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I'm afraid my first question isn't a math puzzle per se, but rather question of math "presentation" . Basically I've been out of school for a year or two - so I'm a bit out of practice in writing up math papers. Recently I've found myself back at school for grad work and having to write equations again. Now I've already re-learned a good hatred for most equation editors that exist in word processors - but my "LaTex fu" is a bit weak to be writing up everything in notepad and then compiling it using LaTex. So I was wondering if anyone had found a good program to use a "friendly" interface while still being able to write LaTex style equations?

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This is an acceptable use of Math Overflow. If you're worried about whether a question is appropriate, ask youself, "will this be of interest to mathematicians?" – Anton Geraschenko Sep 29 '09 at 17:43
Shouldn't this be community wiki? – François G. Dorais May 2 '10 at 3:04
@François G. Dorais: it definitely should. – Sergei Tropanets Aug 2 '10 at 0:27

20 Answers 20

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I suppose you are on Windows, if you are on *nix you can try it with wine.
As I've read it is good, but it is not free.

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There's a whole subforum of dedicated to deciding which editor to use given what you're going to be doing.

Most LaTeX editors provide the basic functionality you're looking for:

  • syntax highlighting
  • list of symbols to choose from (if you can't remember the commands)
  • environment completion (automatically adds \end{blah} after \begin{blah})
  • hotkey to compile
  • easy way to comment out big blocks of text
  • forward search to the dvi (very handy; you hit a hotkey in the editor and it takes you to the corresponding place in the dvi)
  • if you're patient, you can usually even set up reverse search (you middle click some place in the dvi and it takes you to the corresponding place in the source)

When I was running Windows, I used WinEdt, but I know a lot of people who use TeXnicCenter. Now I use Kile on Ubuntu.

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Additionally, formula preview is also common, where the editor automatically or with a single user interaction will embed a rendering of the equation in the edited document text. – Charles Stewart Jan 18 '10 at 9:42

I like AUCTeX, it has syntax highlighting and preview and advanced editing commands and you also get the editing power of Emacs. Works like a charm both on Windows and on Linux.

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The usual Mac software for this is TeXShop, which is ok but not great. Ben swears by emacs.

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Some Mac people have told me that they really like iTeXMac. – Anton Geraschenko Sep 29 '09 at 18:12
AucTex in emacs is my preference. – David Zureick-Brown Sep 30 '09 at 18:05
(For Macs or Linux.) – David Zureick-Brown Sep 30 '09 at 18:06
@David: There are plenty of windows-based emacs users. – Charles Stewart Jan 18 '10 at 9:43
The advantage of emacs is that it is available and exactly the same, no matter what the OS is. And since entering LaTeX is completely text-based, a keyboard-oriented editor like emacs or vi is preferable to mouse-based editors. But I find it quite ironic that I am using essentially the same software (TeX and emacs) to write math papers than I used as a graduate student in 1983, after having tried other more modern software. – Deane Yang May 2 '10 at 3:12

An often-overlooked one is LaTeX Editor, which is available for both Unix and Windows. You do have to muck about a little bit with plumbing between MikTeX and GhostScript on Windows to make it work, but once you get it kicking it's got a nice set of features, and gives you side-by-side code-and-DVI preview with reverse-linking (click on the DVI and it takes you to the relevant code fragment in the LaTeX file). It handles large projects extremely well; a lot of people in my department use it for their dissertation.

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I've found that, which is a hybrid text and graphical editor has helped to rapidly generate equations without needing to resort to something like LyX,

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Since it sounds like you're using Windows, I think TeXnicCenter is probably your best free option. (Anton and Montecristo seem to have covered the non-free options like WinEdt and BaKoMa TeX pretty well.)

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TeXmacs is a WYSIWYG editor based on latex. In particular it can read in and output latex files, and it has about the same power as TeX for writing equations.

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-1: This is a terrible suggestion. This is a great program, which works wonderfully as a frontend to computer algebra systems and for note-taking. But TeXmacs uses its own internal non-TeX format and only has minimal import/export facilities with TeX (e.g., it doesn't handle .sty files very well). – Neel Krishnaswami May 2 '10 at 12:22

I use WinShell on my home computer (Windows) and kile at the office (KDE). Both are fine. I also used TeXnicCenter for a while.

As for LyX, which some people have mentioned, I experimented with it once. The problem I had is that sometimes I wanted to go in and edit the code which it was generating by hand. And the code that it was generating was difficult to read. (If you have any experience with hand-editing the HTML that some WYSIWYG editors generate, you'll know what I mean.) If you already know some LaTeX then LyX may be more trouble than it's worth.

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I use LyX and I have to say that it is plain awesome both for beginners and non-beginners.

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On the Mac, I used TexShop for a long time, occasionally trying iTeXMac, before switching to AquaMacs emacs. I like AquaMacs because it works with AucTex and does everything that emacs does but it also has a nice aqua interface and accepts the familiar Mac OS X keyboard shortcuts.

(Moderators, feel free to move this to a comment on a post about emacs if you see fit. I don't have enough reputation to comment.)

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I would suggest Kile for Linux, TeXShop for Mac, LatexEditor (LEd) for Windows.

Kile is kind of perfect in my opinion, but it does not have clean ports to other operation systems. LEd is not open-source and it seems that developers have stopped working on it, but still it is the one I use in windows most of the time. Texmaker is also good for windows, it supports utf-8 while LEd does not.

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Other popular solutions (none of these are GUIs, but all offer various levels of help writing LaTeX source code) are emacs (most platforms), WinEdt (Windows, not free) and kile (KDE).

You might also try LyX, a GUI interface to LaTeX, although I have no direct experience with that.

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Unless I misunderstood the acronyms, they are GUIs (in the sense that they aren't command line interfaces), they're just not WYSIWYGs, and LyX is a WYSIWYG. – Anton Geraschenko Sep 29 '09 at 18:42
Oh yeah, oops, I got that completely wrong! – Scott Morrison Sep 30 '09 at 0:20
For what it's worth (not much), LyX gets called a WYSIWYM. You don't exactly get what you see because you don't format the document directly. You get what you mean. E.g. instead of making the font bigger, underlining, etc. you just define some text as the title. – Jeremy Shipley May 2 '10 at 3:34

The TeX Users Group has sponsored the production of a best-practices TeX-aware editor that is simple but not too simple, called TeXworks. Here are some highlights.

  • freely available for all of today’s major desktop operating systems
  • modeled on TeXShop for Mac OS X, which is credited with a resurgence of TeX usage on the Mac
  • developed with a PDF workflow in mind and includes an integrated PDF viewer so there is no need to switch to an external program to view the typeset output
  • most important: supports source/preview synchronization (e.g., control-click within the source text to locate the corresponding position in the PDF, and vice versa)

I see folks recommending some GUI programs. Of course, different things work for different people, but I have a lot of experience talking with people trying to get up to speed on TeX and LaTeX and honestly, it just gives a person an additional dragon to slay on the way to getting the document out the door. Instead, get a good tutorial and work through it using a good TeX-aware editor. Also see the CTAN starter page or the TUG introduction.

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Of course, in future this question might be even better answered on "TeX, LaTeX and friends", a question&answer site like MathOverflow but for LaTeX-related stuff.

(don't forget to show your commitment if you want to participate!)

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I like Scientific Workplace, but I've never compared it to LyX. It definitely saves time over coding LaTeX by hand. Note: Until you set up the automatic substitutions you'll think it is slow to use. (The auto-substitutes keep you from having to use mouse menus to get symbols. For example, you can set it up so that in math mode pressing a twice gives you an alpha.)

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TeXnicCenter is easy to use, and it will spell check for you. It also has some predefined parts, so you don't have to go searching for how to code a certain symbol in LaTeX. Note: Windows only.

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On linux, I usually use gummi. You type your code on the left and the document is compiled using pdflatex in real time and shown on the right. It's handy if you're not doing anything too long since you can see where you've gone wrong as soon as you type it.

For longer documents that might take a while to compile (ie longer than a second or two, since you will notice this in gummi), I'd use Kile. The only time I've ever really noticed this though is if I have a good few graphics written with xy-pic to compile in the document, but in that case, you can use \OnlyOutlines to remove that delay while you're working on the text.

On that note though, if you're writing a large document, you can set up a bare-bones environment that will be used throughout your document, write each chapter individually and then just \input{} them into a master document in order as each one is finished, meaning your compile for each section you're working with should be fast enough to use gummi.

It's still in early development, so it doesn't have any frills like project support, or any way of editing more than one document at once without running another instance of it, but I still love it.

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I had never heard of gummi! Sounds awesome. – REDace0 May 2 '10 at 4:32
I found it while looking at . That's a pretty good list of editors with their strengths and weaknesses clearly shown. – Pádraig Ó Conbhuí May 3 '10 at 9:30

If you are on Linux you may want to try Gedit with the LaTeX plugin.

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I use TeXmaker running on Debian. It had speeded up me greatly, without introducing bulky inconvenient features.

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