[OS X TeX] LaTeX editing environments

Charilaos Skiadas skiadas at hanover.edu
Fri Dec 8 17:50:53 EST 2006

He's my reply for TextMate, appended. I should say up front, you do/ 
should not need to do any configuration unless you want to, it has  
quite a large selection of abilities right out of the box. All the  
things I mention below should in theory "just work". (if they don't,  
then that's a bug, please report it).

On Dec 8, 2006, at 2:52 AM, Jean-Pierre Schneiders wrote:

> So, it would be interesting if the proponents of vi, vim, emacs,  
> TeXShop, ... could describe precisely how they configure their  
> editor for best usage with LaTeX.
> In particular, it would be usefull to gather information on how to  
> setup a system of "placeholders" or "bullets" to speed up commands  
> and environments insertion for the various editors.
> Best regards,
>                                             Jean-Pierre

(warning, quite a long post following)

I guess I can speak for TextMate's LaTeX abilities since I created a  
large part of and maintain its LaTeX Bundle. A lot of these things  
are documented in many places, so to begin with I will add some links  
to resources, and then will talk about some of the things it can do  
well, IMHO.

1. First and foremost, there are a number of screencasts I've done,  
along with blog posts, a lot of them on the LaTeX bundle. They are here:


Also see here for more TextMate screencasts: http://macromates.com/ 

2. The online TextMate manual is a key resource of information. There  
you can learn about:
   1. snippets (http://macromates.com/textmate/manual/ 
snippets#snippets). These are easy to create yourself for common  
repeatable code (and so much more).
   2. project navigation (http://macromates.com/textmate/manual/ 
   3. Find and Replace in multiple files (option regexp included)  
   4. Navigating within a single file (http://macromates.com/textmate/ 
   5. Moving text (http://macromates.com/textmate/manual/ 
   6. Setting up your preferred color arrangement via themes: (http:// 

Now I'll talk about the LaTeX-specific commands in TextMate. I will  
not refer to their shortcuts, because you can set these to whatever  
you like, though they do have some reasonable defaults. You can see  
these commands using ctrl-esc and navigating into the LaTeX bundle.  
The help file for the bundle is here, in markdown format: (http:// 
help.markdown). From within TextMate this can be accessed through the  
Bundle's help command.

Hm, perhaps I should explain what Bundles are very briefly. There is  
a core TextMate program, which offers the ability to extend it by  
creating Bundles, which are collections of rules, commands and  
preferences on how TextMate should act in particular languages. In  
some sense a lot of the power of TextMate is in these bundles. The  
bundles have a very open license (http://macromates.com/svn/Bundles/ 
trunk/LICENSE), and are being maintained by a large group of  
volunteers. The list of languages supported is quite extensive  
(http://macromates.com/svn/Bundles/trunk/Bundles/). The success of  
TextMate is largely due to this power it provides to the bundle. It  
is easy for people to add functionality to TextMate, in a similar way  
as one would add functionality to emacs or vi, with the difference  
that it is a lot easier for "newbies" to add functionality.

Ok, on to the bundle then. First of all, you don't need any  
customizing to begin with. Dragging a LaTeX document onto the  
TextMate icon should just open it with TextMate and set you to LaTeX  
mode. To start a new document, you can use the Templates found under  
the file menu, or you can start from a scratch file. The moment you  
save the file with extension .tex, TextMate will recognize it as a  
LaTeX file and color it accordingly.

1. Now first of all, creating environments. TextMate has a command  
called "Insert Environment Based On Current Word", triggered by  
command-{ (which is command-shift-[ in US keyboards, (command  
key=apple key)). You can even use this without a word and it will  
offer you a list of environments to insert. If you type in a word  
first, then TM creates an environment based on this word. For  
instance, typing "en" or "enum" and then the command trigger (cmd-{)  
will insert:


and place the caret right after the \item thing. When you are done  
with the first item, pressing Enter (fn-return on laptops) inserts a  
newline and a new \item entry. Similar behavior for "it", "item" for  
itemize etc. You can further customize this list to your heart's  
content by using the "Edit Configuration File" command in the LaTeX  
Bundle. For me a typical workflow these days is using the exam class.  
The "words" "q", "p" and "sol", followed by command-{, produce the  
"questions", "parts" and "solution" environments respectively.

2. There is a similar command for inserting common commands, called  
"Insert Command Based On Current Word". This is triggered by  
command-}, and functions in a similar way. for instance "l" becomes  
"\lim_{}" with the caret inside the braces. Once you are done adding  
things there, pressing tab takes you out of the braces.

3. The LaTeX bundle offers context-sensitive completion, via the  
common "esc" key. For instance, when typing a command, it will  
complete only with respect to commands, and not every word in the  
text. It will use any commands you have introduced before, as well as  
a stock list of commands. For instance typing "\dis" and pressing  
escape converts it to "\displaystyle". Typing "\di" and pressing  
escape multiple times cycles through all commands starting with \di.

On the other hand, if you are inside a \ref{}, then it completes with  
respect to all keys found in \label{} commands within the current  
document or any tex file included in your "root document" (called  
master document in TM). Similarly, inside a \cite{} it will offer  
completion with respect to all bibliography keys in your bib file and/ 
or any \bibitem's in your document. Also, option-esc will offer you a  
popup of all completion matches, similar to the BibDesk completion  
plugin that BibDesk offers (though I think that plugin is a lot  
closer to XCode style completion, anyway...).

4. Image drag and drop. You can drag and drop any image into the  
text, and an appropriate figure environment will be created, with the  
accompanying \includegraphics command. By pressing modifier keys,  
option or shift in this instance, you can adjust whether you want the  
entire figure environment, or just a simple \begin{center} 
\includegraphics...\end{center} thing, or the \includegraphics by  
itself. And these can to some extend be customized.

5. Table conversion. You can create a table by first typing the  
entries into rows, with columns separated by tabs, like so:

one	two	three
four	five	six

and select it and run a command, and it will become:

one & two & three\\
four & five & six\\

Similarly, you can create a new table with a prescribed number of  
rows and columns.

6. Wrapping things. You can tell TextMate to wrap the current  
selection in a command. Suppose for instance you just typed the  
sentence "foo bar" and what to higlight it, so to include it in  
\emph. In TextMate, you would select it by pressing opt-left arrow  
twice, and then press ctrl-shift-w. This results in:
"\emph{foo bar}" with the emph selected, so that you can type another  
command in its place. Pressing tab instead moves you past the  
closing }. There is a similar functionality for wrapping the  
selection in a begin-end environment pair.

7. Changing environments. Suppose you are inside a split environment,  
and decide to change it to aligned. In TM, you would press ctrl- 
option-E, and then just type in the environment name, and both \begin  
and \end entries get fixed. Similarly, there is a command to toggle  
the presence of a * in the environment, like turning {equation} to  
{equation*} and back.

8. Project Outline command. I recently added this command. It offers  
you an HTML, clickable outline of your project, much like a table of  
contents. Clicking on any section title takes you to the  
corresponding section.

9. Special Beamer setting. You can set the language grammar to LaTeX  
Beamer, which causes some commands to have particular behavior  
related to beamer. For instance, the commands inserting a new \item  
also add an overlay specification to it.

10. You can quickly turn a list of of lines into an itemize or  
enumerate environment, by selecting them and running the command ctrl- 

11. This is a general feature of TextMate that I found worth  
mentioning, it's very useful. It has a columnar editing mode, where  
you can for instance select a bunch of lines and add the same text at  
the beginning of each line. For instance with the three lines:


we could move the caret at the beginning of the first line, then  
shift-down twice, and then press option for columnar insertion. Now  
typing "\item " adds it to all three lines.

Ok, this is probably enough for now, but I would be happy to answer  
any other questions you have about TextMate. And you can usually find  
me in the irc channel, (irc://irc.freenode.net/#textmate). It is  
populated almost all the time by extremely helpful and great people  
(I would in fact say it is one of the great things TM has going for it).


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