes/
  3. Sources can be exported as a BibLaTeX file from Zotero and stored in a .bib file of the same name as the book's root directory (for example: my-awesome-book/my-awesome-book.bib)
  4. Compile the whole book by running rake docx from the command line
  5. Compile individual chapters by running rake ch1:docx from the command line.

Expected Directory Structure

This Rakefile expects a fairly minimal, though opinionated, directory structure for writing book manuscripts in Pandoc/Markdown.

Storing Chapters

Individual chapter files are stored in a directory named chapters that contains one Markdown file per book chapter.

Chapter files must begin with numbers for this Rakefile to recognize them. Additionally, I find it useful to zero-pad (ie. 1 becomes "01" while 10 remains "10") my chapter numbers to make sure they sort correctly in OSX's Finder. This is optional.

So, for instance, a simple book might have the following directory structure:

  • chapters/

What comes after the numbers is entirely arbitrary from the perspective of this Rakefile. Name the files as you will, but file names must not contain spaces!

Writing Related Articles

If you are planning on developing articles from chapters of your book, these can be stored in a directory called articles/. The file names must not contain spaces, given how Rake compiles these articles. See "Compiling Stand-alone Articles" below for information about how to compile these.

Adding Footnotes

If you like, you can keep footnotes in a separate file.

For chapters, this Rakefile looks in chapters/notes for files that start with the same numbers as the chapter file being compiled. So for a file named, Rake will look for a file in notes/ named

For articles, this Rakefile looks in articles/notes for files that start with the same file name as the article file being compiled and end with the phrase -notes. So for a file named, Rake will look for a file in notes/ named

Writing Your Book

This section will detail a few aspects regarding expected content for each chapter file (mostly dealing with Pandoc's use of YAML metadata).

Structuring a Chapter

This Rakefile will correctly parse Pandoc metadata (which is written in YAML) within the book. So, for instance, when compiling the whole book, title metadata in each chapter will be converted to chapter titles by the Rakefile. When compiling chapters stand-alone, however, the title will be retained as the article title.

For instance, a basic chapter file might look like the following:

title: "Chapter 1: The Journey Begins"
- Software X. User

My manuscript begins!

There is no need to use a header 1 markdown tag (#) at the beginning of the file. This Rakefile will handle that for you.

Titling the Whole Book

One opinionated aspect of this Rakefile to not, the title metadata of the first file will be taken as the title of the entire book. This is why I generally recommend making use of a frontmatter file.

Using citations

This Rakefile expects citations to be stored in a BibLaTeX file (such as can be exported from Zotero). This file can be named the same as the directory your manuscript is stored in.

For instance, if you were storing your book manuscript in a directory named my-awesome-book/, creating a BibLaTex file named my-awesome-book.bib within that directory would automatically add citations to your manuscript (assuming you are using Pandoc's citeproc support).

Pandoc's citeproc support expects csl files to be stored in the .csl directory of your $HOME directory (so /Users/username/.csl on OSX or Linux).

Customizing Citations: Different Citation Standards

This Rakefile is configured to use Chicago short note format out of the box. Editing the Rakefile in a text editor, change the $csl variable at the top of the file to the name of the CSL format you would rather use (for instance "chicago-fullnote-bibliography" for full note support).

Customizing Citations: Global Bibliography

If you use a global BibLaTex bibliography, edit the Rakefile and change the value of the constant BIBLIOGRAPHY from nil to the full path of your global .bib file. For instance, if you had a bibliography file stored at ~/global.bib, you could change BIBLIOGRAPHY = nil to BIBLIOGRAPHY = '~/global.bib' and pandoc will start using your global file.

If you use Zotero and want to use an automatically updated, global bibliography, consider adding zotero-better-bibtex to Zotero.

Compiling Your Book

There are a number of tasks you can use to compile your book using this Rakefile. These tasks involve performing a fixed set of operations on a number of modes. The modes are ways of interacting with your manuscript and the operations are interactions to be performed.

Three Modes of Interacting With Your Book

This document defines three modes:

  1. As a whole manuscript
  2. As individual chapters
  3. As stand-alone articles (see "Writing Related Articles" above)

Operations To Perform On Your Book

This Rakefile can compile your document to a number of file formats supported by Pandoc. To compile them, for the operation passed to Rake (discussed below), you would type the file extension you are compiling to.

Supported file formats:

  • docx -- Microsoft Word format
  • pdf -- PDF (Pandoc requires LaTeX to be installed)
  • epub -- The ePub format
  • html -- HTML suitable for posting online

Compiling the Whole Manuscript

To compile the entire manuscript, run rake <operation name> where <operation name> is replaced with the file format you want your book compiled as. For example: rake docx for MS Word.

Compiling Individual Chapters

To compile an individual chapter, run rake ch<chapter number>:<operation name> where <chapter number> is the number of your chapter file minus any zero padding and <operation name> is replaced with the file format you want your book compiled as. For example: rake ch1:docx to compile a file named chapters/ to MS Word.

Compiling Stand-alone Articles

To compile a stand-alone article, run rake articles:<article tag>:<operation name> where <article tag> is the name of the file the article is stored in and <operation name> is replaced with the file format you want your book compiled as. For example: rake articles:article:docx to compile a file named articles/ to MS Word.


A minimal, mildly opinionated framework for writing books using Pandoc and Rake







No releases published


No packages published