After investigating the work being done on KBibTeX a few months ago, we turn our attention to Kile, KDE's LaTeX and TeX editor. LaTeX is a document markup language and document preparation system built on top of the typesetting system TeX. It is frequently used for scientific publications as an alternative to word processors.
There is no stable Platform 4 version of Kile yet, but beta releases are already available and a stable release is not far away. Alexander van Loon took the opportunity to ask Michel Ludwig how the next version of Kile is shaping up. At this moment, Michel is the sole developer working on Kile.
Michel Ludwig talks about Kile's development
Alexander: To start, can you tell us what makes Kile special compared to other LaTeX editors?
Michel: Over the years Kile has accumulated an impressive number of features that can help with most aspects of LaTeX (and TeX) editing. Kile also has a highly configurable LaTeX tool launching system, a quick preview feature and scripting capabilities. As a KDE application, it can benefit from all the features that the excellent Kate editor has to offer, e.g. on-the-fly spell checking in particular. Kile can also make use of other helpful KDE features such as network-transparent file editing or embedding the Okular viewer for DVI, PS and PDF files. Finally, thanks to the KDE on Windows team, Kile can now also run natively on the MS Windows platform.
Alexander: How is the effort to port Kile to KDE Platform 4 going, is it difficult to port?
Michel: The porting to the new KDE Platform is essentially complete now. However, large parts of Kile had to be rewritten. The autocompletion functionality is an example; it is now based on a much more powerful API so the autocompletion feature will be even more helpful in the future. The biggest obstacle during the porting was that some parts of the Qt 4 and KDE Platform API are fundamentally different from previous versions, and Kile had to be adapted to the new API.
Alexander: You have been occupied with porting for some years now and except for some others who contribute patches you are the only developer. Do you need help?
Michel: Actually, until a couple of months ago, I was assisted by another developer, who then had to stop his involvement with Kile due to personal reasons. Since then I am indeed the only developer of Kile. I am not satisfied with the current development speed, but there is not much I can do to improve the situation as I also have other commitments. So, I think that having additional active developers around would be a tremendous help. There are a couple of tasks available that would be ideal for new developers to familiarize themselves with the code base. In addition, for those that are not familiar with coding, some help with improving the documentation of Kile is also
Alexander: What needs to be done before a stable version of Kile for Platform 4 can be released?
Michel: There is not much that still has to be done before Kile 2.1 can be released, except for fixing a few minor bugs and polishing the documentation a bit. The latest version, 2.1 beta 5, is already stable and bug-free enough for daily use. I recommend that anyone who is still using Kile 2.0 should upgrade to version 2.1 beta 5, and check whether you can still find any bugs that have not been reported yet.
Alexander: What are the plans for the future after the next release?
Michel: After Kile 2.1 has been released, I would like to work on a few features that have been requested for a long time. Foremost, I think that the LaTeX parser that Kile uses will have to be optimized and made faster. This would also help correct a few bugs in the autocompletion functionality that are not so easy to fix at the moment. In addition, the ability to split the editor views and to have an integrated viewer for DVI, PDF, etc. alongside the LaTeX markup would also be interesting features for Kile. Then, the quick preview feature could also be improved by turning it into a live preview, and the scripting functionality could be extended by providing downloadable scripts. People can also check the feature wish list for Kile, which has grown considerably over the last years. It has numerous interesting suggestions for new features.
Alexander: Kile recently migrated to KDE's Git infrastructure. Do you like the change? (Previously, Kile resided in KDE's Subversion repository)
Michel: Git is a very powerful tool with numerous features that will undoubtedly help a lot in the development process of KDE software projects. But probably as a consequence of its wealth in features, Git can sometimes be complicated to use in my opinion. Also, at times it does not seem to protect the users enough from their mistakes (e.g., it is possible to perform actions that leave the repository in a broken state, from which recovery may be difficult for novice users). However, as Git evolves, I am sure that its user interface will improve as well.
Additionally, I particularly like KDE's new development infrastructure around Git. The interconnection of the different websites like KDE Projects, KDE Identity and Review Board should bring a productivity boost to KDE development.
Alexander: Kile uses KDE's bug tracker and its Git repository, why not use KDE's infrastructure for the website, wiki and mailing lists instead of using the services of SourceForge?
Michel: Kile uses the hosting services for web pages and mailing lists of SourceForge purely for historical reasons. Kile started out using those services offered by SourceForge, but there has been no incentive to change this so far; SourceForge's hosting services currently fulfill the needs of the project. However, for bug tracking, for instance, it is more useful indeed to use KDE's facilities as this allows for a closer interaction with other KDE projects.