Formatting Paths, Menus, and Key Shortcuts in Softcover

One of the last tasks on the agenda before shipping my books is to make the formatting support the material instead of making it harder to understand.

Softcover is nice because it lets you stay mostly in Markdown, but you can drop in LaTex for more advanced formatting needs. I started by using inline code formatting for everything from function names, API calls, code snippets, to file paths. For UI instructions, I was using double quotes and a mixture of inline stuff.

I found the menukeys LaTex package which gives you more control over the appearance of menu items, file paths, and key combinations. Here I’ll show you how to use it to make your manuscript look more polished.

Download the finished product and get the code.


If you don’t want special configuration or styling, it’s pretty easy to add this to your build. Simply add a line to your config/preamble.tex file:


If you don’t already have a softcover book, check out the getting started guide.

Menu Style

Menu Formatting

I prefer the default menu style, so I just use the \menu directive in my text.

When interacting with the menu system to follow \menu{a>set>of>instructions} you'll see this formatting.

Directory Style

Directory Formatting

If you want to use the styles mentioned in the documentation, you’ll need to configure them in your config/preamble.tex after the \usepackage line.


Defining it here will apply the style throughout the manuscript (this wasn’t clear in the documentation, found the answer and a great tutorial).

Add the \directory directive inline with your markdown:

If you are directed to a particular file, \directory{the/full/file/path} will be shown.

Key Style

Key Formatting

To get the shadowedroundedkeys style,  add this to the the config/preamble.tex:


To produce the line above, add this to your manuscript:

Finally, key shortcuts are shown as: \keys{cmd + \Alt + \ctrl + \tab + \shift + \return}.

2014, A Retrospective

In 2013, I learned I could take a break. In 2014, I learned to set my own course.

I led a team of Android developers, started a consulting businessventured into startup land, joined the board of a non-profit (we opened computer labs in Mexico and Morocco), expanded the Google Developer Group (GDG), and started hosting on AirBnB.

I taught a 3-week class in Gainesville. I created training workbooks. I took the 30×500 class. I’m writing a book.

I was free to spend most of June abroad and saw the northern lights in October. I spoke in Stockholm and Amsterdam. I attended Droid NYC, Google I/O, and two GDG conferences. I mentored at LadyHacks and inspired others to speak at conferences.

Excited to see this foundation grow in 2015.

12 Resources for Android Beginners


If you are already a programmer by trade, an excellent resource is Professional Android 4 Application Development.* It set a high bar and teaches Android in an approachable fashion.

I got my start with version 2, in the time before Fragments and tablets. The book was updated for Ice Cream Sandwich, but a lot has changed in the last few years. Hopefully there’s a new version on the way.

Continue reading 12 Resources for Android Beginners

6 Tips For Speaking at Conferences

Have you wanted to get started with a conference speaking career but don’t know how? It’s a lot easier than it appears on the outside!

Own Your Expertise. We are all experts of our own experience. Sharing our path, passion, and knowledge inspires others. We don’t need to know everything about a topic to have something valuable to say!

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Barcamp Philly 2014

I was inspired by three different sources to give a talk at Barcamp this past Saturday.

First, I attended the inaugural Write/Speak/Code conference last year. During the Write day, we learned how to own our expertise and write op ed columns (something that’s on my short term goal list). The Speak day was all about the mechanics of drafting and submitting talks. (Pam Selle and I spoke on the Code day about feminist models for open source participation).
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Conference Speaking 101

I gave a workshop today at Barcamp Philly that heavily drew from Julie Pagano’s workshop and slides. I reorganized the time frame (her workshop is a whole day and walks you through many more steps of conference presenting) and made it fit in a 45 minute time frame.

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What’s Your Tech Origin Story?

When Women Stopped Coding is a (mostly) non-depressing look at what was happening in the 80’s and 90’s to contribute to the plummeting number of women in computer science. In particular, I hadn’t thought deeply about the emergence of computing have and have nots.

My parents didn’t buy a computer for the home. Luckily I had access to computers at my friend’s homes and was on the Internet pretty darn early via Tallahassee Freenet & BBSes in 1995. I went to nicer middle and high schools that had technology classes (though not programming, just typing). I often frequented the library to get online. I loved finally having 24-hour access to the computer lab in my dorm during my first year of college (1998).

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Changing Course? 3 Questions to Ask Yourself First.

Frustrated by fragments? Intrigued by dependency injection? It may be tempting to switch approaches to solve your current pain.

Don’t throw away that code just yet! Think through the following questions first.

1. What problem am I solving?

Continue reading Changing Course? 3 Questions to Ask Yourself First.