You have no doubt heard of 'WYSIWYG' editors, which show you what you get. The vast majority of HTML editors and word processors operate on a WYSIWYG principle, but another principle is WYSIWYM – 'what you see is what you mean'. The key idea of WYSIWYM editors is that the users merely have to concentrate on structure and content, instead of writing aesthetically.
The introductory paragraph no doubt sounds confusing, but the idea is that content and presentation are separated. Software like LyX expects the user to tell it the documents structure – such as marking where titles are – and LyX will then concern itself with the aesthetics, so the user need not fuss with fonts.
LyX is a free, cross-platform and open source word processor based on LaTeX mark-up language. LaTeX is designed to allow formulae and other such things to be easily inserted into documents, making LyX particularly useful when writing scientific or mathematical documents. LyX is currently available for Windows (2000 upwards), Linux and Mac OS X although builds operate for other operating systems.
I have only used LyX under Ubuntu as it requires the installation of TeX, which totals up to about 300MB. This put deterred me from installing it on my MacBook Pro, which barely has 10GB free space! LyX ran smoothly under Ubuntu, which is no surprise as it will be aimed primarily at Linux users.
Regarding usability, it takes some getting used to not having to deal with aesthetics. I found myself searching for the font dialog for about 20 minutes, before realising fonts were not essential in this program. It is quite easy to get typing but the transition between software like OpenOffice and Pages to this really was not natural. As I'm not a scientist, I rarely use LyX although I have no doubt it is useful for them (several of my friends have vouched for it!).
LyX can export into several formats, including PDFs and DOCs. It is also capable of handling right-to-left writing systems, like Hebrew and Arabic, and allows graphics to be inserted into documents.Advertisement
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.