Getting Started: Finding a LaTeX Editor

This is the program you will use to write your LaTeX files and to generate a final PDF output. The reasons for using an editor include:

  • it helps manage the file generation process – there are short-cuts to the most common commands, such as generating a PDF file
  • there are short-cuts to formatting controls
  • it has syntax highlighting
  • there are good text navigation features

For Windows, I recommend TeXnicCenter. See http://www.toolscenter.org/.

TeXnicCenter Screenshot
TeXnicCenter Screenshot

Another alternative is WinEdt. This can be downloaded and used free for a trial period of 31 days. Thereafter you have to buy it – currently $40 for educational use. See http://www.winedt.com/.

WinEdt Screenshot
WinEdt Screenshot

For Linux there is Kile. See http://kile.sourceforge.net/ for screenshots.

These are just the programs I’m familiar with – there are lots of other editors out there. And for the minimalist approach you can just use Notepad and generate a PDF from the command line…

Important Features

Here are some things to bear in mind when choosing an editor:

Can you do a word count? TeXnicCenter doesn’t have one, so I use a free PDF wordcount called Translator’s Abacus. (Beware of a program called LaTeX Word Counter – it doesn’t seem to count footnotes.)

Is there a spell-check? TeXnicCenter automatically has one for US English and German, but you can add more languages:

  • Download the dictionary you want from http://lingucomponent.openoffice.org/download_dictionary.html – it’s a .zip file (TeXnicCenter uses the spelling engine of OpenOffice).
  • Unzip the .zip file and copy the .aff and .dic files in it to C:\Program Files\TeXnicCenter\language (you’ll see the English and German files already there).
  • Restart TeXnicCenter. Select ‘Tools’ then ‘Options’. Click on the ‘Spelling’ tab and select the new dictionary you want to add.