So you need to get your nifty Word doc into a format that can be used on the web, handled by a wide variety of editors, or — if you’re like me — included in a git repository.
The Problem: You Created Your Content in Microsoft Word
Isn’t that always a problem?
OK I’m not a Microsoft fan these days—almost across the board. Haven’t been for many years.
But not long ago I created a massive proposal for a client that we’re partnering with for some projects. Our client is a Microsoft shop through and through, and I’ve been forced to install Microsoft Teams on my Linux machine to collaborate with their crew. This has actually been a surprisingly good experience—allowing me to use Microsoft Word on Ubuntu. (Yes, this could have been done in the browser, but I find the desktop client for Teams to be quite good.)
But now we need to be able to repurpose and reuse much of the content in the proposal in future proposals, which will require a fair amount of editing, version control, change tracking, etc.
Sure. This could theoretically be done in Microsoft Word, but we all know that git is a much better tool for that job, am I right?
The Goal: Edit Content from Word in a git Repository
From a high-level viewpoint, what I want to do is create a modular set of content elements that can then be loaded into the client’s proposal generator tools with nice formatting.
The Process: Converting a .DOCX File into a Markdown File Using pandoc
I engaged in some trial and error (details below if you’re interested), but for my purposes, pandoc was the tool for the job. Since it’s written in Haskell, there’s an installer for Windows, MacOS, various flavors of Linux … heck, there’s even something for ChromeOS and a Docker image, to boot!
Time needed: 5 minutes.
Download and install pandoc
Save yourself some trouble download the latest release from the pandoc GitHub repository. Ubuntu’s package manager had a very outdated version, but the release in the code repository includes a handy .deb file, which was exactly what I needed for my system.
Open a command prompt and navigate to the folder where your Word doc is located
On Ubuntu, I hit CTRL+ALT+T to open a new terminal window, and then changed directories:
where MyFolder is the name of the directory where your Word doc is located.
Convert the file
Running pandoc is relatively straightforward for a job like this:
where MyWordDoc.docx is the name of the Word document you want to convert and MyWordDoc.md is the name of the output file (call yours anything you want, but it’s useful to name it with a .md file extension).
Frankly, this yielded fantastic results for me. The proposal was intentionally crafted with relatively simple formatting, so there weren’t too many bizarre elements to worry about.
That said, even a cursory glance at the pandoc documentation reveals that it has substantial capabilities. I’m filing that one away for future reference! For now, I’m not even scratching the surface of what it can do.
Huge thanks to John MacFarlane for building pandoc and making it available!
That’s it! I hope this helps! Feel free to throw a comment below one way or the other.
Since I got such great results, that was where I stopped. But I certainly could have tried a more recent version of unoconv to see what it might be capable of doing. And I’m sure there are other ways to accomplish this, but I’ll be sticking with pandoc for now.
Be sure to let me know what you’ve discovered or run into. I’d be very interested in hearing about it! Just drop a comment below. Thanks!
Recently, I wrote about the book, Learn to Program With Minecraft, and shared my experience getting set up to use the book with Ubuntu instead of with Windows or Mac OSX.
Yesterday I learned that the author of that book, Craig Richardson, appeared on this week’s episode of Triangulation with Leo Laporte. It’s a fun episode… they set up Leo’s Mac to run a local Minecraft server, and test out a bunch of fun stuff from the book. Well worth the watch!
Update 3/20/2016: Thanks to one of our readers, Fabrizio Fazzino, for pointing out that a software update since these instructions were prepared makes it necessary to modify them. Specifically, we’re changing how the Spigot Server component gets installed & used. I’ve updated the instructions below accordingly.
Also, he’s prepared a more succinct set of instructions that summarizes the steps. If you’re not interested in learning as much about how and why this works, I’d recommend you check my “Quick Note About Folder Structure” (in the yellow box below) and then follow his instructions in this comment, which Fabrizio was kind enough to post here since his original blog post is no longer accessible to the public.
Python is a programming language that I’ve long wanted to get acquainted with, and since she loves Minecraft so much, I felt like this book would be an ideal way for my daughter to also gain some exposure to it.
The only problem? We each use the Ubuntu distribution of Linux instead of Windows or Mac OSX.
You wouldn’t think this would be a problem: Minecraft is built in Java, which runs without a problem on Ubuntu (and many other platforms). Python is readily available for Ubuntu. Seems like a no-brainer, right?
Well… not quite. After the Amazon box arrived, I spotted this note on the back cover of the book:
The code in this book will run on Windows 7 or later, OS X 10.10 or later, or the Raspberry Pi. (See the last page for detailed requirements.)
No problem! The Raspberry Pi runs a special distribution of Linux called “Raspbian,” which is a version of Debian Linux, which is the upstream version of Linux that Ubuntu is based on. In other words: Raspbian & Ubuntu are cousins.
It seems reasonable, then, that if you can get this stuff working on the Raspberry Pi, then a much more powerful laptop running Ubuntu should be great!
Even more encouraging, there’s a nifty footnote at the bottom of Page 1 of the Learn to Program With Minecraft book which reads:
Since the book had already been out for a few weeks, this note gave me hope that perhaps some instructions for setting up all the tools on Ubuntu might’ve already been added. Unfortunately, this is not the case (yet, anyway).
So… I decided to try to do it anyway. Since author Craig Richardson and the No Starch Press team had prepared download packages for the Mac & Windows platforms, I figured that at the very worst, there would be some clues in those packages that might help me get going.
Getting Minecraft & Python Set Up On Ubuntu
First, here is a simple set of requirements (as I understand them) for you to be able to use the instructions in the Learn to Program With Minecraft book on Ubuntu:
Minecraft – this is the game itself. If you don’t already have a license for the game, you’ll need to pick one up and install it. “Installing” Minecraft for Ubuntu is quite easy: simply download the .jar file from your Mojang account and launch it. We had done this long ago, so this step was already completed for us.
Python – This is the programming language you’re learning. More on finding & installing it in a moment.
Java – while you probably have a basic interpreter (the “runtime environment”) for Java already, you’ll need the Java Development Kit to run this next tool..
Spigot Server – This is Minecraft “server” software, which you can run on the same computer that Minecraft will run on. You need this because the Python connection to Minecraft relies on a server plugin that you can’t just run with your plain old Minecraft installation.
Minecraft Python API (py3minepi) – It turns out that this connection between Python and Minecraft was originally developed especially for the Raspberry Pi. The way I understand it, this tool is an API for Minecraft that works with Python. You need it.
Raspberry Juice Some brave souls created Raspberry Juice as a way to run the Python/Minecraft connection on other platforms (not just the Raspberry Pi). When you follow the instructions in the book for Windows or Mac, this little gem is bundled in. But if you’re installing from scratch for Ubuntu, you’ll need to get it yourself. Not realizing this, I installed all the other tools and ran into a really nasty error that I couldn’t get around:
This error message was the part of the installation that was trickiest to resolve, but after a bit of digging, I was able to work it out.
The detailed instructions for each of these items follows (below). The one note I’d like to insert here is this:
I’m using Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, so your installation steps may vary somewhat if you’re using a different Ubuntu version.
Installing Python 3
You actually need 3 separate items that fall under the Python 3 heading:
Python 3 (the programming language itself)
IDLE (the development environment for Python, a/k/a the place where you’ll type commands and write programs)
PIP (the “package manager” for Python). You need this to install
For packages that are developed for Ubuntu, I tend to prefer using the “Ubuntu Software Center” to install stuff like this.
The only “gotcha” with Python is that there are a number of software versions and tools and so forth. So… launch the Software Center and search “python3” (with no space).
You should see a listing that says something like, “Interactive high-level object-oriented language (default python3 version)”
That’s the one you want. Do yourself a favor and click on “more info” so you can check the box for “IDLE 3” while you’re at it.
Install those, then run a similar search for “python3-pip” so you can use the package manager.
Prefer the command line to the Software Center?
Here are the commands to get python installed if you’d rather do this than use the Software Center. You’ll need to open a terminal to run these:
From the Ubuntu Software Center, just search “openjdk-7” and look for the “headless” option (this is lighter weight because it doesn’t include a GUI).
Or from the terminal:
sudo apt-get install openjdk-7-jre-headless
Installing Spigot Server
Update 3/20/2016 As I mentioned in the update at the top of this post, Spigot Server has released a new version: 1.9. Since the other components we’re using have not yet (as of today) updated to accommodate this, you’ll need to make sure that you download Spigot 1.8.8 and use it even though it is not the most recent version available.
Spigot is one of the most popular Minecraft server options, and is a necessary component in order to get Python & Minecraft talking to each other.
Getting the server software up & running is a matter of compiling the latest version. This reference page from the Spigot wiki is the one I used, and it seems to stay up to date. However, since it contains the instructions for multiple platforms, I’ll endeavor to simplify here.
One item to install first that will make this simpler is git. You’re going to need a terminal window anyway, so I’d recommend going ahead and opening it now and running this command to install git:
To help make things easier on yourself, you might find it useful to use a somewhat similar folder structure to the one described in Learn to Program with Minecraft for the Windows & Mac users.
To accomplish this for myself, I opened the “Files” application and browsed to my “Documents” folder, then created a new folder called “MinecraftPython”, then inside that folder another called “MinecraftTools”.
I recommend moving the BuildTools.jar file that you just downloaded into that “MinecraftTools” folder.
To do this, you have a few options:
You can drag and drop using 2 “Files” windows, or
you can cut & paste if you just have one of those windows open.
Otherwise, you can move the file from the command line in a Terminal window with something like: mv ./Downloads/BuildTools.jar ./Documents/MinecraftPython/MinecraftTools/BuildTools.jar. Of course, you’ll need to modify that command to suit your particular situation (if you’re using a different folder structure or starting from a different location in your Terminal window than I did, for example).
Once that’s done, from your Terminal window, you’ll need to change directories to the location of your BuildTools.jar file. Depending upon where you’re starting from, that might mean a command that looks something like: cd ./Documents/MinecraftPython/MinecraftTools.
Then you’ll want to execute these 2 commands:
git config --global --unset core.autocrlf
java -jar BuildTools.jar This needs to be tweaked to make sure you use version 1.8.8 of the Spigot Server component (for now).
java -jar BuildTools.jar --rev 1.8.8
This will get the Spigot Server built. In order to finish installing, creating a startup script will be helpful. You can create one with gedit by running a command like this:
The gedit text editor will open. Copy and paste this into the editor:
Note: the filename “spigot-1.8.8.jar” was the current filename as of this writing. You’ll need to confirm that filename based upon your build, and edit the command here if it’s different use that filename as is for now (until the other components are updated to accommodate newer versions of Spigot server). Also, the Spigot instructions specifically note that the ‘MaxPermSize’ directive is no longer needed or supported in Java 8, but since I’m using Java 7, I left it in mine.
Save the file and close gedit.
Next, you’ll need to make the script executable. From the same terminal window, type:
chmod +x start.sh
Before you launch this file, you’ll need to accept the End User License Agreement. Locate the eula.txt file in your “MinecraftTools” folder and open it for editing. You can do this from a terminal window by typing gedit eula.txt . From the “Files” application, you can right-click the eula.txt file and choose the option to edit it with gedit.
Before you change the line that reads eula=false to eula=true, you’ll want to review the Minecraft End User License Agreement and verify that you’re ready to agree to its terms. Once you are, changing the value to “true” and saving the file will allow you to launch the Spigot Server without a hiccup (assuming that it is installed correctly).
Starting Your Spigot Server
Once that’s completed, you can start the Spigot Server to ensure it’s working properly. You’ll use this same command start the server each time you need to use it:
If all has gone according to plan, you should see the output of the server startup process in your terminal window. The Spigot Server will create a new Minecraft world as it launches, and once it’s up and running, you’ll see a > prompt with a flashing cursor next to it. You need to keep this window open.
Testing Your Spigot Server Installation
To test your server, launch Minecraft as usual.
Click “Multiplayer” and then choose “Add Server”
Give your new local server a name. The book recommends Minecraft Python World for it. In the “Address” box, type localhost. There’s a picture at the top of page 17 of the book which you can refer to as an example.
Quick note: if you’re using a typical Minecraft installation, then your Minecraft version will have updated by now to a version newer than the Spigot Server version. If so, you’ll need to edit your “Profile” and specify the Minecraft version to run so that it matches your Spigot Server version (1.8.8 if you’re following this writing exactly). Alternatively, you can create a new profile instead (this is what I chose to do) so that your main Minecraft profile continues to use the latest Minecraft version.
You can double-click the Minecraft Python World and check out your new world.
Note:The author’s downloads for Mac & Windows operating systems are pre-configured to be in Creative Mode. This world will be in Survival Mode instead. This can be changed by editing the server.properties file in your “MinecraftTools” folder and changing the line that reads gamemode=0 to gamemode=1 . You may also find that you need to change the line that reads force-gamemode=false to force-gamemode=true .
Play as long as you like, but before proceeding: you’ll want to stop the Spigot Server. In the window with the flashing cursor, simply type stop at the > prompt, and the Spigot Server will save everything and shut itself down.
Installing the Minecraft Python API
Next, you’ll need the Minecraft Python API. There’s a Github repository here:
I recommend just hitting the “Download Zip” button there. The file will be saved to your “Downloads” folder. You’ll want to extract the .zip file’s contents. You’ll end up with a folder called py3minepi-master, which we need to copy into the “Documents/MinecraftPython/MinecraftTools/” folder.
Once the folder has been relocated to the “MinecraftTools” folder, we need to run a command to install it. From your terminal window (assuming your current directory is still the “MinecraftTools” folder), type:
sudo pip3 install ./py3minepi-master
Installing Raspberry Juice
The last piece, I believe, is the actual Raspberry Juice plugin for Spigot. You can find it on the project’s home page:
Look for the “Recent Files” link on the right. As of this writing, the latest was RaspberryJuice v1.7 for 1.8.1. Follow the links, and eventually, you’ll end up with a .jar file.
This file needs to be copied into the “plugins” folder of your Spigot Server installation. If you’re following the directions here specifically, then you’ll find that folder at “/Documents/MinecraftPython/MinecraftTools/plugins”
Put the .jar file in that folder. Your Spigot Server will automatically find it the next time it starts up.
Time to Test!
If all has gone well, you should be ready for the “Getting to Know IDLE” section of the setup instructions on Page 20 of the book. If you’re able to successfully run the tests there, you’ve got everything set up correctly!
It was at this stage that I got that nasty error I mentioned earlier:
When I got the “connection refused” error, I did a bunch of searching, but nothing seemed to fit. Ultimately, I hunted down the port number that the “minecraft.py” script was trying to connect to (port 4711). This didn’t make any sense, because the Minecraft server software defaults to port 25565. Searching around for information about what might be running (or not running, in my case) on port 4711 was what yielded the information about the Minecraft Python API.
Thankfully, author Craig Richardson left some clues for us in the pre-packaged downloads he made available for Windows & OSX. On my Ubuntu system, I opened up the download he prepared for OSX (since OSX and Linux are more or less cousins, I figured it would be worth a shot) and found Raspberry Juice. It was perhaps the least obvious component of this whole setup.
So far, this setup has been working for me. I’m not 100% certain that I haven’t missed something, but if I have, then it doesn’t appear to be affecting things so far.
I hope you find this helpful! Let me know what you run into in the comments. I’ll do my best to help!