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The Miktex Tex Processing Freeware Program

December 4th, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

This is a post from 2005 that I’ll copy here, with the old comments as
part of the post.

The free Miktex (http://www.miktex.org/) looks to be an
excellent latex and tex Windows processor program. I’ve been
using SWP, and putting figures in looks to work better in Miktex.
Miktex gets PDF’s right, which my
version of SWP does not always do, and it processes straight from
myfile.tex to myfile.pdf. On the other hand, it has some problems,
noted below, which make it unhandier to use.

(1) I have a suggestion for the standard installation
instructions: say more
about the Windows command prompt. I haven’t used it for years,
though I happened
to remember it was in Accessories. Also, the user should know that he
can change
the default directory in teh command prompt to wherever he keeps his
tex input
files– say, d:/smith/latex-input, using the Properties
(reachable by right
clicking the command prompt).

(2) The command prompt requires you to type in all your commands,
which is
burdensome if they are long, e.g.,


You can’t copy and paste in the usual way with CTRL-C and
CTRL-V. What you can
do, though is to copy to the clipboard with CTRL-C and then paste
rightclicking on the Command Prompt program and choosing PASTE.

I will put a comment line like this at the start of my tex

% pdflatex chap07_MoralHazard.tex

then I can copy all but the % part and paste it into the command
prompt, and it

will process chap07_MoralHazard.tex and write to

(3) Something better would be a graphic interface to replace the
prompt. I don’t know how to write such an interface, but here is
what it would
be: It would be simple: just a window in which the user could do two

1. Browse and choose a tex file to process, e.g.,
instead of having to type in the full name in the command prompt, and
instead of
having to have it in the command prompt’s directory.

2. Issue the processing command— most simply “latex

or “pdflatex”, or others that might be useful. There
should be two to five
choices, and the user would check the box of the command he wants to

The command would take the file from (1) and put the output in the
directory as the input.

The interface could be fancier, but that covers what the user
needs every
single time he uses Miktex, and it would save a lot of tricky

(4) Miktex is fouled up by carriage returns, even ones that are not
hard breaks.

Thus, before I tex my files using it I need to strip off all the
returns, thus making all my equations, nicely separated into separate
lines for
visibility, into unreadable paragraphs. The solution, from Alan, the
commentor below, is to make sure my input file is in UTF-8 Ascii,
not ANSI. What I do in Textpad is (a) make sure it is set to UTF-8
as the standard encoding, (b) copy the entire file, and then close the
file, (c) open a new file and paste what I copied, (d) save the new
file with the old file’s name, on top of it. That converts from
the ANSI coding I initially had to the UTF-8.

(5) The command which takes us straight from myfile.tex to the
output myfile.pdf
produces pdf files which are not crystal clear on the screen. The

latex -job-name=chap07_MoralHazard temp.tex
dvips -Ppdf chap07_MoralHazard.dvi

do better, but then I can’t use JPG files in my input.

(7) Will I switch from SWP to Miktex? Money is not really a
concern for me, but
usability is. I’ll try it for a while and see.

on Saturday, August
20th, 2005 at 7:26 am and is
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13 Responses to “The Miktex Tex
Processing Freeware Program”

  1. Alan Says:


    I am not a user of SWP myself, but I do believe there are a number
    of ways in which SWP deviates from “standard” LaTeX
    (I’ve had these cause problems when sharing files with SWP
    users). MiKTeX, along with TeXLive, teTeX, and most other TeX
    distributions will have the same issues you describe here with respect
    to SWP. That said, allow me to attempt to address a few of your

    (2) and (3): I have rarely invoked LaTeX from the command line,
    whether using MiKTeX or another LaTeX distribution. Many, if not most,
    LaTeX users use an editor that handles the direct interaction with the
    LaTeX executable and friends. SWP is really nothing more than a very
    fancy LaTeX front-end. While the editors that most folks use are not
    as fancy, they do handle all of the command line work and make
    invoking LaTeX transparent to the user. Some popular Windows-friendly
    text editors than can be configured in this way are WinEdt
    (shareware), TeXnicCenter (freeware), and Emacs with appropriate plug-
    ins (open source), though there are a number of others.

    (4): Not sure why you’re experiencing problems with hard
    carriage returns. My files are chock full of them and MiKTeX handles
    them without complaint, so I suspect SWP is to blame here. Perhaps it
    is using an odd end-of-line character? Open one of your SWP files in a
    plain text editor (Notepad — but not Wordpad — will do)
    and see if it is read correctly, or if garbage appears at the end of
    the line. Alternatively, write a dummy LaTeX file with hard carriage
    returns using Notepad and see how it goes. Finally, I understand
    there’s a way to export files from SWP in a way that is supposed
    to make them more compatible with “standard” LaTeX systems
    — if true, you might try exporting your files in this manner
    before running them through MiKTeX.

    (5): The problem here is that pdfLaTeX is using Type 3 Postscript
    fonts instead of the more desirable Type 1 fonts. Since I don’t
    use pdfLaTeX myself, I can’t tell you for sure how to change it
    (though installing the cm-super package via the MiKTeX package manager
    might do the trick). A search of the usenet newsgroup comp.text.tex
    (via groups.google.com) should get you an answer pretty quickly,

    (6): MiKTeX does not recognize \tag because it is not part of
    standard LaTeX. To use it, you must call \usepackage{amsmath} in your
    preamble. Apparently, SWP does this for you whether you like it or
    not. Fortunately, amsmath is distributed with MiKTeX and virtually
    every other LaTeX distribution, so it should already be installed.

    (7): SWP insulates you from some of the low-level LaTeX drudgery at
    the cost of making your .tex files a little less portable. Another
    side-effect of this insulation is that you don’t always know
    what’s going on “behind the scenes,” as you saw when
    you tried to use the \tag command without \usepackage{amsmath}.


  2. Administrator Says:


    Adding \usepackage{amsmath} makes the tag command work again for
    equation special labelling.

    I still have the problem with line returns. It isn’t
    SWP– I actually write my latex files in Textpad, a text editor,
    and then used SWP only as a front-end— hence its inferiority to
    Miktex for me, since I don’t use most of SWP’s special
    features anyway. Also, the line return problem occurs when there are
    line returns in equations.

  3. Administrator Says:

    I updated the original post in light of
    Alan’s comments, so his comments won’t apply well any

  4. Stefan Moebius Says:

    On (3): Maybe a tool modelled after OggDrop
    (http://www.vorbis.com/software.psp?pid=2) would be what you need? You
    just grab the .tex or .mp or .dvi file and drag it to a floating icon.
    Dropping it would invoke the correct program based on file type and
    configuration (e.g., pdflatex or latex).

  5. Administrator Says:

    Yes, Stefan. Oggdrop is just for sound
    files, it seems. What would be a nice utility is a program that lets
    you say that any file dropped into an icon gets sent to the command
    line and processed using a particular command, with the output
    returned to the directory of the original file. I tries looking in the
    freeware site http://www.nonags.com/nonags/cl.html but
    couldn’t find such a thing.

  6. Harald Oehlmann Says:

    I use Textpad too (but pdftex to generate
    postscript directly).
    You can invoke the pdftex processor from the editor by assigning for
    example Cntrl-1 to invoke latex. I use:
    Menue: Config->Settings:Extras -> Add Program and edit
    properties: Parameter: $File

  7. Stefan Grosse Says:

    I also must say that using command prompt
    is a very unusual way for working with miktex. The perfect editor for
    me is winedt
    where you just have to push a button for texifying and pdf-texifying.

    With the carriage return- I noticed that there is a problem by
    opening a book chapter from your page. Winedt corrected it but I did
    not try to compile since there was a lot of scientific word stuff

    If you like to use scientific workplace with miktex as LaTeX distro
    see the notes of Prof. Söderlind:

    By the way the game trees do not look that great there is a package
    of Martin Osborn using pstricks to improve that: http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~osborne/latex/index.html

  8. Misha Says:

    Actually, I have another suggestion on how
    to improve MiKTeX. It takes relatively long to load all the
    definitions and packages every time TeX starts. Wouldn’t it be
    nice if there were a running instance of TeX, that would remember all
    those .sty files. In this case, LaTeX would just invoke that process
    rather than loading the definitions again.

  9. Administrator Says:

    Thanks, everyone, for these very useful
    comments. Harald Oehlmann’s suggestion seems to work perfectly,
    though I had to set it up a bit differently than he suggested,
    perhaps because of my version of Textpad. Here is what I’ve just
    added to my latex notes in



    Harald Oehlmann told me how to do this. Here are precise
    instructions for
    running miktex from Textpad 4.7.3. Maybe other text editors have

    1. Click on Configure, then Preferences, then Tools.

    2. In Tools, click ADD, then choose DOS Command. A box will
    appear, and write
    “pdflatex a file” as a title for the tool. Then click

    3. Click on the + sign next to Tools. Several tool titles will
    including your new “pdflatex a file”. Click on it, and a
    Properties box will
    appear with various things for you to type in.

    4. Under Parameters, type in “pdflatex $File”. Make
    sure that under Initial
    Folder,there is $FileDir. Make sure none of the options boxes are
    including CAPTURE OUTPUT. Click OK when you’re done.

    5. Load a tex file into Textpad. To process it, click on Tools from
    the front
    set of headings (File, Edit, Search, View, Tools, … ) Then click
    on “pdflatex
    a file”, which you will have added.

    6. The Command Prompt window will appear, and the tex file in
    textpad will be
    processed. The PDF file will be generated as output.

    I hope I didn’t miss any steps.

  10. Bob Says:

    First, hello Eric, from the distant past.
    We knew each other at MIT.

    Here’s another simple way to compile a .tex file using the
    MikTeX texify command. (I have to admit I live at the command prompt.
    Just a matter of preference. I also live in Emacs!) I turn .tex into
    .pdf using this batch file:

    texify %1.tex
    dvips -tletter -Ppdf -G0 %1
    call ps2pdf13 %1.ps %1.pdf

    You put these commands in a file called “makepdf.bat”,
    and place the file somewhere in your path. Then if you have a .tex
    file called “foo.tex”, at the command prompt you type

    makepdf foo

    and you will end up with a pdf version of your document.

  11. bob wolfe Says:


    I used to be an avid fan of SWP. I now use Miktex.

    1) I used to run into problems with carriage returns. They all
    arose when I shared files with colleagues who used UNIX. They have
    now all switched away from UNIX (despite them calling me all kinds of
    nasty names a decade ago for using Windows) so the problem is now

    2) SWP is not standard. I use a lot of math. \mbox does not work
    right in SWP. That prevented me from sharing with lots of colleagues
    who use standard latex. I think there are other things that are not
    standard in SWP. That makes it a pain to collaborate.

    3) SWP consultants used to have an attitude. Maybe the attitude
    is now fixed, so I apologize for any aspersions suggested by these
    comments. When I asked for work arounds on how to solve the problem
    of working with colleagues who use standard latex, the SWP consultants
    were extremely defensive in their responses. Not vulgar, but close to
    it. Almost as bad as the Apple community used to be towards Windows

    4) The real raison d’etre for SWP is its integration with
    Maple. Beautiful. Wonderful. I love the concept. Maple does simple
    math very well, up to algebra and closed form calculus. It does not
    do hard problems well at all, such as infinite sums. So, you have to
    do the math to see if it is right anyway, and then it is about as easy
    to type it in yourself in latex as to use the simplify verbs available
    in maple. If you are teaching calc 101 or high school algebra, then
    SWP is great. If you are teaching quantitative graduate courses, then
    be careful with SWP.

  12. Maciej Radziejewski Says:

    Your idea of having a simple IDE (point (3)
    of your original post) is already implemented in Windows! Well,

    You can browse your files using Windows Explorer. Then you can
    compile (texify) by right-clicking a TeX file and selecting an
    appropriate command from the context menu. You just have to define a
    context menu action for .tex files. I usually define
    “Latex”, but you may prefer to use pdfLatex or to call
    some batch file for more complex processing.

    Defining actions takes some knwoledge and it may be a good idea to
    suggest it to Christian Schenk to do it in the installer as an option
    (if it is not already there). You can define actions using the
    “file types” tab (in WinXP accessible from the explorer
    window – Tools – Options) or using regedit (dangerous if you misuse

  13. Eric Wilson Says:

    Maybe I’m missing something here.
    Why not use WinEdt? It’s a great editor, designed particularly
    for LaTeX. TexShop is ok for macs.

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  1. António
    December 12th, 2008 at 07:30 | #1

    I also use Winedt + Miktex. I stopped using SWP 6 years ago. SWP lacks flexibility and the dealing of figures is proprietary.

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