The Skencil plugin facility is used to create a new compound object, which consists of text formatted by LaTeX. This allows the real LaTeX elements to be placed and formatted interactively, rather than the substitute text that is seen with psfrag or xfig's inclusion method. The output eps output is compatible for inclusion back into LaTeX or pdfLaTeX if desired.
The LaTeX fragment is prepared by transparently calling LaTeX, dvips and pstoedit. When the LaTeX code is modified, the import procedure is repeated. Being a plugin, the characters are saved as a compound of Skencil objects. The LaTeX string is also saved, allowing the text to be modified and recalculated.
Since the initial release, I have added to ability for the plugin to work without having to install the computer-modern fonts. This makes the basic installation process simple, but the display during editing in that mode will not be as good. It is quite readable, and useful for placement though, and the .eps output renders well.
A document containing embedded text may be exported to a normal postscript file, or optionally a combined postscript/latex file in the style of xfig's pstex format. The latter offers potentially better quality text, and smaller file sizes.
Comparison to Similar Plugins
Since I originally wrote SketchLaTeX, Joel Biddier has independently written a similar plugin, called skLaTeX . It is much more featured than sketchLaTeX, and I recommend taking a look at it. It does much the same thing, but with a much more graphical interface.
skLaTeX requires more installed libraries to work, and is a more complicated piece of software. Ironically, from Joel I have learned how to make SketchLaTeX much simpler to install, by no longer needing to install fonts. So after a long time of SketchLaTeX being complicated to install, it is now the simple alternative, albeit with less features.
SketchLaTeX performs a similar function to Christian von Ferber's TeXSketch script, but using a different method. Some differences are:
- Here the text is imported as vector Skencil objects, rather than an embedded postscript file - which gives it a much more native feel, and better on-screen quality.
- All the information is kept in the .sk file, and doesn't require additional .eps fils to be kept. (possibly the biggest advantage of this approach)
- We have smaller files, because font information dosn't have to be repeated for each equation.
- There is the option to save as a combined eps/tex inclusion, like in xfig. This could be used to avoid any loss of text rendering quality.
TeXSketch was good work, and a big help in getting SketchLaTeX going, but I don't recommend it for use now.