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Texpad – A Mac LaTeX Editor

I’ve written before on part of my thesis writing workflow here. I was testing out Mou, Pandoc and LaTeX and whilst it’s good for getting ideas down into cyberspace, it begins to fall down when you start introducing more complex LaTeX code into the documents. For example in my thesis, I’m using acronyms so I’m using the acronyms package and I also need to reference scientific data (as you’d expect!). But what editor to use on my Mac?

Past

In the past, I used to use the cross platform Texmaker Offsite Link but after using the Mac for a while, I found it ugly (ok, so that’s not a huge reason to hate it) and cluttered and I was looking for alternatives that fitted in more nicely with the Mac theme.

That’s when I found Texpad Offsite Link and decided to give it a try (it’s a paid for app on the Mac App store Offsite Link but there is a free demo on the Texpad website). It seemed to fit the bill but in what way and how?

Basically, when looking for a TeX editor, I want the following:–

  • Syntax highlighting – hugely important to me so I can see the difference between text and commands
  • Easy to see log output – should something go wrong with the LaTeX typesetting, I want to know about it and how to fix it.
  • Commands – Easy to inset custom commands (though not as important now I’ve found Codebox Offsite Link.
  • Navigation – allow me to jump to any point on the document where there are headers so I can start typing in the right section.

Texpad Interface

The Texpad interface fits nicely with the Mac OS X theme as it’s a native client. Plus points in it’s favour but not hugely important – however, it does support Lion’s full screen app feature and this makes it invaluable for long, distraction free writing sessions.

Plus Points

As you can see in the picture above, the interface is highlighted with the plus points – it’s a clean interface that allows you to input your work easily and with little fuss. The default display (if a PDF has been generated) is to display your code and the output PDF on the right. It’s a simple shortcut of ⌘+2, ⌘+3 or ⌘+4 to change between just the code, the view in the picture or just the PDF output (⌘+1 hides the navigation bar). Being able to easily view the output is a major plus point to me – Texmaker has it there but it’s not the Preview render view and so I often saw errors in the PDF output until I opened the PDF in Preview.

A major plus point I’ve found is that it hides all the temporary files such as the .aux files etc – these are stored in the same folder as the Tex file but in a folder called .textmp so are hidden by default in Finder – I like this as it keeps them there in case I need them but hides them from view as I don’t want to see them unless I have to.

Drawbacks

It’s main drawbacks are that it doesn’t support keyboard shortcuts for inserting code – by this I mean that ⌘+B does not insert the code for bold text like Texmaker does. However, in my mind, this is a fairly minor issue (⌘+B in this case runs Bibtex on the file). It’s other main drawback I can see is that it doesn’t follow the usual pattern of Mac applications and have ⌘+, open it’s preferences – instead the preferences are in the menu bar, however as there aren’t to many, this isn’t really an issue though does add some confusion. Finally, it doesn’t support Lion’s autosave feature. However, you can set it so that it autosaves on typeset which is what I have and I’m guilty of fairly often typesetting to see my changes so this saves it slightly though it might be a nice feature to bring in at a later date.

Conclusion

Overall, the cost is worth it for a native, good looking LaTeX editor that holds it’s own against it’s rivals. Try the demo out and see what you think. For me, it’s worth it as it fits my work flow in a nicer way than Texmaker does. However, I’d be interested to know what other solutions other people are using.

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