What is TextCarver?

TextCarver is a tool for generating documents like books, handouts, and websites. It’s particularly well-suited to complex projects that need powerful programmatic control over document generation.

I use Textcarver for producing Full Circle Kink’s instructional handouts. We need to take a single piece of content and slice and dice it in multiple ways. For example, we use the single column tie tutorial as:

  • Part of a printed handout for our Beginners class
  • A single page printed handout for use in other classes
  • A single page handout with special branding for the BIPOC rope group
  • A detailed tutorial on our website, with extra content that doesn’t appear in the print version

Textcarver makes it possible to build all of those from a single source file, with conditional compilation and custom layouts for each one. It also supports rendering to HTML (for the online tutorial) and PDF (for the printed handouts).

I also use Textcarver for generating Rope in Seattle. In that application, Textcarver maintains a structured record of every rope event in Seattle and can generate multiple views of that content (HTML for the web, HTML for an email newsletter, Markdown for FetLife, etc.), with filtering by event date, event type, and more.

Textcarver is a really powerful, useful tool, but it’s also very raw. At this point, it’s really only suitable for people who are comfortable with Markdown, Javascript, and Node, who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.

Next: Markdown with variables

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