The PDF-tools emacs package is amazing for extending the usefulness of emacs for everyday tasks. PDF-tools is a very fast pdf reader with all the text navigation features Emacs offers, plus the ability to interface with other packages such as
interleave for note-taking. However, pdf-tools is notoriously difficult to get going on a mac. Here, I’ll try to document what I did to get it running on my system - a process that involved some stumbling but was ultimately successful.
I had to install a few dependencies via Homebrew before diving into emacs to install pdf-tools. Poppler is a tough one to figure out. Homebrew had a tough time “linking” it due to insufficient permissions for the
/man/man5 folder, so I had to
sudo chown the file to fix up the owner and group. That done, I was able to attempt to install pdf-tools via emacs using the command
m-x pdf-tools-install, though it would error out almost immediately.
I attempted to install pdf-tools via homebrew:
brew install pdf-tools --HEAD. Installing with the option
--HEAD installs the software from master on Github, rather than from the most recent build. I heard that the error I saw earlier was fixed in master, so that’s why I used that option. Unfortunately, it still didn’t work, so I went on and uninstalled it anyways.
What finally worked for me was installing from Melpa:
M-x package-list-packages ->
install. After this, I ran
pdf-tools-install once and then added
(pdf-tools-install) to my init. That’s it! I can open PDFs like any other text file, and they automatically pop up in a new Emacs buffer. Interleave mode works moderately well, and I’m satisfied with everything.
3. Basic usage
Here are a few things you can do with pdf-tools:
- Highlight text: Select text with mouse and highlight with C-c C-a h
- Add text: C-c C-a t
- Strikethrough text: C-c C-a o
- Delete annotation: C-c C-a D
- Search text: C-s (need to add to init:
(setq pdf-annot-activate-created-annotations t)
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