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Step 4: Installing Essential UNIX Applications
Overview   |   Shell   |   Console   |   CYGWIN   |   Applications   |   Utilities   |   Links

Everything starts with a plain-text editor. My recommendation is the standard UNIX VI clone VIM. VIM is a splendid text editor packed with power. Cygwin comes with a copy of VIM, but it's not native (requires the cgywin1.dll runtime) and thus slower. You'd better get the sources and compile it yourself using Microsoft Visual C++. I recommend compiling two versions: vim.exe without GUI support and gvim.exe with Windows GUI support.

Some of you UNIX users might prefer Emacs. I personally don't use Emacs, so I have no knowledge how to obtain and configuring it for Windows (actually I do, but I don't want to tell you :-))). However, there are tons of information on this topic floating in the web.

The second thing is the TypeSetting program LaTeX. For Windows we have the MikTeX port, which is based on teTeX and very easy to install and use. Simply download the entire thing and install it, for Win9x/ME don't forget to add the MikTeX binary path to your PATH variable in autoexec.bat, for WinNT/2K, this should have been done by the installer program. Don't forget to modify DVIPS's setting to use Type1 fonts, please refer to my postscript to pdf conversion tutorial.

In companion to LaTeX, we need a postscript viewer. The only free one is AFPL Ghostscript and GSView. You can get the binaries and install them. Don't forget to run them at least once to configure. Also set GSView's text and image alpha values to 4 (if you have a fast enough computer) so that Anti-Aliasing is turned on and the output looks much better.

To draw diagram and flowcharts, UNIX programmers always use the excellent XFig program which, unfortunately, is not available for Win32 unless you are willing to experience all the torture of installing the CYGWIN port of the XFree86 server. Your best alternative is JFig, a Java implementation of graphics editor based on XFig. It can read and write FIG format files. You can also export the FIG files to EPS format using the fig2dev utility program. You don't need the Java SDK to run JFig, you can run JFig using jview.exe, Microsoft's own Java VM, which comes with Internet Explorer (2D AWT is not available with jview.exe, though).

Now, let's go to step 5: Installing important utility programs.