There is a great tool known as pandoc that can convert documents from one filetype to another. For example, you can convert a Microsoft Word document to a PDF, without even needing to own a copy of Microsoft Word! However, we care about Pandoc’s ability to convert a Markdown document to a slideshow presentation using LaTeX Beamer as a rendering engine.

There is a great writeup about this basic feature here.

TL;DR: With Pandoc installed and markdown file Demo.md, executing pandoc -t beamer Demo.md -o Demo.pdf will generate a slideshow as a pdf, with each section heading as the title of a new slide.

Different themes can be specified with the -V option; I’m currently using the Metropolis beamer theme and Owl colorscheme. After installing these themes, I can run:

pandoc -t beamer
       -V fontsize=14pt
       -V theme=metropolis
       -V colortheme=owl
       -s
       Demo.md -o Demo.pdf

to produce my presentation. Note: All code blocks are single-line commands/.vimrc entries, and are displayed as multi-line for readability.

Unfortunately, it’s a pain to recompile a document every time I want to view my changes. Luckily, as a (Neo)Vim user, I can automatically run commands everytime I write a file. To avoid generating presentations with non-presentation markdown files, I instead write presentations in plaintext files that end with .slides. In the example above, I’d be using Demo.slides instead of Demo.md. When I add:

autocmd! BufWritePost *.slides silent !pandoc
    -t beamer
    -V fontsize=14pt
    -V theme=metropolis
    -V colortheme=owl
    -s
    % -o "%:p:h/.%:t:r.pdf"

to my .vimrc, everytime I save changes in a FILENAME.slides file, it will generate a presentation located in .FILENAME.pdf. I choose to add a leading period in the output to hide the PDF from my file manager, feel free to remove it.

To enable markdown syntax highlighting in our .slides file, add:

autocmd BufRead,BufNewFile *.slides :set filetype=markdown

to your .vimrc.

Now Vim generates a PDF presentation for us everytime we save a .slides file. For easy viewing, I added another keybind, Z, to open the corresponding PDF in my PDF viewer of choice, Zathura:

nnoremap Z :silent !zathura --fork %:p:h/.%:t:r.pdf<CR>

Zathura automatically refreshes the view whenever changes to an open document is detected. This means that I can open a .slides file in Vim, save changes, and press Z to view my changes in Zathura. I can then immediately view any additional changes I make in the open Zathura window, just by saving the .slides file.