WinEdt FAQs

This page offers a distillation of the most common types of questions posed, some via the Mailing List, most directly to our support address. These FAQs are by no means exhaustive and contributions to enhance this page and assist users in exploiting all facets of the program are welcome. And as always, users should not neglect to consult WinEdt's Help Manuals, where definitive answers are to be found.

The FAQs are divided into 3 broad categories:

  • Getting started, intended for first-time users who are about to install and use WinEdt
  • Usage, which points out some oft-overlooked functionality available for easy editing
  • Customizing the program, indicating the ways in which you can further adapt the program to your needs

  • Getting started:

    • How do I activate WinEdt?
    • No "activation key" is required to download and install WinEdt. The program is fully functional right form the start. WinEdt is try-before-you-buy software and any new installation is given at least 31 days before requiring registration. Licensing details are shown on our web page: Register WinEdt. If by activation, you mean compiling and previewing your documents, see the next FAQ.
    • How do I activate WinEdt to compile my documents?
    • WinEdt is an editor offering an easy interface for compiling TeX (and other types of source) documents. For the interface to work, however, you need to have a TeX system installed, either MiKTeX or TeX Live. For creating a final pdf from your source, a pdf viewer must be present on your machine. While most people do have Acrobat installed, a more TeX-friendly viewer is Sumatra. Click on the Help button at WinEdt's Options -> Execution Modes| PDF Viewer for details (and check out the Help topic, Adobe Blues; use the Index).
      Note that WinEdt can discern whether your TeX accessories are present and properly installed. A report will be produced at the Execution Modes| Diagnosis dialog: the "Summary" would tell you that "your TeX installation appears to be fine" (or not!); below that you will find "Searching for Executables," where the accessories are listed as either "OK" or not. If there is a problem, you'd be well advised to reinstall your TeX system and then restart WinEdt so it can locate the TeX executables. Rarely will you need to reinstall WinEdt to correct a problem with compiling!
    • How do I learn [La]TeX composition/syntax?
    • There are books and web sites devoted to this and this is outside's WinEdt's sphere of responsibility. That said, learning [La]TeX is often done by basing (and developing) one's writing on existing examples. WinEdt offers a number of sample documents under the Document -> Samples menu: you can open, study and (providing your TeX system is properly installed) also compile them. Also, you can download the sources of WinEdt's "Quick Guide" and follow suit; the Quick Guide includes a "LATEX Demo: Non-WinEdt-Related Bonus": check it out! Last but not least, WinEdt's Help Manual -> User's Guide has many hints and tips; see Document Editing, Navigation and Compilation topics.


    • Q: How can I enlarge the font size in the WinEdt screen?
    • Go to WinEdt's Options -> Preferences dialog, Font tab page. Click on the Font button there and make your choice. Press OK as required and it is done!
    • Q: using a wide monitor, I can set WinEdt and pdfviewer windows side-by-side. However, I find that some buttons of the (default) toolbar are hidden because of the smaller width of the WinEdt window. The only way to go to the hidden buttons is by widening the window again. Is it possible to have a button that show the icons once they are hidden?
    • The solution might be, rather, to use one of the alternative Toolbars. Since WinEdt 9 predefined toolbar alternatives are available through the Options -> Toolbars menu: choices between two and one row (large and small), and even the old (WinEdt 5)-style toolbar without drop-down buttons. The default settings contain the large two row toolbar mostly because removing any button from the default settings tends to result in complaints from old users that find a particular button essential for their work. For most of us, one of the predefined one row toolbars will do just fine. And if needed it is easy (no more that cut and paste) to rearrange certain buttons; add an odd one required for your work; or comment out an unwanted one that is taking unnecessary space. This would be done through Toolbar.ini in the Options Interface. See WinEdt's Help Manual and use the Index with the keywords, "Toolbar Alternatives" for details.
    • Q: selection is not working properly; why's that?
    • Perhaps you have inadvertently changed the selection mode from LINE to Block by clicking on the corresponding panel on the Status Line, at the bottom of the your WinEdt screen (LINE appears in blue, Block in red). Here is a view of the status line in which panels have been toggled:


      To return to LINE mode, click on "Block" to toggle back:


      Panels that will react to a click: Wrap (on/off), Indent (on/off), Insert/Overwrite, Line/Block, Spellcheck (on/off). Note that if you are in Block mode, wrapping is automatically off ("X"). WinEdt's Help Manual -> User's Guide has full details on the Status Line and what each panel displays.
    • Q: How can I automatically comment (insert "%") large parts of a TeX file?
    • Select the area you wish to comment and then do either:

      1. go to the menu Edit -> Move/Fill -> Insert String (then enter % in the dialog); or

      2. hit the key combination Ctrl-Alt-Right to automatically open the dialog (and then ditto). If you do not mark any text, only the current line is commented

    • Q: And how do I append "\\" at the end of each line in editing a table exported from another program:
    • Similar to the previous FAQ: Select all the lines of your table and go to the Edit menu -> Move/Fill -> Insert String (Ctrl+Alt+Right). In the ensuing dialog, check the option "Append". Now you can enter the text (“\\” in your case) and append it at the end of every selected line.

      Note that real magic can be done if you are in BLOCK Mode and you select some character columns. You have then the ability to insert/append strings directly in between the selected block text. For example "&" to insert new columns in your TeX table.

    • Q: How can I show or get rid of line numbers in my WinEdt documents?
    • Q: How do I hide chunks of my code in documents:
    • Right click on the left margin and then click on the command of your choice.
    • Q: Can I get rid of documents tabs? My six (sorry, my fault :) rows of tabs, plus slide- and status bar at the bottom, take up almost 1/3 of the screen, so that I have but 27 lines of text left to edit...
    • You can hide the document tabs as follows: right click on a tab and choose "Hide Tabs". You can then use the new document list to switch between documents (default shortcut is F2)
      Note that, on occasion, you may inadvertently perform a couple of clicks on the Tab/Menu area and lose the document tabs. To restore them, right click on the Menu and then click on "Show Document Tabs"
    • Q: sometimes I have annoyances opening text files and easily viewing all the code.
    • The Options->Preferences| Wrapping dialog is where this is defined; If you use the default Soft wrapping and the file in question is in ASCII format, adding ASCII to the Soft wrapping Modes, like this: TeX;HTML;ANSI;ASCII;Soft|... should do the trick. Click on the Help button for complete details on the different ways WinEdt can display your lines. And note that Help cautions: IMPORTANT: Before making changes to the soft wrapping options you should close the current project (Project menu). After the changes are made, reopen the project from the recent project list. This will ensure that your changes are applied to the currently opened documents! Alternatively, save all modified documents, make your soft wrapping preferences, and restart WinEdt to apply the changes to currently opened documents. You can also use the Format commands (Edit menu) to reformat lines...
    • Q: is there a quick correction function in WinEdt?
    • On any misspelt word, you can either right-click on it or press SHFT+ENTER and a pop-up dialog will appear with choices; click on your choice to correct your typo (mostly, but not always, the top one will be correct). Note that (dictionaries not being infallible) you can add a word to or remove one from your dictionaries by first making sure it is entered in the box and then choosing the Add or Delete action. See the Help topic, Suggestions Dialogs for details.
    • Q: Can WinEdt suggest an ending when I start to type a word/command, etc?
    • WinEdt offers 2 strategies here: auto-completion and active strings. Auto-completion can be used for simple typing but is most useful for completing LaTeX commands or environments, where it emulates the active strings functionality: once a LaTeX environment is triggered you get a suggestions dialog from which you choose the desired environment (scroll to it) and press Enter to apply it to your document. Or press Escape to dismiss the dialog. Most users like and want the auto-complete functionality; however, there are some who find it disturbing. To disable it, go to Options-> Preferences| Editor and check Disable Auto-complete.
      Active Strings are special strings defined in the Options Interface and associated with an action that is triggered when you type such a string. For example, in a TeX Document, typing \cite{} results in a popup menu containing available citations from the current .bib database file. Typing the string "\begin{proof}}" triggers the active string "\begin{?}}" and automatically completes the environment by inserting the properly indented "\end{proof}" and placing the cursor in the middle for you to complete. In HTML, as in TeX documents, the active string "<<" triggers environment completion. This is a powerful feature that can save you from typing closing tags!
    • Q: How can I easily create a dictionary file? Do I have to count the length of each word, put them in the order of their length first and then alphabetically?
    • If you have a word list already created, open it in WinEdt. Then, go to Tools Menu -> Sort Lines. Choose "Dictionary" from the dropdown list below "Compare Tables" . Press the Sort button. Done! Directions for creating a custom dictionary are given in the Help Manual (Dialogs-> Dictionary Manager, scroll to "WinEdt Dictionaries (Word Lists)"):
      Any word list (a text file consisting of one word per line) can be converted into a WinEdt dictionary by sorting it as a dictionary (Sort Lines dialog) and save it as a unicode (UTF-16) file with BOM and UNIX line terminators (Document Settings dialog). Neglecting to properly sort and save a dictionary will result in increased loading time and possible problems with the spell checking functionality! Words have to be at most 255 characters long and a dictionary can contain at most 16,000,000 lines. These are reasonable limitations for all situations arising in practice. Lines at the beginning of a dictionary starting with % characters are considered comments and are not subject to sorting. That's all. The hard part is compiling a complete word list for any available language.
    • Q: How do I get the compilation to work when I have more than one .tex file open? I tried to compile one of the Sample documents but got an error report and no resulting preview.
    • Your Main file is set to the wrong document. The Main File name is displayed on the Status Line panel and also in the Project Manager (under Project menu). Click on the Help button for details. You can set/remove (and manipulate) Main File through the Toolbar buttons assigned to this functionality:


      Other than a Main File issue, the most common reason for a failed compilation, such as a report saying "Error Launching Console Application ...," is that a TeX system has not been installed (and therefore no compilation can be done). Solution? Install a TeX system.
    • Q: Double-clicking on a word/line in the PDF output takes me to the WinEdt source location; why can't I do the same in WinEdt to get to the corresponding spot in the PDF file?
    • The first is called Inverse Search; the latter, Forward Search. Double clicking on a word in your WinEdt document results in selection, which is as it should according to Windows mouse responses. There is a Toolbar button for Forward PDF Search; however (since WinEdt 9), the same command can be initiated by clicking on the current line's bookmark in the left margin or by double-clicking on the left margin in front of the desired line. This almost eliminates the need for Forward PDF Search button in the toolbar (which, it is true, is useful to tell you if this command is currently enabled -- eg. the existence of pdf and synctex files). Many of us use certain buttons for feedback like this rather than actually clicking on them on a regular basis. Nevertheless, as almost redundant, we have yet another good argument for a smaller 1-row toolbar:-)

      Customizing the program:

    • Q: How do I adapt WinEdt for my own (non-English) language?
    • You need to install the appropriate dictionary first. Complete instructions are given in WinEdt's Help: WinEdt Manual, under the "How to" topics. Note that until you have configured WinEdt for your dictionary, when you type a non-English word it will likely show up underlined, as WinEdt's spell check functionality is by default enabled. Check the Status Line (bottom of WinEdt's screen): when the "Spell" panel is red, spell check is on; if it's greyed out, spell check is off. Clicking on the panel toggles it on/off. See WinEdt's Help: WinEdt Manual -> User's Guide -> Status Line
    • Q: How do I change the the Menu/Toolbar names into my language? :
    • You can customize WinEdt in any number of ways, including adding an Item to the Menu and Toolbar or changing the existing ones. Customization is accomplished through the Options Menu -> Options Interface. WinEdt's Configuration Manual gives full details (with examples) on how to use the Options Interface.
      In this case, translating the Menu items into your language, open MainMenu.ini, and scroll through the file and change the Caption of each menu item as required. N.B.: do not touch the Item definitions! These control how WinEdt handles the actual menu item throughout the program. Note the use of ampersands placed in front (or in the midst) of the names and their Captions: these denote that when you press ALT+the letter following the &, you go into Menu Mode and that particular Menu, submenu is activated...
      It is important to remember that after you make changes to any particular script you must use the Load Current Script command (the first button in the Options Interface toolbar or the context popup menu) to make the changes effective immediately. Or use the default shortcut key for Load Script: Shift+Ctrl+F9.
    • Q: How do I add my own button in the Toolbar for "TeX Symbols GUI"? I tried using underscores: BUTTON="TeX_Symbols_GUI" but that doesn't seem to work.
    • All actions are defined in the Main Menu where they are (optionally) assigned a shortcut and image. Toolbar buttons refer to these actions (rather than an image). In the main menu you will find the definition:
          CAPTION="TeX GUI &Symbols..."
      Now you know what to do:
      Each menu item has a name and this name should be used when you refer to it in the Toolbar (or elsewhere)
    • Q: How do I add a Toolbar button to close all files? I tried (in the Menu function): BUTTON="Close All" but this doesn't appear to work. Do I need a different spelling than “Close All” to get the button to work?
    • Note that the Item Name in MainMenu.ini is ITEM="Close_All"; therefore, the proper syntax is: BUTTON="Close_All"
    • To add or change a shortcut:
    • Shortcuts for any action are assigned directly to menu items through the Main Menu section of the Options Interface. The User Guide section of the WinEdt Manual contains the list of the default shortcuts ("Default Shortcuts Overview"). And Dialogs -> Shortcuts in the Manual illustrates the procedure to be followed and points out WinEdt's use of scan codes, automatically inserted by the Shortcuts dialog to guarantee that the shortcuts are properly interpreted with different keyboard layouts and to reduce the time required to load the menu. If you edit the menu directly, you don't have to specify a scan code. However, it is a good idea to avoid specifying shortcuts that may not exist on other keyboards
    • Q: How, step by step, can I use the ESCAPE key to get '\' (Backslash); F4 to get '{}'; and F6 to get '~'. ...
    • With your MainMenu.ini opened, search for the lines:
      Right after them, insert the following lines:
      At this point, press Shift+Ctrl+F9 (hot keystroke for "Load script") to incorporate the changes in your settings.

      Note, however, that the shortcut F6 is already used for the command "Next Error" and the shortcut Esc is used (since WinEdt 9.1) for manual auto-completion. You can change the above shortcuts by double-clicking on the keyword SHORTCUT and then by pressing the desired shortcut.

    • Q: Is it possible to assign the same Keyboard shortcut (e.g. F12) to use both XeLaTeX and PDFLaTeX (I am switching quite a bit between the two)?
    • It is possible to introduce a menu item with a single shortc ut (eg. F12):
      BtnClick('TeX Compile');
      Its main advantage is that a single shortcut executes whatever you select in the TeX compilation drop-down menu. The default settings currently don't use this feature but you can create a menu item that does just that.
      Note that it is also possible to use the same shortcut for multiple items linked to different configurations: since only one configuration is active at any one time, this does not result in conflicts. Compile (F9) and Preview (F8) are examples of configuration-specific shortcuts. However, if you assign the same shortcut to different menu items enabled for the same configuration, a conflict will be created and, in such a case, the first item will prevail.
    • Q: Can I continue to use Translation Tables in the newest release (as I did in WinEdt 5) ?
    • Translation tables in newer versions of WinEdt work just like before when they are enabled. I suspect that you neglected to load the modified ini file after you enabled TeX Read and Write Translation Tables. This is from the help (introduction to configuration manual):
      IMPORTANT: After you make changes to any particular script you must use the Load Current Script command (the first button in the Options Interface toolbar or the context popup menu) to make the changes effective immediately. It is not necessary, nor is it enough to merely restart WinEdt. In fact, no scripts are loaded at startup: the compiled raw data is stored in WinEdt.dnt (Do Not Touch). This significantly reduces the startup time and reduces the likelihood of error messages during startup.
      And, by the way, translation tables do not require you to disable UTF-8 format: if all non-ASCII characters are translated UTF-8 format looks the same as ASCII.
    • Q: Can I add new filetypes (eg. .nav and .syntex files) for deletion under the "Erase output files" button (the one that looks like a waste-bin)?
    • Create a copy of (WinEdt folder)\Exec\Erase Working Files.edt in your profile (also in the Exec folder) and edit it to your liking. It will be quite obvious how one adds new file types. You can change the 0 to 1 for the synctex file.