The aim of the TeXworks project is to lower the entry barrier to the TeX world by creating a simple cross-platform TeX front-end. Today I downloaded and experimented with a TeXworks prototype. The project is still in an early stage of development, but it was an enjoyable experience and I want to share with you some early impressions.

Installation

TeXworks is not officially released so there are no installers available. Windows as Os X users can download binaries from the Google code project page. For other platforms you currently have to build it from source. The windows version consists of a single executable and several library files. You just unzip them to a folder of your choice and run the program.

Editor

TeXworks offers a simple and uncluttered user interface:

The editor seems to support most of the common “must have” features like syntax coloring, spelling, automatic indentation, unicode, and code completion.

While typesetting a document the output from TeX is shown in an output panel. This is fine, but when an error occurs TeXworks does not show where in the source code the error originated. More intelligent error handling is on the developers’ todo-list.

PDF preview and SyncTeX

What I like most about TeXworks is its integrated PDF previewer with SyncTeX support.

I have configured WinEdt to use Synctex and Sumatra PDF, but it was not trivial. With TeXworks everything worked right out of the box. PDF and source code synchronization is a really useful feature. When Ctrl+right clicking in the editor the corresponding line in the PDF is highlighted. You can also do the reverse operation from the PDF viewer. This usually works, but there currently seems to be some issues with documents that consists of multiple source files.

The PDF viewer is based on Poppler and works surprisingly well. It even manages to render the TikZ and PGF manual correctly (something SumatraPDF and Foxit does not manage):

Summary

TeXworks is still in an early stage of development, but from what I have seen it is a very promising project. I believe its uncluttered interface and integrated previewer will lower the barrier to the TeX world for new users. It should also appeal to more experienced users. Currently it lacks documentation and some basic functionality and customization hooks, but I’m sure this will be sorted out soon.

Thanks Jonathan Kew and other contributors for the work you have put into this project.

Comments

  • #1 Joseph Wrigh, November 29, 2008 at 10:42 a.m.

    Nice overview of the current state of TeXWorks. I'm also using it after using WinEdt, and as I never use most of the icons in the later I find TeXWorks to be ideal.

  • #2 Kjell Magne Fauske, November 29, 2008 at 1:32 p.m.

    Thanks Joseph. WinEdt is a powefull editor, but I have only used a tiny fraction of its features. I have now started to use TeXworks for smaller documents.

  • #3 Cameron Bracken, December 29, 2008 at 9:28 a.m.

    At first glance this seems very similar to TeXShop for Mac OS X (which is my prefered editor). The magnifying glass, SyncTeX support, minimalistic layout and even the hot keys are the same.

    At least for the Mac this program has a long way to go to rival TeXShop.

  • #4 Kjell Magne Fauske, December 29, 2008 at 11:47 a.m.

    You are right Cameron. The developers of TeXworks don't hide the fact that they have been inspired by TeXShop. For most Mac users there is probably no reason to switch from TeXShop to TeXworks.

  • #5 Jürgen Fenn, December 29, 2008 at 5:16 p.m.

    TeXworks is not being developed for Mac users in the first place, but for Windows and Linux users that do now have a mathematical or scientific background. I think for them TeXworks would be a good thing, indeed. Thanks for testing, Kjell Magne!

  • #6 Cameron Bracken, December 29, 2008 at 9:58 p.m.

    I am happy that the approachability, simplicity and elegance of TeXShop has finally been realized. Hopefully this will lead to "TeX-boom among [other OS than Mac] users."

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