Science and KDE: kile

During the course of my research work, I may obtain results that are worthy of publication in scientific journals. Since my master’s thesis I’ve been using LaTeX as my writing platform, mainly because I can concentrate on content rather than presentation (I find it useful also for writing non-scientific stuff as well). Also, I can handle bibliography (essential for a scientific publication) very well without using expensive proprietary applications (such as Endnote).

In my early days I used kLyX first, then LyX, but I found the platform to be too limited for my tastes, and also LaTeX errors were difficult to diagnose. I needed a proper editor, and that’s when I heard of kile, a KDE front-end for LaTeX. Kile is currently at version 2.0.2 and is a KDE 3 application. However, in KDE SVN work is ongoing to produce a KDE4 version (2.1) and that’s what I’ll look at in this entry.

Obtaining kile 2.1

First and foremost, a disclaimer. kile 2.1 has not been released yet in any form, and so should be considered unstable and crash-prone. That said, it runs more or less well on my platform.

The first thing to do is to grab the sources from SVN:

svn checkout svn://

That will put kile’s sources in a directory called “kile”. The next step is to compile it (as usual, you need KDE4 development packages/files installed):

cd kile
mkdir build; cd build
cmake -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=`kde4-config --prefix` ../

Followed by the usual make install as root or using sudo.

kile 2.1 at a glance

This is how kile looks when loaded on my system:


(For the inquisitive people, it’s not a scientific work, rather a sci-fi like book I’m writing).

Kile uses the katepart for editing, so that means all the goodies that come with Kate can be used, including the recently-added vim input mode. Aside from editing and LaTeX syntax highlighting, kile offers a configurable LaTeX command completion, like this screenshot shows:


From the toolbars and the menus you can insert almost every LaTeX command known to mankind. For the people less apt with LaTeX, kile offers a series of wizards in order to make the creation of figures, tables and even complete documents. The one I’m showing here is the Quick Start wizard, which enables you to select document classes, add packages, and add information like author and date. As I was saying earlier, kile 2.1 is still a work in progress, and that explains why the dialog is still a little unrefined.


Like with its KDE3 counterpart, kile offers the possibility of using “projects”, which means you can collect LaTeX documents, bib files, and so on, and associate them together. You can also set a master document, so that even if you are editing other files (included in the master document), when you build your LaTeX file the compilation runs on the master document. Even in this case, a wizard helps in creating a project and the master document.


Lastly, kile has a plethora of other options, including customizing what you can use to build LaTeX files and view them (DVI, PS, PDF…), as shown in this screenshot.



I have merely scratched the surface of this application, which is extremely powerful and can help anyone with their LaTeX needs. While the many options may be confusing, I think that this application is already geared towards a technically-inclined userbase and so it doesn’t matter much. kile 2.1 is still unstable but extremely promising, and I’m looking forward to its release.

14 thoughts on “Science and KDE: kile”

  1. Just to note for people who may not understand the cmake command, it is missing to periods at the end. It should look like the following:

    cmake -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=`kde4-config –prefix` ..

    Then you can continue following the instructions.

    Yes there is TexMaker and it is actually pretty nice. I have always been a huge fan of Kile and this really excites me to see the work being done. I know a ton of non-KDE people who absolutely love Kile. Right now, I just finished updating my resume, and used vi to do it. Not even 5 minutes after completing it, I ran across this post :) Keep up the killer work, I shall be following you closely.

  2. I use ConTeXt instead of LaTeX in Kile, becaue it allows me flexibility that LaTeX just couldn’t give me.

    I sure hope Kile 2.1 will be (even) easier to tweak into the perfect ConTeXt tool! ;)

  3. Actually Kile and Kaffeine are the two applications that keep me from cleaning my disk of all kde3. But it looks very good and according to svn logs command completion is very improved. As a side-note I use cb2bib to extract bibtex information from pdf articles. It really eases the pain of cataloging all new papers. You may want to take a look at it:
    Have fun!

  4. @nixternal: Whoops, thanks for noticing. I fixed the entry.
    @fullmetalcoder: A Qt4 application is not completely integrated in KDE, that is why I didn’t search for Qt equivalents like TexMakerX.

  5. It would be great if all the power of kile and LaTex was offered in a way that the reset of us mere mortals could actually understand.

    I have played around enough with it to see where it could really kick ass, but it is too difficult to master without devoting a whole month of life, which I currently don’t have. If some of these tools had a learning mode that could be disabled by more advanced users, it would really help.

    Nonetheless, I will master LaTex one day.

  6. @KDEuser — that’s essentially what LyX is. It’s a more WYSIWYG-like frontend for LaTeX. They call it `WYSIWYM’ — what you see is what you *mean*. It’s actually relatively good for exploring LaTeX’s abilities, and then you can study its LaTeX export results to figure out how to do certain things in LaTeX.

  7. A port to KDE4 isn’t worthy of a major version increment?! Does kile have to cure cancer before it can earn 3.0? :)

  8. As far as I remember, the great feature promised for the kde4 port was using the new kate-edit component that apparently does inline spell-checking.

    Now… Does it?

  9. @gromgull: In the options there’s a checkbox called “Toggle Spell-check On the Fly”, so it may be the one you’re mentioning.

  10. Hi all,

    if you use kile it is not unlikely that you are also interested in a kde program to organize your scientific literature, and in particular associated bibliographic information. I love kbibtex for this, see . Currently it is kde3, but the port to kde4 is planned for the next future.

  11. Is there any release schedule for kile 2.1? To have only one kde3 app on the computer is kind of annoying and I don’t want to switch to SVN if it’s still unstable. Loosing hours of work just because of a crashing application is more than just annoying. But I’m actually thinking about installing 2.1-svn anyway to take a look at it.

  12. @woto: I use the opensuse rpms and they are quite stable. It crashed twice on closing the program in my now week-old use of Kile 2.1.SVN, but in both cases I did not lose any data. It has some hidden new features but mainly it is now consistent with my KDE4 desktop.

    @einar: thanks for the review, it made me look for kile-kde4 (I was waiting for it!) and then I found it.

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