The Apple operating system – Mac OS X – lends itself very well to creating long documents using LaTeX mainly due to four factors:
- PDF support
- Workflow environment
- Unix under-layer
- Useful bundled applications
LaTeX can be somewhat restrictive on the types of images it can use (eg: jpg, png, tiff, eps etc..). The best file format to import images into your complied LaTeX document is the PDF file format. In OS X, PDF is supported natively and this is a huge bonus when wanting to create PDF images for your document since every application with a “Print” or “Save As” button can save to a PDF file. An additional bonus is that when saving to PDF, the font information is encoded, meaning any writing or symbols in the figure or diagram you made is saved as fully encoded, selectable text.
The workflow based environment is more difficult to explain, and is more a matter of personal taste. Being biased, I find working on the mac a much easier and more productive environment to be in, because it works the way I want it to. Other factors such as having a far less intrusive desktop and being more stable and secure are also important. If you work with a mac for an extended period of time, you will slowly discover just what I mean and either love the way the mac works, or hate it because it is so very different to Windows or Linux (or any other OS) and the habits you developed in those systems will hamper you when you come to try and apply them to OS X.
Mac OS X is built on a foundation of Unix. Those coming from the Unix/Linux background will be happy to learn there is a bundled “Terminal” application that gives you a command line into the system and many of your favourite Unix/Linux and shell commands will work in it. Additionally, popular Unix/Linux programs have been ported across to mac and are freely available to download and use (many are already installed by OS X) and of course, there is a full shell scripting environment too.
You can fully work in the Terminal by using venerable text-editors such as Emacs or Vi and running LaTeX commands at the prompt. The front-end of the Mac (the Aqua interface) is very successful at hiding the underlying Unix layer, for example, by hiding many Unix system folders (such as /var, /usr, /etc) in the Finder file browser. These can be manually navigated to in the Finder by using the “Go To Folder” menu option (in the Finder, “Go” menu) to go to the system folders that are normally kept hidden.
Useful Bundled Applications
OS X also comes with many bundled applications, some of which are very useful when using LaTeX, such as:
- Terminal: command-line and the way into the Unix under-layer of OS X
- Preview: an image viewer that can save to PDF
- Grab: a utility to capture screen-shots of the desktop, a window or a selection
- Grapher: a powerful, symbolic, graphing calculator that can create stunning 2D or 3D graphs
- Automator: easy and intuitive graphical scripting for file management and manipulation