SyncTeX and pdf-view-mode for emacs

Or, destiny is cruel
Back in the days of yore, when I was switching between my Windows machine and a Linux machine, I remember having SyncTeX active in my Windows machine. It was a wonderful experience: SyncTeX lets you click anywhere on a generated file from LaTeX and gets back to your editor, to the place generating where you clicked. This was extremely useful, specially later on when you need to adjust many formulas to fit and you need a bit of back-and-forth-ing.

Then I got a Mac, and since Preview is so handy I slowly forgot about SyncTeX. Time went on, and I merrily kept on editing LaTeX files as usual. I even managed to deliver my PhD dissertation a couple weeks ago, the formal speech will be in a month or two (come at your own risk). AucTeX’s preview saved most of the days, so I slowly even forgot SyncTeX existed. Shame on me indeed.

The other day I got an annotated PDF from one of my advisors, and I just couldn’t open the annotations. I tried all programs I had for Mac, and no luck: annotations weren’t showing, just saw the icons. Surveying for some command-line tool to extract annotations (just in case) I found pdf-tools, a replacement for DocView based on Poppler. It had the awesome ability of actually displaying annotations, with it it was pretty clear the annotations were broken in that PDF. I got a new set of PDFs from my advisor with the annotations in place, though. While waiting for it to arrive…

I saw SyncTeX was an option of pdf-tools. I had been using that, hadn’t I? So, I activated SyncTeX in AucTeX (it is TeX-source-correlate-method, see here) and indeed: I could have two frames, one with the actual LaTeX sources and the other with a PDF, and go from one to the other. Even hyperreferences in PDF work! See (well, click on the full-screen mode to see it larger or you won't see anything)!

Getting pdf-tools to work wasn’t incredibly tricky (given the hoops you need for some packages, sometimes). Just

brew install pdf-tools

and after reading

brew info pdf-tools

I was told to run

  emacs -Q --batch --eval "(package-install-file \"/usr/local/Cellar/pdf-tools/0.60/pdf-tools-0.60.tar\")"

and this does the trick (well, change emacs for your actual emacs, which likely is /Applications/Emacs.app/Contents/MacOS/Emacs) You’ll also need to add to your .emacs file (or temporarily in your *scratch* buffer)

(setenv "PKG_CONFIG_PATH" (concat "/usr/local/Cellar/zlib/1.2.8/lib/pkgconfig" ":" "/usr/local/lib/pkgconfig:/opt/X11/lib/pkgconfig"))
(getenv "PKG_CONFIG_PATH")

and run


as advised in the package’s README. And that's it, open a PDF and activate pdf-view-mode to check everything is in place. Well worth it!
Written by Ruben Berenguel