Frequently asked questions



Question 1. What is TeXmacs?

Answer. GNU TeXmacs

Question 2. For what typical purposes do people use TeXmacs?

Answer. TeXmacs can be used for

Question 3. What Operation Systems are supported?

Answer. TeXmacs can be easily installed on all major systems, such as GNU/Linux, MacOS and Windows. There are rpm and Debian packages as well as binaries available for Linux. For Mac OS X there is a Fink package. For MS Windows, a Cygwin package is available.

Question 4. What are the system requirements?

Answer. A reasonably fast machine is recommended. Having said this, I (Andreas) am typing this on a Pentium III 450Mhz under Cygwin, and TeXmacs is still useable here, although not overly reactive.

Question 5. I have already learned TeX/LaTeX and Emacs, do I have to learn all over again?

Answer. You will find out, that much LaTeX-knowledge can be reused. For example, you can start a section by typing \section[return] or you get by typing $\alpha_1$. Note that there are even shorter ways provided, for example $a[tab]$ gives you an alpha as well, so you might want to migrate after a while. Styles like article, book or seminar, as known from LaTeX, are provided as well. Furthermore, many Emacs shortcuts like ⌃X⌃S for saving a file, or ⌃_ for undo will work.

Question 6. I have a question, where should I ask it?

Answer. The best place is the TeXmacs user mailing list. Search this list and the FAQ beforehand, to ensure your question was not asked before.

Question 7. Is it free Software?

Answer. TeXmacs falls under the GNU public licence.

System Appearance and Behavior

Question 8. How can I see the LaTeX or TeX code corresponding to what I see on the screen?

Answer. This question is due to a fundamental misunderstanding about TeXmacs. Indeed, TeXmacs is not based on TeX/LaTeX, although it does support (not yet perfect) conversion to and from LaTeX. Furthermore, in theory at least, there is actually no need anymore to look at something like the TeX source, since TeXmacs is guaranteed to be fully WYSIWYG. Conversion to LaTeX may only be useful, when transmitting an accepted paper to the publisher of a journal.

Question 9. Trying to start TeXmacs remotely over a ssh connection, I get an error, while e.g. xclock works without a problem?

Answer. If you get an error message including the following:

Fatal error: I failed to connect to Xserver in 'x_display_rep::x_display_rep

then execute export DISPLAY= on the remote machine and make sure your /etc/hosts file is sound, i.e. it contains the line localhost and the IP information about the local and remote machine.

Question 10. TeXmacs is unusually slow while editing?

Answer. Graphics card drivers with poor 2D performance can slow TeXmacs down tremendously.

If you are running TeXmacs under X on a system with an ATI graphics card and are using ATI's proprietary drivers (the driver called fglrx), you can achieve a significant speedup by

Note that if you try both at the same time, you will slow your system down even more, instead of speeding it up.

Windows and Cygwin specific

Question 11. My Windows username contains spaces. Will this cause problems?

Answer. It is strongly recommended to have a Windows username without spaces. Please make a new account, as simply changing the username could be insufficient.

Question 12. What to do with Cygwin specific questions?

Answer. Look at the Cygwin FAQ at, the Cygwin User Guide at and search the Cygwin mailing list

Question 13. How to associate .tm files with TeXmacs inside Cygwin?

Answer. Create a file texmacs.bat with the following content:

    rem cmdow @ /hid

c:\cygwin\bin\bash --login -c "texmacs \"‘cygpath -u "%1"‘\""

Ensure that it lies in your PATH. Now you can associate .tm files with this batch file.

If you want to hide the black Cygwin window when TeXmacs is started, then download cmdow from, drop cmdow.exe e.g. in your C:\WINDOWS\system32 directory (this applies to Windows XP installed on C:\) and uncomment (i.e. remove “rem” from) the first line of texmacs.bat.

Question 14. How to get spell checking working inside Cygwin?

Answer. Install the Cygwin package aspell. Execute in a shell:

    cd /usr/bin

ln -s /usr/share/aspell/ispell ispell


Question 15. How to mark/select a whole paragraph?

Answer. Clicking once on a word will place the cursor there, clicking twice marks this word, clicking thrice will mark the paragraph and so on; eventually, the whole document will be selected.

Question 16. Spell checking always starts at the beginning of the document?

Answer. Mark a region, and spell checking will be restricted to this selection.

Question 17. How can I insert an table?


  1. Create a PostScript image of your table using OpenOffice (FilePrintPrint to file). Name the file, for example, “”.

  2. Convert the PostScript file to an Encapsulated PostScript file (.eps) using ps2epsi in a shell. Just type: “ps2epsi table1.eps”.

  3. Insert or link the image table.eps in the TeXmacs document.

Question 18. How can I insert the number of pages?

Answer. Put a label on the last page of your document and use the pageref primitive in order to produce the corresponding number.

Question 19. How can I resize an image?

Answer. Put your cursor right behind the image and edit the fields in the lowest icon bar. You may for instance set the width to 5cm and the height to 27mm. When leaving the width open, it will automatically be determined as a function of the height (and vice versa). When leaving both fields open, the image will be reproduced at its original size. Notice that a width of 1par will span your image over the paragraph width. The remaining two fields specify the -offset and -offset of the image. By default, images are aligned at the bottom. When specifying -0.5h for the last field, the image will be vertically aligned at the center.


Question 20. There is too much space after an abbreviation like wrt. or etc.?

Answer. This is because TeXmacs thinks, that the sentence ends after the dot in the abbreviation. To resolve this a posteriori, mark the abbreviation and press ⌥A. To care for this while writing: ⌥AETC..

Question 21. How to add unbreakable space?

Answer. Type ⌘/ after the space.

Remaining legacy questions

Question 22. A publisher sent me a giant LaTeX preamble I'm supposed to put in in order to prepare a book for them. What is the best way of putting it in and figuring if it will work?

Answer. I recommend to convert the preamble to TeXmacs and to put the result in a TeXmacs style file. However, the result will probably be disappointing, because conversion between TeX/LaTeX and TeXmacs is not yet perfect and style files are particularly problematic. What you can also do is write a TeXmacs style file by your own which supports the major extra constructs you want to use from the editors style file. When you convert your book to LaTeX, you next use the editors style. Some layout will probably need to be redone at that stage, but this should actually be the work of the editor… Please look in the TeXmacs help for more information about conversions between TeXmacs and LaTeX.