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Joseph C. Slater, 2007

Founder and former Editor, TeX on Mac Wiki.

Personal web page

Members can contact me by selecting E-mail this user in the toolbox menu on the bottom left of the page.

Non-members can go to my personal contact web page.

This is a user page and the editing guidelines prohibiting personal views elsewhere on the wiki are relaxed. Opinions, advice and preferences expressed here are the user's own. Use the "E-mail this user" link (bottom left) if you have comments or post them on the user's talk page. To view the pages in the main part of the wiki, use the links to the left or start from Main Page.

I have a relatively popular, and somewhat unpopular, document on getting started in TeX on the Mac posted on my personal web pages. Wiki formatting isn't sufficient for it to be formatted within this wiki page. That document is updated as I have time. It will always be a little behind, but likely sufficient for someone just starting out trying to make a decision. As always, if this document doesn't work for you, I'll refund the money you paid me to obtain it. No questions asked.

I really like Clea Rees's guidelines for getting started. There's not common best path for everyone, and she has probably the best flow chart.

For those who for some reason may want to latch onto my personal preferences and how I do things:

  • I am an engineering professor, writing a text, conference papers, reports, and journal papers in LaTeX.
  • I work mostly with my students, but am occasionally forced to use MSWord for interaction with other people when writing proposals.
  • I probably use Word 20% of the time. It's the 20% when I have no choice.
  • As time has passed, 100% of the time when I have a choice, I use LaTeX.
  • I could use XeTeX, which allows greater choice in fonts. See the first bullet. I only need one font. I use lmodern (Times). XeTeX is wonderful for those who need to use a variety of fonts. I strongly endorse it. It's just that I'm not in that group.
  • BibDesk rules. Hands down. It is the MVP piece of software for (La/Xe/Con)TeX, or not TeX. I archive my manuals for appliances and children's toys in BibDesk.
  • CocoaAspell. Not absolutely necessary for me, but boy am I glad to have it. In-line spell checking in my LaTeX documents, regardless of the editor.
  • Editor/Viewer
    • TeXShop. I love the simplicity of TeXShop for short documents, and the quick responsiveness when using SyncTeX. When making corrections to a document, I usually load it into TeXShop. For short documents (less than 2 pages), sometimes TeXShop. For longer documents, I like the power of:
    • Aquamacs+Skim. Emacs with AucTeX and RefTeX is just so amazingly powerful, that it makes LaTeX a pleasure to work with, even if you have to hunt through menus. However, it's learning the key-strokes that makes it very fast to operate in. There are other very powerful editors out there. However, AucTeX also has preview-latex built-in (you can see the formatted equations/figures, and quasi formatted text), and anything that doesn't involve just typing words has a key stroke to do the task. Most people use a handful almost all the time. Just learn those 10 (ok, two hands) and your hands don't have to come off the keyboard at all. Remote editing of files, and editing of other languages is a big plus. I really like the fact that Emacs (what Aquamacs turns into a Mac-like application) runs on every platform, and is free, and thus I can always work in Emacs, no matter where I am "stuck".
    • [[Viewers#Skim|Skim]. By itself, it's a great PDF viewer that is light-weight, and synctex capable. Don't throw out Preview, but Skim is my default PDF viewer on my Mac.
  • Graphics.
    • I do my plots in an old version of Octave, which allows me to easily generate metapost with its default gnuplot back end. The metapost can be tweaked, converted to PDF by mptopdf (but the box can be a touch too small), and created a great font-matched graphic. When it crops to tight, I convert the mp to eps, and then use epstopdf. I have an 'm file' for Octave that allows me to declare final font and graphics sizes for the resulting file. Gnuplot is easier to manipulate directly (not easy, but all the hooks are there). I'm still trying to find time to update my 'm file' to version 3.x of octave, which changed how octave interacts with gnuplot drastically.
    • I do my drawings in Xfig, or Jfig, exporting to mp, for the same reason... I can easily pop some latex inside it. There is a newer tool that I've tried, and haven't fully switched to. IPE. It has a GUI for drawing, saves in PDF format, with LaTeX embedded in a way that you can edit the latex code, and display the formatted LaTeX. Extremely cool. I'll be using it more in the future. See IPE
  • There are some other nice tools, but I honestly don't use them much. MacLyX is awesome. I just think a text editor is more responsive, and I feel more in control editing raw LaTeX. I won't think less of you for using it. It's tempting to me too.
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