The Living Thing / Notebooks :

Digital scientific workbooks

Literate coding for reality

The exploratory-algorithm-person’s IDE-equivalent. Literate coding-meets-science.

Let’s say I want to demonstrate my algorithm to my thesis advisor while he’s off at conference. I need an easily shareable demonstration. that’s why we have the internet, and scientific computation/documentation system such as knitr and Jupyter. Why do this? To belatedly immanentize the prophecy that the scientific paper is dead.

See also text editors, citation management, academic writing workflow, python, cloud computing a.k.a. cloud wrangling, open notebook science, scientific computation workflows, build tools.



See also jupyter wherein there are some bonus notes about the technical details of this.


Pweave, by Matti Pastell, is python twin of knitr, which is itself in the lineage of literate coding tools.

Pweave is a scientific report generator and a literate programming tool for Python. It can capture the results and plots from data analysis and works well with numpy, scipy and matplotlib.

Max Masnick gives a detailed set up.


Chris Sewell has produced a scripted called ipypublish that eases some of the pain points in producing articles starting from jupyter. See the comments for some additional pro-tips for this.


knitr is the r-based entrant in the scientific workbook field.

Here are some guides:

For online web-friendly (e.g. teaching) purposes, you can do literate interactive coding using shiny and latex via shinytex.


weave.jl - another literate coding thingy, much like knitr or pweave/

# capturing code output

The code chunk wil be run with default options and the output captured.
using Gadfly
x = linspace(0, 2* pi)
plot(x = x, y = sin(x)


Editor/IDE support

Miscellaneous preview support scripts are given in the knitr documentation.


Atom supports a number of literate programming tools via language-weave package - you might also want a full typesetting experience via the latex or atom-latex package, which can be made to support literate coding of plain latex. It uses Hydrogen to provide code preview.

Setting up a latex toolchain in atom-latex is not too bad. E.g. here is one for knitr:

  "root": "path/to/my/file.Rnw",
  "toolchain": "Rscript -e \"library(knitr); knit('%DOC.%EXT')\" && latexmk -synctex=1 -interaction=nonstopmode -file-line-error -pdf %DOC",
  "latex_ext": [".Rnw"]

It would probably also work for pweave or Weave.jl.