Frequently Asked Questions about AUCTeX
1. Something is not working correctly. What should I do?
Well, you might have guessed it, the first place to look is in the
available documentation packaged with AUCTeX. This could be the
release notes (in the `RELEASE' file) or the news section of the
manual in case you are experiencing problems after an upgrade, the
`INSTALL' file in case you are having problems with the
installation, the section about bugs in the manual in case you
encountered a bug or the relevant sections in the manual for other
If this did not help, you can send a bug report to the AUCTeX bug
reporting list by using the command `M-x TeX-submit-bug-report
RET'. But before you do this, you can try to get more information
about the problem at hand which might also help you locate the
cause of the error yourself.
First, you can try to generate a so-called backtrace which shows
functions involved in a program error. In order to do this, start
Emacs with the command line `emacs --debug-init' and/or put the
(setq debug-on-error t)
as the first line into your init file. XEmacs users might want to
add `(setq stack-trace-on-error t)' as well. After Emacs has
started, you can load a file which triggers the error and a new
window should pop up showing the backtrace. If you get such a
backtrace, please include it in the bug report.
Second, you can try to figure out if something in your personal or
site configuration triggers the error by starting Emacs without
such customizations. You can do this by invoking Emacs with the
command line `emacs -q -no-site-file'. Once Emacs is running,
copy the line
(load "auctex.el" nil t t)
into the `*scratch*' buffer and type `M-x eval-buffer RET'. This
makes sure that AUCTeX will be used for the file types it
supports. After you have done so, you can load the file
triggering the error. If everything is working now, you know that
you have to search either in the site configuration file or your
personal init file for statements related to the problem.
2. What versions of Emacs and XEmacs are supported?
AUCTeX was tested with Emacs 21 and XEmacs 21.4.15. Older
versions may work but are unsupported. Older versions of XEmacs
might possibly made to work by updating the `xemacs-base' package
through the XEmacs package system. If you are looking for a
recommendation, it would appear that the smoothest working
platform on all operating systems at the current point of time
would be Emacs 22.1. At the time of this writing, however, it has
not been released and is still under development. The quality of
the development version is quite solid, so we recommend giving it
a try. With a developer version, of course, you have to be
prepared to update in case you managed to get your snapshot at a
bad time. The second best choice would be the latest released
Emacs 21.4. However, Unicode support is less good, there is no
version for the popular GTK toolkit, and the native versions for
Windows and MacOS don't offer toolbar and preview-latex support.
Our success with XEmacs has been less than convincing. Under the
Windows operating system, nominally the only option for a released,
stable Emacs variant supporting toolbars and preview-latex would be
XEmacs 21.4. However, code for core functionality like formatting
and syntax highlighting tends to be different and often older than
even Emacs 21.4, and Unicode support as delivered is problematic
at best, missing on Windows. Both AUCTeX and XEmacs developers
don't hear much from active users of the combination. Partly for
that reason, problems tend to go unnoticed for long amounts of
time and are often found, if at all, after releases. No
experiences or recommendations can be given for beta or developer
versions of XEmacs.
3. Why doesn't the completion, style file, or multi-file stuff work?
It must be enabled first, insert this in your init file:
(setq-default TeX-master nil)
(setq TeX-parse-self t)
(setq TeX-auto-save t)
Read also the chapters about parsing and multifile documents in the
4. Why doesn't `TeX-save-document' work?
`TeX-check-path' has to contain "./" somewhere.
5. Why is the information in `foo.tex' forgotten when I save
For various reasons, AUCTeX ignores the extension when it stores
information about a file, so you should use unique base names for
your files. E.g. rename `foo.bib' to `foob.bib'.
6. Why doesn't AUCTeX signal when processing a document is done?
If the message in the minibuffer stays "Type `C-c C-l' to display
results of compilation.", you probably have a misconfiguration in
your init file (`.emacs', `init.el' or similar). To track this
down either search in the `*Messages*' buffer for an error message
or put `(setq debug-on-error t)' as the first line into your init
file, restart Emacs and open a LaTeX file. Emacs will complain
loudly by opening a debugging buffer as soon as an error occurs.
The information in the debugging buffer can help you find the
cause of the error in your init file.
7. What does AUC stand for?
AUCTeX came into being at Aalborg University in Denmark. Back then
the Danish name of the university was Aalborg Universitetscenter;
AUC for short.
Frequently Asked Questions about preview-latex
1.1 How can I contribute to the FAQ?
Send an email with the subject:
2.1 Which version of (X)Emacs is needed?
See also the table at the end of the section.
preview-latex nominally requires GNU Emacs with a version of at
least 21.1. However, Emacs 22 (currently under development) offers
superior performance and wider platform support, and is even now the
recommended platform to use.
While recent versions of XEmacs 21.4 are supported, doing this in a
satisfactory manner has proven to be difficult due to technical
shortcomings and differing API's which are hard to come by. If
preview-latex is an important part of your editing workflow, you are
likely to get better results and support by switching to Emacs. Of
course, you can improve support for your favorite editor by giving
feedback in case you encounter bugs.
2.2 Which versions of Ghostscript and AUCTeX are needed?
We recommend to use GNU or AFPL Ghostscript with a version of at least
preview-latex has been distributed as part of AUCTeX since version
11.80. If your version of AUCTeX is older than that, or if it does not
contain a working copy of preview-latex, complain to wherever you got
2.3 I have trouble with the display format...
We recommend keeping the variable `preview-image-type' set to `dvipng'
(if you have it installed) or `png'. This is the default and can be
set via the Preview/Customize menu.
All other formats are known to have inconveniences, either in file
size or quality. There are some Emacs versions around not supporting
PNG; the proper way to deal with that is to complain to your Emacs
provider. Short of that, checking out PNM or JPEG formats might be a
good way to find out whether the lack of PNG format support might be
the only problem with your Emacs.
2.4 For which OS does preview work?
It is known to work under the X Window System for Linux and for several
flavors of Unix: we have reports for HP and Solaris.
There are several development versions of Emacs around for native
MacOS Carbon, and preview-latex is working with them, too.
With Windows, Cygwin and native ports of XEmacs should work.
preview-latex will not work with any native version 21 of Emacs under
Windows: you need to get a hold of Emacs 22 which is at the time of
this writing not released but available as a developer snapshot.
The entry "X11/Unix" currently means Linux, Solaris or HP/UX, as
well as the X-specific version for Mac/OSX.
OS Emacs version XEmacs version
X11/Unix 21.1 21.4.9
Win9x cygwin 21.3.50? 21.4.8
Win9x native 22.1 21.4.8
MacOSX native 22.1 -
3 Installation Trouble
3.1 I just get `LaTeX found no preview images'.
The reason for this is that LaTeX found no preview images in the
document in question.
One reason might be that there are no previews to be seen. If you
have not used preview-latex before, you might not know its manner of
operation. One sure-fire way to test if you just have a document where
no previews are to be found is to use the provided example document
`circ.tex' (you will have to copy it to some directory where you have
write permissions). If the symptom persists, you have a problem, and
the problem is most likely a LaTeX problem. Here are possible reasons:
Filename database not updated
Various TeX distributions have their own ways of knowing where the
files are without actually searching directories. The normal
preview-latex installation should detect common tools for that
purpose and use them. If this goes wrong, or if the files get
installed into a place where they are not looked for, the LaTeX
run will fail.
An incomplete manual installation
This should not happen if you followed installation instructions.
Unfortunately, people know better all the time. If only
`preview.sty' gets installed without a set of supplementary files
also in the `latex' subdirectory, preview-latex runs will not
generate any errors, but they will not produce any previews,
An outdated `preview' installation
The `preview.sty' package is useful for more than just
preview-latex. For example, it is part of TeXlive. So you have
to make sure that preview-latex does not get to work with outdated
style and configuration files: some newer features will not work
with older TeX style files, and really old files will make
preview-latex fail completely. There usual is a local `texmf'
tree, or even a user-specific tree that are searched before the
default tree. Make sure that the first version of those files
that gets found is the correct one.
3.2 I have problems with the XEmacs installation
Please note that the XEmacs installation is different, since XEmacs has
a package system that gets used here. Please make sure that you read
and follow the installation instructions for XEmacs.
4.1 Why don't I get balloon help like in the screen shots?
Some users have reported problems with their XEmacs version, so balloon
help is no longer switched on by default. Use the Preview/Customize
menu or `<M-x> customize-variable' in order to customize
`preview-use-balloon-help' to `On'. This only concerns XEmacs:
tooltips under GNU Emacs are enabled by default and unproblematic.
4.2 How to include additional environments like `enumerate'
By default, preview-latex is intended mainly for displaying
mathematical formulas, so environments like `enumerate' or `tabular'
(except where contained in a float) are not included. You can include
them however manually by adding the lines:
in your document header, that is before
In general, `preview' should be loaded as the last thing before the
start of document.
Be aware that
does not accept a comma separated list! Also note that by putting
more and more
in your document, it will look more and more like a DVI file preview
when running preview-latex. Since each preview is treated as one large
monolithic block by Emacs, one should really restrict previews to those
elements where the improvement in visual representation more than makes
up for the decreased editability.
4.3 What if I don't want to change the document?
The easiest way is to generate a configuration file in the current
directory. You can basically either create `prdefault.cfg' which is
used for any use of the `preview' package, or you can use
`prauctex.cfg' which only applies to the use from with Emacs. Let us
assume you use the latter. In that case you should write something like
in it. The first line inputs the system-wide default configuration
(the file name should match that, but not your own `prauctex.cfg'),
then you add your own stuff.
4.4 Suddenly I get gazillions of ridiculous pages?!?
When preview-latex works on extracting its stuff, it typesets each
single preview on a page of its own. This only happens when actual
previews get generated. Now if you want to configure preview-latex in
your document, you need to add your own `\usepackage' call to `preview'
so that it will be able to interpret its various definition commands.
It is an error to add the `active' option to this invocation: you don't
want the package to be active unless preview-latex itself enables the
previewing operation (which it will).
4.5 Does preview-latex work with presentation classes?
preview-latex should work with most presentation classes. However,
since those classes often have macros or pseudo environments
encompassing a complete slide, you will need to use the customization
facilities of `preview.sty' to tell it how to resolve this, whether you
want no previews, previews of whole slides or previews of inner
5.1 Preview causes all sort of strange error messages
When running preview-latex and taking a look at either log file or
terminal output, lots of messages like
! Preview: Snippet 3 started.
l.52 \item Sie lassen sich als Funktion $
y = f(x)$ darstellen.
! Preview: Snippet 3 ended.(491520+163840x2494310).
l.52 \item Sie lassen sich als Funktion $y = f(x)$
appear (previous versions generated messages looking even more like
errors). Those are not real errors (as will be noted in the log file).
Or rather, while they *are* really TeX error messages, they are
intentional. This currently is the only reliable way to pass the
information from the LaTeX run of preview-latex to its Emacs part about
where the previews originated in the source text. Since they are
actual errors, you will also get AUCTeX to state
Preview-LaTeX exited as expected with code 1 at Wed Sep 4 17:03:30
after the LaTeX run in the run buffer. This merely indicates that
errors were present, and errors will always be present when
preview-latex is operating. There might be also real errors, so in
case of doubt, look for them explicitly in either run buffer or the
resulting `.log' file.
6 preview-latex when not using LaTeX
6.1 Does preview-latex work with PDFLaTeX?
Yes, as long as you use AUCTeX's own PDFLaTeX mode and have not messed
6.2 Does preview-latex work with `elatex'?
No problem here. If you configure your AUCTeX to use `elatex', or
simply have `latex' point to `elatex', this will work fine. Modern TeX
distributions use eTeX for LaTeX, anyway.
6.3 Does preview-latex work with ConTeXt?
In short, no. The `preview' package is LaTeX-dependent. Adding
support for other formats requires volunteers.
6.4 Does preview-latex work with plain TeX?
Again, no. Restructuring the `preview' package for `plain' operation
would be required. Volunteers welcome.
In some cases you might get around by making a wrapper pseudo-Master
file looking like the following: