Life’s good in LaTeX-land

First of all, I finally got LaTeX-iT to work again. For some reason (I think it was because I was in a faculty meeting and bored), I just opened the program to see what would happen. I noticed that LaTeX-iT has a “History” feature which stores recently-typeset equations.

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And for some reason, I thought that maybe there was something wonky stuck in the History folder that was causing the recurring crashes. So I cleared the History, and it all works now. What I did in the first place, or even if that line of reasoning is correct, I have no idea. Don’t care. I’m just glad to have the program back because it’s better than typesetting in a LaTeX document and cutting/pasting.

Secondly, I’ve been demoing Textmate and have been remembering what it’s like to use a really nice text editor. I’m fine with using a “just OK” text editor like the one that comes with OS X, but what drew my interest in Textmate were some advanced features not shared by TextEdit that I have been needing for my cryptology topics class, where I often need to do some fancy manipulation of plaintexts and ciphertexts.

What I discovered in the demoing process is that Textmate is also a very serviceable and well-featured LaTeX environment. You can compile LaTeX source code from within Textmate and have display in PDF format just like with TeXShop, my standard LaTeX environment. But there are a lot of things Textmate does that TeXShop, for whatever reason, doesn’t do — most notably syntax highlighting:

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I’m used to syntax highlighting from having used Kile back in my Linux days. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. There are also some pretty advanced scripting features that allow you to create templates for documents, and even a neat trick that allows you to type the name of an environment (like “enumerate”) and then perform a keystroke to have that turns that word into the environment itself (e.g. \begin{enumerate}…\end{enumerate}). And there are little things too — my favorite being that when you compile a LaTeX document and there’s an error, you get a hyperlink to the spot in the source code where the error occurred.

And since Textmate is a text editor and not just a LaTeX environment, you can do all sorts of coding and text manipulation for things like HTML, C++, and plain old text editing. You can also encrypt a text document on the fly with 128-bit AES by using a menu option. You can even blog with it — it has support for tagging and environments for WordPress and you can somehow post to your blog from within Textmate. Cool, but I’d rather edit posts in Textmate and do all the publishing stuff with ecto.

I’ve got 20-some days left on the demo, and I balk at spending $50 on a text editor, but in this case it may just be worth it. (Plus, I’m going to write it into a grant proposal I’m doing anyway.)

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Filed under Geekhood, LaTeX, Software, Technology

2 responses to “Life’s good in LaTeX-land

  1. Jason

    Actually, TeXShop already has most of those features, though the syntax highlighting (blue \commands, red comments, green braces) is admittedly more basic. Maybe you have an older version of TeXShop? (I have v2.09.)

    – Templates are on a toolbar menu; I’m sure you can add more, but I just use their generic LaTeX template. I’m not sure what kind of scripting features you’re looking for in your templates, but TeXShop is generally pretty scriptable.

    – The Begin/End macro (converting enumerate to \begin{enumerate}…\end{enumerate}) is on the Macros menu.

    – Goto Error is Command-E, or there’s a button on the console window that pops up when you typeset the document.

    Also, I just looked at the TeXShop website — supposedly one of the improvements in 2.10 (now in beta) is improved syntax highlighting.

    Of course, I don’t think I’d try to blog or code C++ in TeXShop, so Textmate definitely has it beat there…

  2. I’m using v 2.04, so maybe I’ll go update TeXShop and see what happens. I have honestly not had a lot of luck using the macros in TeXShop — for some reason the keystrokes that are listed to activate some of the really useful-looking macros just don’t work for me. Maybe I’ll give it another go before shelling out the money for Textmate.