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.

6 thoughts on “Getting Started: Finding a LaTeX Editor”

  1. I use WinEdt. The interface (option panels, etc.) is horrible, but it is very powerful and once you get used to it. It is very fast. On important feature – It can do translations on read/write so non-English characters can be displayed nicely on the screen but saved as tex sequences for compatibility.

  2. I use Emacs and AucTeX on Linux and Mac OS X (and would on Windows, too, if I had to use it). The combination is extremely powerful. If you’re hoping for palettes you can click on to get various structures, Emacs won’t be for you, but if you’re familiar with LaTeX, I don’t think you can find a more powerful editor anywhere.

    Combined with a PDF viewer (such as Preview on the Mac or evince on Linux), you can get updated views as soon as you save and typeset from within the editor.

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