Posts about marave

Free software is good for me.

I make a living working with free software (BTW, if you need sysadmins that know what they do, contact us:

But that's not that big a deal, I could make a living doing something else. I am sure I would be competent at something else, even if I have no idea what that would be right now.

It does, however give me freedom to play, which is much more important. Therefore, this post is sort of a status update on things I play with. Not games, those are not really my thing, but things that I do for fun.

Yes, some of these may mean I am a very strange person.

I'll limit myself to the last couple of weeks or so.

There's been sort of a bump in interest in Marave, my distraction free editor and it's because it has been reviewed in Linux Journal!

I have read the article (sadly I can't link to it) and it was a super positive review, here are some choice quotes:

"marave makes the dull world of text editing romantic and immersive with beautiful minimalism"

"... it doesn't just have minimalism and simplicity, it has minimalism and simplicity combined with beauty and a palpable design ethic. marave has soul, and I love that."

So thanks for the kind words to the author, and something I noticed: you ran into a big bug in marave and didn't notice :-)

The "cricket bat" icon (it's a screwdriver ;-) should show you the config dialog. However, it seems in Ubuntu (and maybe in other distros, I don't know) the config is not visible,and all you see is the text move around a bit. This is what he should have seen:


I have never been able to reproduce it, but I am going to install a Ubuntu VM just for this, so maybe soon.

On related news, marave was also reviewed in a german magazine a couple of months ago, and I have not been able to get a copy of the article. (BTW, isn't it reasonable to send a copy of these to the author of the program you are reviewing? Neither magazine even mentioned it to me!)

In any case, if anyone has this magazine and can tell me what the article about distraction-free editors say, you will make my day:

Here's the article teaser

And this seems to be the magazine issue:

On new projects (yes, I always have new projects), I ran into this awesome blog post by Roger Alsing about approaching Mona Lisa with just 50 polygons < > and being a nerd and having awesome programming tools at my command... I wrote a framework to test that kind of algorithms.

I called it evoluto and it's at

I only did a very simple algorithm, based on transluscent triangles, but it did work... for some definition of work!

You can even see the local minimum that doesn't let her right eye form right :-)

Evoluto has a library of algorithms (currently empty) and you can edit and reapply on-the-fly the one you want, and see the generations change on-screen.

It would take some work to make it a polished program, but it does work.

I folled around a bit with creating a nice PDF presentation player but it's still very early:


In what's perhaps my most established project, rst2pdf. I have fixed a bunch of bugs, and a release is a bit overdue:

Issue 186: Text not wrapping around images when specified
I fixed this by adding a new CLI option, so behaviour was not changed, but now you can have images with text flowing beside it. It will not look great but it works.
Issue 307: Replace directive doesn't replace text in header/footer in some cases
This was an interesting problem! It was very entertaining.
Made it work with Sphinx 1.*
There is a piece broken still, but what I fixed was not terribly hard.
Unbroken bookrest
I need to work much more with this, but at least what worked before works again. If you don't know what bookrest is, it's a rst2pdf graphical frontend / word processor, here's a taste:

I also made several releases for my AUR packages

Plus I worked, and some other stuff. All in all, not a bad stretch.

Marave 0.7 released

I just uploaded version 0.7 of Marave, my fullscreen text editor to

Marave is a "relaxing" text editor inspired by ommwriter, DarkRoom and many others. It combines a spartan fullscreen UI with a vanishing UI, which gets out of the way of your text.

It supports syntax highlighting, inine spellchecking, background music, audible keyboard feedback, themes, is extensible via plugins, and much more.

Here's a screenshot:


There are no major new features in 0.7, but there are important internal changes and some major bugs fixed:

  • Fixed bug that broke opening files if you had no spellchecker
  • Implemented basic RTL language support
  • Several other minor fixes
  • Refactored the editor component so it can be reused

Are we really this clueless about software costs?

Here's what Ohloh has to say about the cost of developing Marave

Really, Marave is maybe a month of part-time programming. How could that possible be U$S71355, or "1 Person Years"?

Is this garbage the best we have to estimate costs? If that's the case, then whenever you see something about "Open source program X would take Y years and cost Z dollars to write", cut it down by a factor of 10 or more.

Here's what Marave really costed to develop:

  • Nothing.

Ok, here's what it would have costed if I had charged for it:

I am guessing about 100 hours of my time. At my "I hope they pay me this much" rate of U$S 40/hour , that's U$S 4000, which means Ohloh is off by 1600%.

OTOH, for that much freelance work I would not charge you the full rate, I would probably end charging you more like U$S20/hour which would make Ohloh's guess over 3000% too high.

In conclusion: if you like my code (and hey, you can see it for yourself), hire me, I am incredibly cheap, or amazingly fast!

Extending Marave

Marave is a text editor. If there's one thing that's true of most text editors, it's this: they lack the exact features you need.

So, the solution, in the ancient tradition of Emacs and Vim is... make it extensible.

I am a big fan of programs that can be extended by users.

So... here's the anatomy of a Marave plugin as it stands right now on SVN trunk, which of course can change any minute.

Creating a plugin

You just need to create a .py file in the plugins folder.

Here's the most basic plugin, which does nothing:

# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-

from plugins import Plugin
class Smarty(Plugin):
    description='Smart quote and dash replacement'

Default values for anything configurable (in this case, "mode") is just added to the class.

The mandatory fields:

  • shortcut: a keyboard shortcut that triggers this plugin
  • name: a short name
  • description: a one-line description of what it does

What does it do? It adds the plugin to the plugin list in the prefs dialog, and you can open its configuration dialog, where you can change the shortcut:


If you enable this plugin, whenever the shortcut is used the "run" method of the plugin is called.

Making the Plugin Configurable

This plugin supports different modes of operation. To make this reachable to the user, you need to implement a few extra methods.

The addConfigWidgets method takes a dialog argument and adds whatever you want there:

def addConfigWidgets(self, dialog):
    print 'Adding widgets to smarty config'
    self.q=QtGui.QCheckBox('Replace normal quotes'))
    if 'q' in self.mode:
    self.b=QtGui.QCheckBox('Replace backtick-style quotes (` and ``)'))
    if 'B' in self.mode:
    self.d=QtGui.QCheckBox('Replace -- by en-dash, --- by em-dash'))
    if 'd' in self.mode:
    self.e=QtGui.QCheckBox('Replace ellipses'))
    if 'e' in self.mode:

And then the config dialog will look like this:


But then you need to save those options somewhere, which you do reimplementing saveConfig:

def saveConfig(self, dialog):

    self.settings.setValue('plugin-''-shortcut', self.shortcut)

    if self.q.isChecked():
    if self.b.isChecked():
    if self.d.isChecked():
    if self.e.isChecked():


And you need to load those settings and put them in your class, too:

def loadConfig(self):
    print 'SMARTY loadconfig', self.settings
    if self.settings:
        if sc.isValid():
        if mode.isValid():

Making it Work

And yes, you need to make it do something useful. The plugin has access to a "client" which is Marave's main window. Everything is available there, somewhere ;-)

def run(self):
    print 'running smarty plugin'
    prog=QtGui.QProgressDialog("Applying smarty"),
    for i,l in enumerate(text):

And there it is, if you enable the smarty plugin, you can "fix" your quotes, dashes and ellipsis with a key combination :-)

Full source code here:

Still to be done: other ways to integrate plugins into the UI, buttons, panels, etc.

Marave 0.5 is out!

Just uploaded Marave 0.5 to the usual place. Marave is a relaxed, fullscreen text editor that tries not to distract you.

It even includes a simple music player just so you don't have to think about switching to another application!

This release has several bugs fixed, and looks a bit nicer.

The main new feature is ... internationalizacion. It now includes a spanish translation only, but if you want to help translating it to any other language, please step forward!

There are only 60 phrases to translate, so it shouldn't be more than one hour of work.

Here's a screenshot of this release:


Marave is free software under the GPLv2, and should work on any platform where PyQt works, which means Windows, Mac, and Unix-like operating systems, at least.

Packaging and shipping is HARD

I have worked really hard on Marave, a full screen editor in the style of ommwriter, DarkRoom, WriteRoom, pyRoom, etc. I have worked very hard and I want users to use it.

Or not even that, I want them to have a chance of using it.

That means I want it to work on Windows (and maybe OSX some day, too, if someone helps me). Which means, I have to pakage it for windows.

Let's do a quick comparison here from the points of view of the user and the developer.

The User, In Linux

This is in Arch Linux, which is what I use, in other Linux variants it will be pretty much the same once Marave is a bit more well known.

yaourt -S marave-svn --noconfirm

That gets the code from SVN (right now it's the best way, later I will package releases, too), all required dependencies, builds and installs. It takes all of 15 seconds in my notebook.

After that, you have a fully working Marave.

In case it's not packaged for your distro, just install PyQt (which surely is) and run this command:

easy_install marave

The User, in Windows

You go to, click on "Marave-0.5.win32.exe" (Not linked yet, it's not finished), then download a 10MB program. That is a 10MB program because windows doesn't believe in packages and dependencies. On Linux, a Marave package could be under 1MB (most of it images), and not be executable, just data.

Of course nowadays web browsers don't actually run programs on download, so... let's see it as a gallery!


Yes, save it.


Double click to open it


Yes, I agree


Sure, whatever




Good to hear!

Now, this Marave that just got installed may or may not currently work because of a missing MSVCR90.DLL but that's for the next section...

The Developer, in Linux

First, here's the biggest problem a Linux packager can have:

Since Marave is a new app, and I develop it in the rather cutting-edge Arch Linux, it uses some newish features only available in recent versions of Qt. In fact, it doesn't work with PyQt < 4.6, which is not available in some slow distros, like Debian, or even in a not-latest Ubuntu.

Solution? Well, I could just ignore it, but what the heck, let's fix it instead!

Thanks to PyInstaller it's not even hard to do, here's the spec file:

a = Analysis([os.path.join(HOMEPATH,'support/'), os.path.join(HOMEPATH,'support/'), 'marave/'],

pyz = PYZ(a.pure)
exe = EXE(pyz,
        name=os.path.join('build/pyi.linux2/main', 'marave.exe'),
        console=0 )

coll = COLLECT( exe,
            name=os.path.join('dist', 'marave'))

Use this, and PyInstaller will produce a nice folder full of everything Marave needs to run on any Linux.

OTOH, if you can rely on a recent PyQt being available, it's also simple. Here's a packaging configuration for a similar package in Arch Linux (I must confess not having done one for Marave yet). For other distributions it should be about as simple, if more verbose, and someone else probably does it for you:

# Contributor: Roberto Alsina <[email protected]>
pkgdesc="Create PDFs from simple text markup, no LaTeX required."
arch=('i686' 'x86_64')
depends=('python' 'setuptools' 'docutils' 'pygments' 'python-reportlab' 'python-simplejson' 'pil')
source=($pkgver.tar.gz LICENSE.txt)
optdepends=('uniconvertor: vector images support'
            'python-svglib: SVG support'
            'python-wordaxe: hyphenation'
            'pythonmagick: PDF images support')
build() {
cd $startdir/src/rst2pdf-$pkgver
python install --root=$startdir/pkg || return 1
install -D ../LICENSE.txt $startdir/pkg/usr/share/licenses/python-rst2pdf/COPYING
install -D doc/rst2pdf.1 $startdir/pkg/usr/share/man/man1/rst2pdf.1

And that's all you need to know about the process of packaging your app for Linux. It's easy to do, and most of the time, easy to do right!

Now, let's go to our final section...

Windows for the developer

First, remember that of relying on the system's version of Qt? Forget it, there is no system version available. And no python either. And noone is going to install it or your app, so it's "ship everything yourself" mode, or nothing.

But anyway, PyInstaller works for Windows too! So, using the same spec file, it works. Right?

Well, no beause of two problems.

Problem 1: You need an installer

Users are not going to open a zip somewhere, then do a shortcut to the binary on Windows, so you need to do some operations, and that means an installer.

Here's what I came up with to use NSIS, a free installer creator for Windows:

;Include Modern UI

!include "MUI2.nsh"


;Name and file
Name "Marave"
OutFile "Marave-0.5.win32.exe"

;Default installation folder
InstallDir "$LOCALAPPDATA\Marave"

;Get installation folder from registry if available
InstallDirRegKey HKCU "Software\Marave" ""

;Request application privileges for Windows Vista
RequestExecutionLevel user

;Interface Settings






!insertmacro MUI_LANGUAGE "English"

;Installer Sections

Section "Install"

SetOutPath "$INSTDIR"
File /r "dist\marave"

;Store installation folder
WriteRegStr HKCU "Software\Marave" "" $INSTDIR

;Create uninstaller
WriteUninstaller "$INSTDIR\Uninstall.exe"

;Create shortcuts
CreateDirectory $SMPROGRAMS\Marave
CreateShortCut "$SMPROGRAMS\Marave\Marave.lnk" "$INSTDIR\marave\marave.exe" ; use defaults for parameters, icon, etc.
CreateShortCut "$SMPROGRAMS\Marave\Uninstall Marave.lnk" "$INSTDIR\Uninstall.exe" ; use defaults for parameters, icon, etc.


;Uninstaller Section

Section "Uninstall"

Delete "$INSTDIR\Uninstall.exe"

DeleteRegKey /ifempty HKCU "Software\Marave"


It's comparable to the effort of building a packaging file, really, except every time you want to test it... you install it. There is no way (AFAICS) to see what's inside the installer except running it!

When things fail, you get no error messages, at least not the kind that is useful for a developer, the guy that needs to know what went wrong.

And after it's finished, you may end with a non-working program because of...

Problem 2: system libraries don't exist

Python 2.6 binaries are built using Visual Studio. That means they require the Visual Studio Runtime, specifically MSVCR90.DLL. That contains what on Linux would be considered part of libc. (linux guy: imagine apps that depend on a specific libc... hard to do!)

On Linux that's part of the system. Further, if you wanted, you can redistribute it. On Windows... well, it's a bit different.

  1. It's part of the "Visual C++ redistributables"

  2. Installing that doesn't guarantee it will work (yes, I have tried)

  3. The license for those 'redistributables' says you can't make them available for download.

    I have been told that including that in your installer is fine and dandy, but how is that not making them available for download?

So what can you do when you need a library and can't ship it and the user won't install it?

Well, that's why there is no Windows binary of Marave yet. Of course if anyone can help, I'd be really, really happy!

Marave 0.4 is out!

Version 0.4 of Marave, a distraction-free fullscreen editor is out at

This version includes several bugs fixed and features implemented since 0.4:

  • It works better with WindowMaker (dialogs appeared behind main window)
  • Works better with some Qt styles (combo boxes were unusable)
  • Added support for SVG backgrounds
  • Code cleanups

Marave is free softare released under the GPL, and should work in all major desktop platforms.

I would love feedback on this release, as well as ideas for Marave's future, so if you want to help, please join the mailing list:

Of course, if you like Marave, feel free to give me money

Marave 0.3 is out!

Version 0.3 of Marave, a distraction-free fullscreen editor is out at

This version includes several bugs fixed and features implemented since 0.2:

  • New 'Styles' support, you can change the look of Marave with CSS syntax
  • Debugged themes support, a few themes included
  • Fixed bug saving text color
  • Fixed font changing bug
  • Use the document name in window title
  • "Now playing" notification

Marave is free softare released under the GPL, and should work in all major desktop platforms.

I would love feedback on this release, as well as ideas for Marave's future, so if you want to help, please join the mailing list:

Of course, if you like Marave, feel free to give me money

Marave 0.2 is out!

Version 0.2 of Marave, a distraction-free fullscreen editor is out at

This version includes several bugs fixed and features implemented since 0.1.1:

  • A corrupted Right-click menu (Issue 20)
  • Flickering on background changes
  • More detailed licensing information
  • More tested on Windows
  • Added help (F1)
  • Search & Replace (but replace all is not done)
  • New artwork
  • Status notifications
  • Document Info (Ctrl+I)
  • Better feedback in the UI elements (specially the buttons)
  • Save font size correctly
  • Fix "Starts in the background" problem (Issue 17)

Marave is free softare released under the GPL, and should work in all major desktop platforms.

I would love feedback on this release, as well as ideas for Marave's future, so a mailing list for Marave has been opened:

Of course, if you like Marave, feel free to give me money