So I am learning LaTeX and I find it slow to test changes. So I'd edit the .tex file, then go to command line, and run pdflatex, wait for it to complete, and then open total commander, and then open the .pdf file. Does anyone know a faster way to test changes? (WYSIWYG?)
Quite a few PDF viewers support SyncTex or can simply reload the document when it is modified. This is the case of Evince, Okular, among others.
I don't know what editor you're using. I'm personally used to vim, so I can just build from within it (and the PDF can be refreshed automatically as stated before).
There are also TeX specialized editors with a build button and integrated PDF viewer, so you don't need to go to command line and open the PDF yourself. TeXworks (shipped with both MikTeX and TeX Live) is one of them. On KDE, there's Kile which is also an excellent product.
As far as WYSIWYG goes, LyX is a program that wraps around LaTeX to make the whole experience more "WYSIWYG". You can use a WYSIWYG editor, or a LaTeX editor, as you wish. Afaik, it's not pure LaTeX though (it needs some converting).
I personally use
latexmk with the
-pvc (preview, continuously) to recompile the document every time it is saved. It also (re-)opens the PDF viewer of your choice automatically for you. This should work well under Windows, Linux and on the Mac.
latexmk -pdf -pvc mainfilename
In addition of all the desktop solutions provided, you also have some online alternatives, which can be especially useful while learning. A couple I'm aware of are:
Overleaf features instant preview with automatic refreshing, PDF export, and (with subscription) the possibility of saving your TeX in the cloud, among other interesting features (such as sharing or collaborative edition). Also it has a pretty complete TeX installation with most of the usual packages available.
I know of two options with emacs.
Whizzytex, which uses the advi viewer, though it does not seem to be widely used. The way it works is, advi starts up (though I think other viewers with the necessary support can also be used) and then as you move around in the buffer, the document is compiled and updated in advi on the fly and also your current position in the buffer is highlighted in advi. It is in Debian at least. As you can see, it is not a very active project.
A more popular option is of course preview, originally written by David Kastrup, which is now part of AUCTeX.
Just use a tex editor/IDE like Texmaker or TexnicCenter. Although it isn't WYSIWYG, they will integrate with your latex installation and pdf viewer, so all you have to do is press one button, and they will compile and open the pdf.
There is also gummi. It is an editor that recompiles, every time you stop typing or every N seconds (check the settings).
Not an answer to your question, but if you are also planning to use
TikZ package, KtikZ editor might be useful for learning.
It autocompletes, autocompiles and is handy for quick creation of TikZ images independently from your LaTeX document. When you are satisfied with the result TikZ code can be included to your main document.
I use a program named Latexian that has a feature called Live Preview which obviously compiles the document every time it is changed and displays the PDF output in the same window. I have not seen a better solution yet.
Latexian is available for Mac OS X and is available on a 30-day trial basis prior to purchase.
You have the following options:
Linux/Mac/Windows, free: Gummi, supports PdfTex/XeTeX/Rubber/Latexmk
Linux/Mac, free: whizzytex + Emacs (only for
pdflatex); watch this demo
Windows/Mac/Linux, non-free: BaKoMa TeX
There is a review on WYSIWYG latex editors here, though Gummi was not in the list.
LEd has also a 2-way-dvi preview. Not live, but helps to easily compare your code with the result.
On Unix/Linux, it is easy to do in vi. In your .exrc file, add the following:
map [CTRL V][F2] :w[CTRL V][Enter]:!latex %[CTRL V][Enter]
where the keys in square brackets are the actual keys on keyboard (without the square brackets). Before you start editing the file, open a viewer with xdvi on the file. Then, while editing, you can pres the F2 key which will recomple your LaTeX file. Clicking in the xdvi renderer will repaint the screen.
When I was learning LaTex I used Texmaker. It has a built in PDF viewer as well as many symbols available as quick buttons to add into the document fast with the nice side benefit of learning them quickly as you go.
For pure speed, I don't think there is anything faster than using Sublime Text 2 with Skim (OS X only). PDF's compile so fast. You don't get bells and whistles like you do in Texmaker but it sure hums.
While the above answers are fine, they mostly force you to use a particular environment/editor. I'd tell you to do it the old-fashioned way: Use your regular editor, save the file and process it as you are accustomed (
latexmk is nice, but a simple
pdflatex should do), and have some PDF viewer that reloads automatically (or can be done to reload with a simple key).
Better don't get into some straightjacket environment that later is hard to move away from.