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I am on Linux and would like to convert a bunch of Mathematica 8 Notebooks to PDF.

Is there some way to convert them on the command line? I'd like to write a makefile rule for the conversion, so that I can batch convert many of them.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Basically, there is no way to convert Mathematica notebooks into PDFs without invoking the frontend. To print or convert it, you first need to open it and a naive attempt to open a notebook from the Mathematica command line yields the error FrontEndObject::notavail

In[1]:= NotebookOpen["file.nb"]

   A front end is not available; certain operations require a front end.

This means that you could either make a notebook to do the conversion or call the frontend from the command line. Here's a solution in the form of a Mathematica script - it can easily be turned into a Notebook or package file.

Save the following code as nb2pdf, make it executable and place it the directory with the files you want to convert or somewhere in your path.

#!/usr/local/bin/MathematicaScript -script

(* Convert Mathematica notebooks to PDFs                              *)
(*   usage: nb2pdf file1.nb file2.nb etc...                           *)
(* outputs: file1.pdf file2.pdf etc...  into the current directoy     *)
(* If called with no filenames, this script                           *)
(*    will convert all notebook files in the current directory        *)

dir = Directory[];
files = {};
expandNb = False; (* Expand all cell groups in the Notebook *)

If[Length[$ScriptCommandLine] > 1, 
    AppendTo[files, file], 
    Print["File " <> file <> " does not exist"]],
    {file, Rest[$ScriptCommandLine]}],
  files = FileNames["*.nb"]];

With[{UFE = UsingFrontEnd},
 Do[nb = UFE@NotebookOpen[FileNameJoin[{dir, file}]];
  If[expandNb, UFE@SelectionMove[nb, All, Notebook]; 
  UFE@NotebookPrint[nb, FileNameJoin[{dir, FileBaseName[file]<>".pdf"}]];
  UFE@NotebookClose[nb], {file, files}]]
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That looks promising. I tried it out, but I got error: 8: Exec format error. Any idea what that could mean? – Martin Ueding Jan 25 '12 at 19:53
@queueoverflow: I haven't seen that error before. Do any Mathematica scripts work for you? Try this "hello world" script. Or is it that the nb2pdf script just fails on some files? – Simon Jan 25 '12 at 23:26
Exact same error with the two line hello world script … – Martin Ueding Jan 26 '12 at 8:37
@queueoverflow: ok, try running the "hello world" program using math -script hello if that doesn't work, delete the shebang (#!) line and try again. – Simon Jan 26 '12 at 9:09
math -script ~/bin/nb2pdf filename works for me now. Thanks for the script! – Martin Ueding Jan 26 '12 at 15:34

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