I am trying to get better at metapost, but the error messages are pretty cryptic (if there are at all) and it always takes a big effort go compile an mp file. Up 'best' program for writing and compiling mp so far is http://www.tlhiv.org/mppreview/. It does provide some error messages but most of them are not useful.

What program do you use for writing/debugging your metapost code?

Is there a good IDE for writing metapost (that e.g. checks syntax and automatically updates a preview)?

MP seems to be such a nice thing but it seems for beginners it is incredibly complicated to get into.

  • Do you get better error messages when you compile at the command line? If so, your IDE is hiding stuff from you. If not, I doubt any IDE will expand on the error messages produced by the compilation command itself. – cfr Jul 27 '14 at 22:09
  • What platform are you using? Windows? OSX? Linux? – Thruston Jul 27 '14 at 23:06
  • I am using win7 with miktex (texmaker as editor for tex files) – flawr Jul 28 '14 at 11:21

If you use the gmp package, you can compile your document and get the Metapost figure at the same time; so if you need an IDE, the one you use for LaTeX will do.

Myself, I have a very short shell script to compile the figure and a de minimis LaTeX file for viewing it:

mpost figure.mp;
mv figure.1 figure.mps;
pdflatex testfigure.tex;

The file testfigure.tex is very simple, as well:


It occurs to me that I really should just have the script write out this file as well as compile it; it would be very easy, and cut out a step in preparing to develop Metapost figures.

This small preparation done, I can just go to work on the figure and compile/view it with a single command. I write it in vim and view it in xpdf.

Good luck with Metapost; it really is a joy.

  • Thank you for answering! I already tried to make a batch file (successfull) to do the work, but there too I cannot get any helpful error messages which makes it a pain to find them. How do you deal with 'bugs'? – flawr Jul 27 '14 at 18:45
  • @flawr, what happens if you run the script suggested by @dgoodmaniii with an added -debug flag to mpost, so mpost -debug figure.mp? – Joe Corneli Jul 27 '14 at 22:29
  • As for helpful error messages, I find Metapost's error messages to be reasonably helpful already. I've rarely had serious trouble locating errors in Metapost; the line where Metapost finally hung itself is clearly identified, and it's usually fairly straightforward to track the error backward from there. When I can't tell, I've googled the error and always found the solution. -debug may be helpful. When you get the error, you can also hit "H", just like for a TeX error, and the system will try to give you more information. Otherwise, the Internet may have to be your last resort. – dgoodmaniii Jul 28 '14 at 1:26
  • Thank you for your hints and comments, I came up with the following solution: I have three windwos on my screen: 1.) npp for editing the source testfile.mp which needs to have follwong command (or it won't work): outputtemplate:="%j.mps";, 2.) the console for the compilation command (perhaps gonna make a nice batch file someday) with the command mptopdf testfile.mp 3.) the SumatraPDF viewer which automatically reloads the new pdf as soon as it has changed. But it really is a pitty that there is no 'plug and play' sort of editor, that would it make easier for beginners... – flawr Jul 28 '14 at 11:53

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