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I am using a Mathematica script to programmatically generate a Mathematica notebook. The script generates a Notebook expression and then uses Export to write the notebook to a file. The following interactive kernel session sketches the necessary commands:

$ /Applications/Mathematica.app/Contents/MacOS/MathKernel
Mathematica 9.0 for Mac OS X x86 (64-bit)
Copyright 1988-2012 Wolfram Research, Inc.

In[1]:= notebook = Notebook[ { Cell["Hello World", "Text"] } ];                                                                                                        

In[2]:= Export["HelloWorld.nb", notebook]                                                                                                                              

Out[2]= HelloWorld.nb

The problem is that the Export command always launches the Mathematica front-end as a side effect. Is there a way to write the Notebook expression to a file without having the kernel launch the front-end?

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Here is a solution on Linux, should be possible to do this on OSX, too:

Start out with setting up a vnc-server, e.g., tiger-vnc, as described here. So, on Fedora Linux e.g., I created (after doing yum -y install tigervnc-server tigervnc ) /lib/systemd/system/vncserver@:1.service

[rolfm@higgs ~]$ cat /lib/systemd/system/vncserver@:1.service
[Unit]
Description=Remote desktop service (VNC)
After=syslog.target network.target

[Service]

Type=forking
ExecStart=/sbin/runuser -l rolfm -c "/usr/bin/vncserver -localhost -geometry 1280x1024 %i"
ExecStop=/sbin/runuser -l rolfm -c "/usr/bin/vncserver -kill %i"

[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target

Enable and start by

systemctl enable vncserver@:1.service
systemctl start vncserver@:1.service

Create nbtest.m (notice that the nice new V9 function SetEnvironment enters the scene):

[rolfm@higgs ~]$ cat nbtest.m
SetEnvironment["DISPLAY"->":1"];

notebook = Notebook[{Cell["Hello World","Text"], Cell["Date[]","Input"]}];
Export["/tmp/HelloWorld.nb", notebook];

Finally just run the script :

[rolfm@higgs ~]$ math -script nbtest.m 
[rolfm@higgs ~]$ cat /tmp/HelloWorld.nb
(* Content-type: application/vnd.wolfram.mathematica *)

(*** Wolfram Notebook File ***)
(* http://www.wolfram.com/nb *)

(* CreatedBy='Mathematica 9.0' *)

(*CacheID: 234*)
(* Internal cache information:
NotebookFileLineBreakTest
NotebookFileLineBreakTest
NotebookDataPosition[       157,          7]
NotebookDataLength[       805,         36]
NotebookOptionsPosition[       614,         24]
NotebookOutlinePosition[       876,         37]
CellTagsIndexPosition[       833,         34]
WindowFrame->Normal*)

(* Beginning of Notebook Content *)
Notebook[{
Cell["Hello World", "Text"],

Cell["Date[]", "Input"]
},
FrontEndVersion->"9.0 for Linux x86 (32-bit) (November 20, 2012)",
StyleDefinitions->"Default.nb"
]
(* End of Notebook Content *)

(* Internal cache information *)
(*CellTagsOutline
CellTagsIndex->{}
*)
(*CellTagsIndex
CellTagsIndex->{}
*)
(*NotebookFileOutline
Notebook[{
Cell[557, 20, 27, 0, 70, "Text"],
Cell[587, 22, 23, 0, 70, "Input"]
}
]
*)

(* End of internal cache information *)
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