[Mac OS X TeX] Re: Editors - some questions

Joachim Kock kock at math.unice.fr
Fri Feb 22 10:10:56 CET 2002


The question of editors seems to be mostly a question of religion or mother
tongue --- it's hard to change!  Also comparison is difficulted by the fact
that few people are completely familiar with more than one editor --- and
with the more advanced editors like alpha and emacs you might say that
few people are completely familiar with them at all!  It is certainly true
that these two editors are too complicated for many users, especially for
those who spend less than half an hour a day in their editor, since you
have to invest some time in adapting your habits, forcing yourself to use
some fancy features, even if in the beginning it would be quicker to do it
the SimpleText way.  I suppose it's a bit like taking the step from qwerty
to dvorak, or like learning to type without looking at the keyboard.

The first step from SimpleText to a text editor is often taken in the need
of a latex menu.  It is so convenient to choose a latex environment from a
menu instead of looking it up in the latex companion.  It seems that all
the editors mentionned on this mailing list have some sort of latex menu,
although there are probably differences in how smart they are about
inserting the templates.  Next step is that you learn the keyboard
equivalents, to avoid mousing around while you are typing.  Once you
get used to keyboard equivalents, you are confirmed in your religion...

Here the differences between the various editors begin: their
configurability...  Every common action should have a keyboard equivalent,
so you need to bind your own keys, and take control over the combinations.
At this point the latex aspects of your religion becomes less important as
you start to realise the power of editing commands, navigation, scripting,
communication with other programmes, and the editor becomes equally
impoartant for HTML, emails, file conversion...

Not everything can be offered out of the box, so the important thing is
that the editor be configurable.  The deeper advantage of alpha and emacs
(and others, perhaps) is that they have an extension language, so you can
go in and finetune the behaviour of the functions and write your own little
scripts.  To start with, it is a bit frightening to look into those tcl or
lisp libraries, but it was also frightening the first time you looked into
a latex source file!  Very soon you get the feeling, skip through a lot of
incomprehensible code, detect the spot where it says

    insertText "\\section\{**\}\r**"

and then you just replace this line by

    insertText "%%%%%%%%%%%%%%\r\\section\{**\}\r%%%%%%%%%%%%\r**"

and hopla!  every time you invoke that function you will have such %-tags
inserted to make the latex source more readable.  (Stupid example of course
--- but this is not the alphatcl mailing list.)

Enrico wrote
>  emacs-20.7 is available from fink precompiled through dselect: this
>  means that dselect downloads and installs automatically the MacOSX
>  binary package.  To have all the LaTeX menus and functionalities in
>  emacs (far superior to those of Alpha and friends), you need to load
>  from emacs the macros: auctex (and its font-latex and bib-cite modes)

Alpha has certainly learned a lot from emacs over the years, and hopefully
this will continue.  It would be very helpful (for the alpha community,
anyway) to hear exactly which features emacs/auctex has that alpha doesn't.
If those features are cool, there is a fair chance that somebody on the
alphatcl mailing list will implement them!  (I will do so myself if it is
within my limited tcl capacities...)

Sorry for being long --- I promise my next mail will be short.


Joachim KOCK
Laboratoire de Mathématiques J.A.Dieudonné    Tél.  +33
Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis           Fax   +33
Parc Valrose - 06108 Nice cédex 2 - FRANCE    Mél.  kock at math.unice.fr

To UNSUBSCRIBE, send email to <info at email.esm.psu.edu> with
"unsubscribe macosx-tex" (no quotes) in the body.
For additional HELP, send email to <info at email.esm.psu.edu> with
"help" (no quotes) in the body.
This list is not moderated, and I am not responsible for
messages posted by third parties.

More information about the macostex-archives mailing list