Discerning typesetters have long relied on Tex and LaTeX for impeccable-looking documents. Now they have a front-end that works under Linux and BSD and brings control of the compilers and related utilities under the comprehensive graphical user interface. Authors and editors who use Kile can get increased productivity in the document creation business. This article will highlight some of Kile's key features which make it so attractive for newcomers to LaTeX.
Beginning at the beginning
Typesetting in LaTeX takes the user through several stages on the way to the ultimate document. First, the user prepares a LaTeX file or files using a text editor, checking syntax and the LaTeX commands and keywords. The next step is compiling the prepared LaTeX document, followed by reading of error messages and taking necessary actions on their correction, before compiling the document again. Once the error messages are gone, check the document visually and, if necessary, revise the input file again. For example, edit the file to chane settings for an image or table formatting, then compile the LaTeX file once more.
When, after several iterations, everything is finally arranged as desired, the document can be printed or stored into electronic formats including the "device-independent format" (DVI), Postscript, PDF or HTML. This is done with the traditional utilities, including dvi2ps, dvi2pdf, and latex2html.
LaTeX is a document preparation system based on the TeX typesetting language. TeX, LaTeX, and related tools are integrated into the teTeX distribution, maintained by Thomas Esser. But although the tools are easy to install and available on all the common Linux distributions, the process can appear discouraging to many new LaTeX users. Yet, the exceptional typographical quality of the created documents is well worth the effort. But that is not to say that the TeX and LaTeX community should be deprived of the benefits offered by the graphical working environments. Under Linux and BSD, a quest for increased productivity in typesetting with LaTeX has led to several popular programs that integrate the features of the compilers with numerous stand-alone utilities from the teTeX distribution.
Competition among LaTeX front ends, a Software Darwinism theory, could explain why Kile (KDE Integrated LaTeX Editor, latest stable version 1.9.3) is a number one choice for many existing users. It is fair to say that the term "LaTeX editor" does not do all the justice to Kile in view of its distinctive set of features. Instead, we could refer to it as a complex, yet easy to use, working environment that, among other things, centralizes access to LaTeX and related tools, including Postscript and PDF translators.
Kile is published under GPL, and source code can be downloaded from the Kile home page. Debian GNU/Linux users can, of course, most readily fetch Kile with:
sudo apt-get install kile
Kile is also packages for Ubuntu and for RPM-based distributions including OpenSUSE, Mandriva, and Fedora. Check your distribution's package manager, or search rpmfind.net.
With the complete suite of teTeX applications already installed, KILE takes the user for a ride in the fastest lane immediately after the first run. With the exhibited level of integration, it is easy to forget that it is an external front-end to teTeX and not a native part. Of course, the largest portion of Kile's work space is occupied by the text editor where the input files are displayed. Below the text editor is the area reserved for the stream of information provided by various external applications, and there is also a shell console for the quick communication with the operating system.
Vertically aligned next to the text editing area are the icons that change contents of the multi-functional panel farther on the left side of the main Kile window. With the basic view on, the panel lists all open files constituting a current LaTeX project. When writing lengthy publications it is always better to split the text into several smaller chapter/section files which are easier to manipulate. At the same time, the text encoding of choice can be selected for the cases when the writing and displaying of texts in non-English languages is on the agenda.
Apart from the last one, all other views for this panel are related to the hundreds of supported mathematical symbols for which Kile will insert the right LaTeX reserved word into the editor. TeX and LaTeX are all about math, and a whole branch of the Kile's menu supports the mathematical environments and symbols defined by the American Mathematical Society (AMS). This should provide all the coverage that the majority of users may ever need when typesetting technical texts. In rare circumstances when that may not be the case, one can always consult Scott Pakin's work "The Comprehensive LaTeX Symbol List" with references to the corresponding LaTeX packages containing more than three thousand symbols.
The last icon with MP (Metapost) label presents another gem: a complete list of Metapost commands. According to the its creator John Hobby, Metapost is a language for creating technical figures based on professor Knuth's earlier Metafont. Metapost, as the name suggests, produces the output in Postscript and facilitates access to specialized features including the integration of graphics and text. Speaking of Postscript, a higher-level approach to its integration with LaTeX is undertaken with the most interesting package called PSTricks. PSTricks allows you to include code snippets for Postscript drawings directly into a document.