I've been using LaTeX for a few weeks now, with TeXworks, and have found it quite frustrating.

I'm running MiKTeX 2.8 on Windows 7 x64 with TeXworks 0.3.

Reasons why I find TeX frustrating:

  • Very difficult to install packages, and get them running in my code (sometimes impossible, i.e. with xy-pic)
  • When I write code, it takes a while (dollar signs everywhere)
  • I also end up using \\[2mm] all over the place

Quick related question, how do I create macros? — Basically I want to replace $\rightarrow$ with \im (implies) etc. It would also be helpful if I could define keyboard shortcuts for this type of thing (Alt+A = $\forall%, Alt+E = $\exists$, Alt+. = $\rightarrow$, Alt+, = $\leftrightarrow$ etc.).

So which TeX, LaTeX or other package would you recommend I use for typesetting, with which IDE/text-editor?

Purpose: For typing up Discrete Mathematics Lectures (Graph Theory, Logic Theory etc.)

  • 2
    You can tell MiKTeX to automatically install packages. Simply go to Start -> MiKTeX 2.8 -> Maintenance (Admin) -> Settings (Admin). Under "General" you find "package installation", you can set it to install on the fly. This of course requires an online repository, if you haven't already go to the package manager (-> Maintenance (Admin) -> Package Manager), and select "Repository" "Change Repository" "Internet" and choose a server near you Aug 21, 2011 at 10:28
  • 3
    and for the implies: write \newcommand{\imp}{$\rightarrow$} in the preamble. Shortcuts are either customizable in your editor, so have a look at the TexWorks manual, or consider using Autohotkey, it can assign anything to any key combo Aug 21, 2011 at 10:36
  • 3
    Based on your remark about Alt+A = $\forall$, etc., I'll ask: are you putting a dollar sign around each character in mathematics? You ought to be doing something more like $\forall\epsilon\exists\delta:\epsilon < \delta$, or the like. If you have a long list of equations, or a chained equation, you might want to be using displayed math environments instead, e.g. the align or gather environments provided by amsmath.sty. (If these are not your problems, my apologies.) Aug 21, 2011 at 10:54
  • 1
    If this is a question about IDEs, then it's a duplicate of LaTEX editors/IDEs. If it's a question about installing packages on MikTeX Then it's a duplicate of this question. If it's a question about TeXworks shortcuts then BAM. In any of these cases, this should be closed.
    – Seamus
    Aug 22, 2011 at 10:42
  • 1
    This is far too many questions (and complaints) in one to fit our format: 'not a real question' I think.
    – Joseph Wright
    Mar 27, 2012 at 18:44

3 Answers 3


Regarding your reasons:

  • Package installation mainly depends on the TeX distribution and on the operation system.

    • TeX Live has been providing a package manager since 2008, it's called TeX Live Manager aka tlmgr, running on Windows, Linux, Mac and further Unixes.
    • MiKTeX also provides a package manager, mpm, even for a longer time
    • Manual installation should always be possible, there are explanations and howtos, also on this site, see for example: How can I manually install a package on MiKTeX (Windows)
  • Writing code with many $ signs is usual - you could use \( and \) instead though I guess you don't like that either

  • Writing \\[2mm] is a sign that your layout requires improvement. Spacing should be adjusted in the preamble, for example using the setspace package or by customizing environments.

Create your own macros for example by \newcommand or \newenvironment. Not only for having shortcuts, but also for a consistent document which can easily be changed later. You can use \ensuremath in your macro definitions, so your macros will work both in math and in text mode, saving you typing $.

Generally, I recommend using TeX Live. The version 2011 has just been released. for the editor, I recommend TeXworks as easy and quick editor and TeXnicCenter as complex and very capable editor. TeXnicCenter provides auto-completion of source code which can be useful in your case, and of course shortcuts you asked for. You can even extend the auto-completion yourself, see How to add new auto-complete options in TeXnicCenter.

You might have a further look at:

  • 1
    \\[2mm] should be replaced by setting \parskip, it isn't the line spacing.
    – Leo Liu
    Aug 21, 2011 at 11:17
  • @Leo Liu: Possibly, if the OP uses it between paragraphs, he didn't write it. So, good addition. In general \\ is for breaking lines, not paragraphs, in text as well as in tables and multiline math where \parskip would not be so meaningful.
    – Stefan Kottwitz
    Aug 21, 2011 at 11:26
  • Thank you very much. Quick question before I move to TeXLive, how does the compilation speed compare? Is there a x64 version?
    – A T
    Aug 28, 2011 at 7:27

Here are some thoughts to the points you made in your post:

packages: As Tom Bombadil said in his comment, MiKTeX usually installs packages on the fly, if you set it up correctly. Installing fonts is a bit more tricky sometimes. I don't know anything about specific pitfalls of xy-pic. If you can't get it running for some reason, check if there's a question about it on tex.sx, and if not, you're welcome to ask a question about it.

dollar-signs: I don't use LaTeX for math, but my understanding is that math typesetting is actually one of the main strengths of it. I'd be surprised if there were any easier and similarly comprehensive way of math typesetting.

macros: Defining shortcuts

keyboard shortcuts in TeXworks: Can I configure shortcut keys in TeXworks? might or might not help.

editors: LaTeX Editors/IDEs lists a lot of editors, TeX Community Polls has a poll regarding the popularity of editors in this community.

General Thoughts: We strive to have only one question per post. If you have several questions and they all haven't been asked on here, it's absolutely no problem to post several questions. This way, other users can benefit maximally from the problems and solutions other users have come up with. Hence, I think this question here should be closed. This doesn't mean we don't want to answer your questions, this question 1) simply doesn't fit the question format and 2) contains questions that have already been asked and thus partially is a duplicate. If, after reading the questions I pointed you at and searching for other questions on tex.sx regarding your problems, you still can't figure something out, just go ahead and ask one or several questions.

  • 2
    I agree with your last comment. People on TeX.SE are a lot more friendly to simple questions than over on stackoverflow.com
    – benregn
    Aug 21, 2011 at 19:54

With regards to "which editor to use" and "how to configure keyboard shortcuts"... I came to LaTeX only recently, but I think I can recommend Texmaker.

Texmaker is a cross-platform editor that integrates nicely with a MiKTeX installation on Windows. Make miktex\bin show up in PATH, and Texmaker has everything it needs. If a package is missing, MiKTeX's excellent auto-installation feature will come up and install the package for you... I actually use this setup under WINE in Linux, because IMHO it beats any other combination of editor and LaTeX distribution hands-down.

Texmaker has a good auto-completion feature, and allows free definition of keyboard shortcuts ("Options" / "Configure" / "Editor") as well as user macros and commands (menu "User"). Together with some smart \newcommand LaTeX macros, it has saved me much typing this way. The integrated PDF viewer is nice too, opening the PDF at the current source position and allowing to jump from any place of the PDF to the corresponding LaTeX source file / line.

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