For a thesis or any other large, complex document, my own preference is to use approach it like a piece of software. This means usually:
- My text (.tex) and presentation (.sty) files are separate.
- My text is broken down into smaller pieces for easier navigation and editing.
- I likely have a "backbone" .tex file which includes the pieces in order (by chapter, etc). The pieces may include other sub-pieces for things like drawings or diagrams.
This is how I wrote and designed my book. It's how I do business plans. It works well. The major disadvantage is that the editors discussed above aren't going to help you that much since they are usually designed for simpler, shorter, less complex, more self-contained documents. After all, most of my .tex files don't contain the header information (including packages to use) since these would be specified in the backbone document.
So here's a list of my tools for this. YMMV, but if you are familiar generally with software development, you may find this easier and faster than the alternatives above.
- VIM, as the main editor. Note it has shell escapes that can be used for rebuilding the pdf.
- svn for source code management (git would work just as well).
- I have been known to build what effectively amount to initial build files in LaTeX to allow me to select the format I want to generate if I need different formats for draft, publication, etc. I did this for my book.
The advantage to this approach is that it gives you a relatively distraction-free and yet very powerful environment for building pdfs, especially where the content is complex and you want to keep things broken apart for easy editing.
Similarly in this spirit Texlipse looks interesting.