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I'm in my fourth year of University and there are a few mistakes that PowerPoint enables lecturers to make that drives me a bit crazy.

  • Unsearchable documents (like a PDF made of jpegs)
  • Uncopyable documents (at this point I take photos with a snipping tool and paste them)
  • Not defining variable in equations (I'm imagining tool-tips when hovering over variables)
  • Not enabling students to make corrections or augmentations (like pull-requests on GitHub)
  • Platform dependant viewers (like Word)

Obviously the only media format to achieve this is HTML. Has there been a tool created that allows a lecturer to not fall into these traps and that uses easy WYSIWYG editing? Does it have a publishing platform that makes it easy to share, correct, reference and licence these notes? Most importantly, can diagrams and equations be inserted easily and edited/remixed easily?

  • PDF can be made searchable, copyable and editable with OCR, e.g. with Adobe Acrobate Professional. Why not using Word or HTML/LaTeX with a WYSIWYG editor? You want to be able to track the authorship of every modification like in Git? – Franck Dernoncourt Aug 6 '14 at 14:16
  • Yes, tracking modifications would be important to motivate professors to accept changes quickly and efficiently. I will investigate WYSIWYG HTML editors. – Seanny123 Aug 6 '14 at 14:26
  • How about CVS + WYSIWYG HTML editors? But yes now I see more the kind of solutions you're looking for. (I had missed that you're looking for a web solution) – Franck Dernoncourt Aug 6 '14 at 14:30
  • I guess what I'm looking for is something like a Komposer add-on or view so that an academic doesn't get totally intimidated and bails. I was also hoping for it to be Online (less installation the better) and making it easy to integrate with a publisher. I understand that all these things exist separately, but sometimes you just want to point someone at one link that does it all for them, limiting the learning curve. – Seanny123 Aug 6 '14 at 14:32
  • Also OCR like Omnipage Pro can handle PDF made of jpegs and the photos you take with a snipping tool. – cybernard Aug 6 '14 at 21:44
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Check out Knowen.org! Its development is motivated by the same problems as you describe. Features:

  • Text is formatted in Markdown, LaTeX math is supported
  • WYSIWYG editor
  • Searching
  • Easy article editing and commenting
  • Organized, linked document structure

The portal is under active development now. It currently lacks features like exporting to LaTeX and PDF (only downloadable HTML now, though one can convert it with third-party programs) or convenient picture insertion (image hostings are a bit annoying).

Full disclosure: I'm one of the developers of Knowen.

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How about Markdown or ASCIIDOC? The syntax is easy to learn and it can output to a range of formats (e.g., PDF, Word, etc.) for publication. Being text based, it is also easy to put under source control (e.g. git). Finally, it is already supported by many wikis if you want collaborative work.

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Given lecturers have broad requirements and use a broad sweep of tools, yet another tool for them to work with is going to be a hurdle. Have you considered another approach which is finding something that converts files well (preserving text-content in PDFs etc) and use it to do conversion and publishing?
Libre Office and Open Office can read a large variety of document formats and produce good PDF results (even epub/html). The best results I've seen are getting good PDFs then going PDF->html5 (for another publishing option).

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