[IPython-dev] First experiences and usability suggestions for notebook and nbconvert

David P. Sanders dpsanders at gmail.com
Tue Jul 16 11:56:27 EDT 2013


I have been playing with the notebook and nbconvert from master, and have
some feedback on some basic usability issues, which I hope will be useful.

Note that I am not (yet) a developer, but am rather trying to get a feel
for things before possibly moving in that direction...

Please let me know if this is not the correct forum for such comments, and
if I should, for example, instead open issues.

1. Ipython command line invocation
- Would it be possible to get rid of the hyphens in --pylab and --profile
in the ipython invocation? I understand that this is to do with
implementation, but it is neither easy to remember, nor to motivate to
novices that they should type this!

- Is there a good (non-historical) reason to use 'nbconvert' instead of
ipython convert TARGET FILENAME?
Or even convertnb,  so that the verb and noun are in the natural order.

Or make nbconvert just a separate binary (which, I understand, it basically
is anyway, at least on unices):


-  Is it possible / easy to set up bash completion to press <TAB> after
'ipython' and have the options displayed?

- It would great to be able to type
ipython notebook odes.ipynb
and have the relevant ipynb open directly, instead of going via the

2. nbconvert:
- It would be great (necessary, in my opinion) to have an 'Export as'
option from within the notebook to run the relevant nbconvert.

- PDF converter:
A direct PDF converter is necessary.
This is presumably trivial by just running
pdflatex after the LaTeX converter.
(Oh, if LaTeX is installed of course... I guess this is the problem?)

- html converter:
I tried
ipython nbconvert html odes.ipynb

but it doesn't work!

I strongly suggest to replace 'full_html' with just 'html'
and 'simple_html' could be 'basic_html'

- I was expecting that the HTML output would look exactly like on nbviewer,
which is also a static copy of the notebook, but it looks different
I guess this is a CSS thing -- is there a good solution to have something
exactly like on nbviewer?

- The nbconvert step produced an empty subdirectory 'odes_files' with html
export and some .txt files for LaTeX output. This seems unnecessary from
the user point of view.

- Folding:
In my notebook, the output of several cells were folded, in particular the
result of things like
[I am planning on using this for a course, and wanted to record this step
in the notebook]
But in the result of nbconvert, the full output of the documentation is

This is very bad news -- how can the output folding be respected and not

- New LaTeX commands:
I defined various LaTeX shortcuts like
inside $$...$$ in markdown cells.
(Is this the correct / canonical way to do this?)

Markdown seems to respect these in the rest of the document, and in the
HTML output, but running
pdflatex on the LaTeX output forgot about them immediately after they were

- Suppressing code cells in LaTeX output:
Towards the reproducible paper goal, how can code cells be suppressed in
the LaTeX output. I guess with the metadata somehow?

3. Notebook issues:
- Keyboard shortcuts:
I am a keyboard person: for me, all functionality which is accessible via
menus should be assigned a (preferably modifiable) keyboard shortcut.
In particular, it seems that split cell, merge cell, and close and halt are
currently missing shortcuts.

- Similarly, could there be toolbar icons for split and merge?

- Basic find and replace in the notebook:
Find and replace, at least a basic one, is a must-have feature for
This seems to already be available in CodeMirror

-  In-place file editing
It seems that by combining the %load and %%file magics,
one has a kludgy way of editing an arbitrary file.
Maybe this could be combined easily into an %%edit magic?

- Is there a way of deleting multiple input cells simultaneously, rather
than pressing Ctrl M-d several times or clicking the scissors icon several
times (which admittedly is easier in this case). This would be very nice to

4. Notebook styling:
- There seems to be much appetite for notebook styling, e.g. xkcdify.

Here is a gist I found, referenced from a blog post that Brian commented on
at some point, with a very basic interface. Something like this would be
great to have, with a user-contributed style database:


Maybe this could just be via load_ext?

By the way, is there a list of the possible extensions available?

- Will Min's nbtoc extension be integrated?

Apologies for the long message, but these are the things that have been
bugging me for the last few days :)

Thanks and best wishes,

Dr. David P. Sanders

Profesor Titular A / Associate Professor
Departamento de Física, Facultad de Ciencias
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)

dpsanders at gmail.com

Cubículo / office: #414
Tel.: +52 55 5622 4965
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