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My top 3 LaTeX Environments: Notepad++, ShareLaTeX, and Sublime Text

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Not long ago setting up a LaTeX environment was painfully hard as a non-Linux user. Recently, I’ve found myself spending more time in my Ubuntu machine and have started to appreciate its simplicity when it comes to writing. Hardcore Linux users may prefer something like emacs as a LaTeX editor, even tough l started to use it frequently, still find a bit difficult when it comes to Latex.

Since I’m still bound to go back to Windows, I’ve decided to write this post about my three preferred LaTex Environments for Linux, Windows and the Web.

For Windows, Notepad++:

I’ve already been using several specific editors for quite some a while. In the end, none provided the simplicity and customisation I wanted, until I found Notepad++. It is a very simple, extremely efficient text editor with an impressive arsenal of bindings, tweaks and settings to suit any need you may have.

Pros:

  • Extremely flexible and lightweight
  • Full-screen and post-it mode ( quite necessary these days )
  • Allows custom UI and key bindings ( probably need a while to figure them all)
  • Advanced syntax highlight ( not only for LaTeX obviously)

Cons:

  • Requires time to setup to your needs and extend to LaTeX. This post was helpful
  • No cloud or auto-save features included natively (you could just use dropbox for that)
  • Doesn’t include a PDF previewer (If you mind for that, you need a non-blocking viewer like SumatraPDF)

On the Web, ShareLaTeX :

This is a relatively new project (but not the only one) on a web-based collaborative LaTeX specific editor. I joined since very early and been recommending it often, mainly because it takes from you the burden of setting up an environment (the main reason for Win users to find LaTeX tedious), you just need to open an account and you’re good to go, libraries are already included and even has some templates to get you writing. The main advantage of ShareLaTeX is, as it names implies, the collaborative twist it has. I use it to distribute my latest version by keeping the document public and non-editable (not everyone wants to open another account just to preview and edit the document) – collaborators can just get a copy, edit it and send their updates, then you merge the copies and update the shared version.

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Pros:

  • Safely stores your documents on the cloud and auto-save included
  • Access to few handy templates ( I rather use my own, though)
  • The editor can be themed, but I found the highlighting not as good as others
  • Share the project (several files) with others via link (public or private)
  • Chat functionality ( I haven’t really used that but good to have it)
  • Each project includes a huge LaTeX scripts library! But you can still add your own in case is not already included .
  • Will allow Dropbox syncs for premium users

Cons:

  • The editor still feels a bit awkward, even collapsing the panels and going full screen doesn’t give you a comfy, isolated writing environment.
  • Multi screen support for editor and output PDF ( but you can actually open a separate window with the same project)
  • Key shortcuts might be a good idea as I dislike clicking to preview
  • You need an Internet connection to access your projects. This is a problem if you really need to cut all distractions and temptations.

For Linux, Sublime Text :

This editor excels in all categories. It has a really smooth, minimalistic interface that can be configured in almost any possible way. It is very slick and you have access not only to a million keyboard shortcuts but also a plug-in browser within the editor itself. This is probably my first choice for LaTeX. The software is also available for Windows and MacOS. It features a minimap that allows you to move with ease, but if you need total isolation you can try the distraction free mode. It seems well documented and so far, I’ve found posts on any modification I wanted to do.

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Pros:

  • Slick and fully customizable experience
  • Tons of keyboard shortcuts and simple compiler configuration (using Latex Tools plug-in)
  • Embedded plug-in market where you can get utilities such as reference management, auto-completion  and more
  • Nice highlighting system and theming included
  • The free-distraction mode is simply perfect
  • Native spell-checker included
  • The snippet tool and command palette are pretty nifty

Cons:

  • It has a very steep licence price you can, however, use Sublime2 for free (with a few pop ups from time to time). A more comprehensive pricing scheme would be great.
  • Many of the most impressive features have to be installed separately and some of them aren’t free.

To conclude, my top 3 LaTeX environment share certain features such as responsiveness, flexibility and coding experience overall. Some other features like auto-completion and version management are not as important to me. If you find yourself using LaTeX a lot and not feeling comfortable with your current editor there are plenty of options now to choose from.

Written by cd

August 9, 2013 at 7:32 am

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