Thursday, June 01, 2006

LyX - Document Processor

LyX is a user-friendly version of LaTeX. LaTex was created by a scientist who wanted to achieve typeset quality output for complex content using a simple text editor. The results were great, but the difficulty for the user was a major barrier. LyX gets around many of those limitations by hiding the complicated LaTex codes.

LyX is a must see for anyone creating documents with formulas or scientific notations. There is no longer the need to type a document and then hand write the equations.

It is also an interesting option as general word processor. First of all, it's free. It can run on multiple operating systems, including Linux. It's fast and can handle large and complex documents. That may not be an issue with newer computers, but some older computers may choke on documents with over a few hundred pages. While that may sound like more pages than anyone would every require, there are a surprising number of times that documents need to be created that include dozens or hundreds of other documents. Before you know it, you have a 700 page document that spends all its -- read: your -- time repaginating.
One of the other interesting aspects of LyX is that it uses more of a style sheet method for formatting. Content is tagged with style codes rather than "painted" with bold, italic, and specific font sizes. While the format painting is easy to do, it is difficult to maintain uniformity. Microsoft Word, and most every other word processor, allows the user to apply styles. Most don't use the style codes at all. LyX makes styles the primary formatting system. A bit more trouble upfront but less difficulty later on.

One last point of interest: LyX can handle many foreign languages -- including Arabic, Hebrew, and Chinese. This can make it useful for a language class.

While I would normally recommend Open Office or the related Star Office for any school looking to save money on a word processor, LyX should be considered for slower hardware and for situations where equations and/or complex documents will be created. One downside to remember: LyX is a word processor and not part of an integrated suite of applications.


LyX - The Document Processor: "About the modern Document Processor LyX - a modern approach to word processing and typesetting."

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