Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How I Write LaTeX

I've been really happy with using the TeXlipse plugin for Eclipse to write my LaTeX documents. There are some really awesome features, so I thought I'd highlight some:

LaTeX Context

TeXlipse knows all the LaTeX commands, so you get auto-completion when you start typing:

Document Context

TeXlipse keeps an index of labels and references, so if you try and reference or cite something that doesn't exist, you get a warning:

It even has auto-completion for these labels too:

Bibliography Folding

The editor is full of little things that make your life easier. For example, you can configure bibliography files to be folded by default when you open them. It makes it much easier to navigate the document:

Spell Checking

TeXclipse can use the aspell command, or you can download a dictionary file and get instant feedback as you type:

Continuous Compiling

TeXclipse runs pdflatex (or you can use latex+dvipdf, pslatex+ps2pdf, etc.) in the background after you save a file. It knows how many times to invoke the compiler so the document gets built properly. If you have the PDF document open, most viewers will automatically reload the file when it gets changed, so you get instant feedback on how the final document looks. It also has the option of using Pdf4Eclipse, a PDF viewer that runs inside Eclipse. What's really nice about this is that it uses SyncTeX to connect the PDF with the original source files. You can double click on something in the PDF and it jumps directly to the source that generated that part of the document. It makes it really easy to make quick edits while reading the PDF.


Since I usually collaborate with other people that don't use Eclipse, and in case I want to build the project outside of Eclipse, I also use latex-makefile project. This Makefile is amazing. You don't have to configure anything. You just drop it into the source directory and everything magically works. I can't recommend this enough.