texworks and the synctex feature

LaTeX,Linux — 13. May 2009

i have recently learned about texworks, a project started by jonathan kew to come up with an easy-to-use pdf-centric cross-platform latex editor. a praisworthy effort, imho. the feature that i am most excited about is the synchronisation of source file and pdf with the help of a technology called synctex. what this does is that it allows you to jump from some point in the source file to the corresponding point in the pdf, and vice versa. in my opinion, this is a real killer-feature! navigating through (large) documents is a problem in traditional latex editors, because it is so easy to get lost in the source file. if it is possible to navigate through the PDF instead, and then simply click somwhere to make an edit at that position, it makes life much easier.

unfortunately, it does not look like i will be able to use this feature any time soon. while texworks itself is already in a usable state, and someone has kindly prepared packages for ubuntu, the “synctex” feature does depend on texlive 2008, and it does not look like we will get this in ubuntu any time soon. in fact, the debian tex maintainers are still in a very early phase of integrating texlive 2008, and it does not look likely that it will be in “debian unstable” early enough to get included in the karmic release of ubuntu (9.10). and what’s more, i’ve just seen that texlive 2008 might never make it into debian at all, because the debian tex maintainers are considering to jump to texlive 2009 directly. in that case, we could hope for it at the earliest in karmic+1, i.e. the spring 2010 release of ubuntu.

i could of course install texlive 2008 from upstream, but frankly, i don’t think it’s a good idea. tex is very, very complex, and it makes much more sense to wait for the “official” packages instead of tinkering with it myself and risking major breakage. my experience with installing non-trivial applications from outside the package repository have been less than optimal. just the thought that i’d have to manually update it afterwards is enough to discard the idea.

so for the moment i’m stuck with texlive 2007. no choice but to wait, it seems… :(

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