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Inline Diagrams in Orgmode


Of course it is easy to include a diagram with a post, but the standard procedure to create/edit the diagram with an external GUI tool does not resonate with me. Even back in my diploma thesis I fell in love with Donald Knuth's MetaPost system to describe diagrams in a declarative way and let the tool do the drawing.

For some LaTeX Beamer presentations I used ditaa in the meantime but inside a make flow that took care of the dependencies. The diagrams and the presentation were strictly separated. For the blog posts I did not yet have a good solution, until I switched to blogging in orgmode. Compared to ReST and Asciidoc posts, Emacs orgmode provides a much richer ecosystem with lots of hooks into other systems by means of the org-babel system.

So by switching the post source format, blogging in orgmode should actually hook into e.g. Graphviz out of the box. And indeed with a little fine tuning, this is an amazingly elegant way to include visualizations in the posts.

As org-mode (through exporting to LaTex Beamer) has also become the source format of my presentations, this new freedom easily extends into presentations and even regular PDF documents by exporting to LaTeX only. So the means shown here to produce diagrams for the blog are also usable when you want to generate Beamer presentations or LaTeX documents. As we will see, the choice of output formats is linked to the targeted use-case.

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