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Blog :: An Easter Surprise

With the major rewrite out of the way, and lots of lovely new PDF building technology to play with, we've deployed another round of changes to Cheatography. Read on to find out more!

Back in February, we unveiled a raft of changes to Cheatography, including a new PDF builder. Cheatography has been, since it was first launched, a site to make building your own references easy and quick, and hopefully for each reference to be easily printable and usable. PDFs make printing and portability easier, which is why they're integral to Cheatography.

Unfortunately, building PDFs isn't always easy. Cheat sheets have nested tables, weirdly long columns, wide pieces of text, images and much more. Over the last few years we've worked through every PDF builder going, and written a couple ourselves, trying to get the PDFs just right.

In February we unveiled a new builder which was pretty close to right. Or so we thought. It handled long PDFs over multiple pages better than anything we'd tried before, and what it produced was ridiculously crisp, beautiful documents. Lovely.

The builder it replaced was pretty close too (that's why we've had two versions of every PDF here since then - some cheat sheets were better with the first builder, and some with the second). But its biggest problem was that it couldn't split long cheat sheets into multiple pages very well. We'd get the top half of a line of text on one page, and the bottom on the next page. Not good!

Since we launched the new builder, though, there have been more and more problems becoming apparent. Characters in various language character sets (for example, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Arabic characters) were not handled well (usually just missing). Image support wasn't quite good enough. You couldn't copy and paste text out of the PDFs.

Perhaps worst of all, the new builder meant maintaining two sets of code for cheat sheet rendering - one for PDFs and one for the website. Any change in one had to be replicated in the other, and that has rarely been straightforward.

However, the new PDF process involved adding lots of new tools to our build systems. We had new line wrapping calculators and a system to work out the heights of boxes once they were rendered. That meant that we have been able to slowly work on improving the old PDF builder behind the scenes, aiming to resolve the pagination problems it had. Over the last couple of weeks, the old PDF builder has overtaken the new PDF builder in terms of quality.

With it being so much easier to maintain, it seems that there is no longer any need to use two PDF builders. So, we have retired the LaTeX builder (although you can still download the LaTeX document and build those PDFs yourself if you like).

As an added bonus, every cheat sheet now is also available to download in a black and white version.

That's it for this round of changes, and there's plenty more to come soon!

An Easter Surprise was posted on 20th April, 2014.
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