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Last post Author Topic: Lyx is the answer  (Read 15712 times)

superboyac

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Lyx is the answer
« on: March 15, 2011, 03:48:28 PM »
I've been writing a lot the past year.  You guys might be familiar with my frustrations with Word and styles and all that.  Well, I think Lyx is the answer for me.  I haven't gotten my hands dirty with it yet, but I've been reading about it and it seems like it's exactly what I'm looking for.

The other reason why I'm just about convinced is because of the intro/tutorial that's included with the program.  It's very clear that they want to make writing and styling very easy.  Not like Word, and not like any other application I've seen.

I've been using Indesign for a side business involving equations and text and graphics.  Indesign is ok, but still a little too much fiddling around for me.  And like any of the big name software, there are a lot of features that are implemented in a weird way.  I'm going to give Lyx a try and I'm pretty sure I'm going to like it a lot.

Word sucks. Extremely unstable.  It's been two fucking decades and it still can't do bullets and numbering without making you nervous.  All the experts say avoid most of the interesting features because it corrupts the document.  And it does.  i remember ignoring that advice, and my documents got corrupted almost immediately.

And I love that Lyx can do math stuff.  Man, Indesign has some pretty annoying issues with math stuff.  You have to bring it in from something like Mathtype, and then it doesn't display nicely if it's a Mac, and it creates an extra step if you want to change anything.  You have to go back to mathtype, bring it back in, etc.  So it's nice to have it in one place.

I'm also going to be interested in automating document creation based on databases and such.  but that's in the future.

So Word is out.  Indesign is out, most likely.  I never was a fan of Quark.  I've had experience with Scientific Notation's Scientific Workplace package, but it's outdated now and not as nice as Lyx.  (This is all Latex stuff, for those of you wondering).  I was never a huge fan of Latex because of it's unix-like environment, but it has matured into nice applications like Lyx now.  And it's free.  Crazy.  I would actually prefer something like Lyx that I can pay for, so I can get support more easily if necessary.  But there doesn't seem to be an equivalent out there.  It's ok, Lyx sounds like it's just right.

I'm pretty excited about it, actually.

Curt

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2011, 05:05:54 PM »
And I love that Lyx can do math stuff. 

The other way around, I would say. LYX is a math editor than also can type words and stuff.

Well, what I would say is, that the included CygWin has made some computers unstable.

superboyac

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2011, 05:38:55 PM »
And I love that Lyx can do math stuff. 

The other way around, I would say. LYX is a math editor than also can type words and stuff.

Well, what I would say is, that the included CygWin has made some computers unstable.

Would you say it's anything to worry about?  I'm not saying it will never ever do anything wrong.  Do I have to worry about doing a bunch of work, and then losing it?  It doesn't seem to be the case.

Edvard

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2011, 06:39:23 PM »
Lyx is great for what it says it's for, which may be exactly what you're looking for.
If you can get the concept of WYSIWYM, you're more than halfway there.

The only instability I've discovered so far is when that one section looks almost right, and I just KNOW I can fix it in the Class file...  

Long story short
Save yourself from the get-go by picking a Class that looks most like what you envision your end-product to be, and work with it.
Save tweaking up your own for when you have more experience and a few hours to waste :P


superboyac

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2011, 07:47:45 PM »
Save yourself from the get-go by picking a Class that looks most like what you envision your end-product to be, and work with it.
Save tweaking up your own for when you have more experience and a few hours to waste. 
Well...I plan to be extremely picky about my styling.  That's the whole point.  It's not like any other program makes styling a breeze.

Edvard

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2011, 09:21:42 PM »
I totally understand.
All I'm saying is, concentrate on your writing, because that's the point; you'll be telling Lyx what to do as you go along, and it will obey.
The Pre-set Classes available are pretty good, just roll with them for now, there might even be one that's perfect out of the box.
Later, you can open one up and make minor adjustments here and there, and IME that process can get nuts pretty damn quick.

Eóin

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2011, 09:51:41 PM »
I don't know LyX, but I do know LaTeX which is what LyX builds on. LaTeX is all about removing you, the writer, from the typesetting. Basically you're just supposed to type and then rely on the TeX engine to compile your document in a beautiful PDF. It will do that, and it will do it well.

Again, I don't know how easy or not LyX is to use, but at the moment I myself wouldn't consider using a LaTeX GUI. For me a LaTeX document is like a webpage, you have the content and styling separate, so you can change one easily without affecting the other. When you write a LaTeX document in the markup code, it's easy to try out loads of different styles. I did my Thesis this way, so doing large documents is very possible.

A thing to remember though is that LaTeX wants you to only provide the content, it wants to be left alone to decide the typesetting. Frankly LaTeX assumes you, the writer, is useless at typesetting and document design, and will fight you tooth an nail every time you disagree with it. That include small things like page breaks, it believes it knows better than you.

This behavior is largely by design, most people aren't designers and will often produce awful end products if given access to such features.

Personally I'd say go with raw LaTeX code, possible with the XeLaTeX compiler so that you can easily use system fonts. Also go with the MikTeX distribution, it's Windows orientated and very simple to use.

Of course by all means give LyX a whirl, but I couldn't imagine doing my Thesis (~160 pages, full of math equations, tables and graphs) in WYSIWYM or WYSIWYG program.

superboyac

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2011, 10:45:38 PM »
Eoin, I understand most of what you say.  But it doesn't quite make sense to me.  I understand the whole idea of Latex.  You say you wouldn't use a gui.  i don't understand why not.  To me, you sound like those programmers and computer powerusers who insist that using keyboard shortcuts and programming things from scratch is "better".

Whenever people talk about latex, they keep repeating the same things.  Latex doesn't want you thinking about typesetting, etc.  And they keep repeating it and repeating.  Look, I get it.  I get the philosophy behind the thing.  Now, let's get down to it.  Latex is not a person, it doesn't assume anything.  I just want to define like 5 different styles, and start using them to create content.  Why wouldn't I want a gui?  Can you explain that?

You say:
Quote
Frankly LaTeX assumes you, the writer, is useless at typesetting and document design, and will fight you tooth an nail every time you disagree with it. That include small things like page breaks, it believes it knows better than you.
That doesn't make sense to me.  latex is not a person, so you need to explain this without all the abstract talk.  What good is a program if it's going to fight me for trying to get things just the way I want it?  That doesn't make sense.  If it's true, why the hell would I use it?

I want to define when and where page breaks should occur.  I want to define what borders and stuff appear on the page.  I want to define how the paragraphs are styled.  I'm EXTREMELY PICKY.  I'm going to nitpick every line spacing, every white space, the indentations.  I don't want it almost the way I want it.  I want it exactly the way I want it.  I don't want to go around in circles trying to "trick" the program to do it.  I want a program that will easily do these things.  Not with codes or syntax, but with buttons and dialogs and previews, etc.

A lot of people like us scoff at WYSIWYM or WYSIWYG.  Why?  How is that a bad thing?  I just don't understand any of this.

If your recommendation is to go raw latex, my answer is no thanks.  I'll just stick to Indesign.

zaminur143

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2011, 02:02:02 AM »
I've been writing a lot the past year.  You guys might be familiar with my frustrations with Word and styles and all that.  Well, I think Lyx is the answer for me.  I haven't gotten my hands dirty with it yet, but I've been reading about it and it seems like it's exactly what I'm looking for.
As I am new in this community, I didn't see your past posts. But I can say about your style. Because I'm answering your present post.
No big words for you, I just impressed.

Curt

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2011, 06:10:04 AM »
just a quote for your information:


Quote from: Wikipedia on 'WYSIWYM'
The first WYSIWYM word processor (and also first editor) was LyX. LyX is a graphical editor built on top of a LaTeX  processor, so it, like LaTeX, is particularly suited for the editing of scientific documents — though, again like LaTeX, it can be used for a wide variety of purposes.

Inside LyX, the structure of a document is partly determined by the 'document layout' chosen for it. These layouts correspond to LaTeX document classes, though LyX can also work with DocBook. The export process is performed in two steps. First the contents are transformed from an internal format to LaTeX, and then the LaTeX processor is used to generate the output document in the requested format (DVI, PDF, etc.). An advantage of this system is that LyX can produce any format to which a LaTeX file can itself be converted.

Renegade

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #10 on: March 16, 2011, 07:05:47 AM »
I'm pretty excited about it, actually.

Hell! You've got me excited about it~! :D

Sounds fantastic. Checking it out now...
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

Edvard

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2011, 07:13:54 AM »
Superboy, all we're saying is that Lyx (Latex) is VERY powerful for formatting text (you already know that), and as Spider-Man once said oh so long ago, "with great power comes great responsibility".
We'd like to spare you that pain, but since you've stated many times how nit-picky you are, I'm thinking it's inevitable you'll be wanting to get your hands dirty.
IMHO, nothing wrong with using a GUI, nothing wrong with being picky; Latex CAN be made to do your bidding, it just might take a bit of work.

My advice would be to write an example document, say 5-10 pages long, load it into Lyx and spit out some PDF's, applying appropriate-sounding Classes for each one.
Figure which one is closest to how you want it, make a copy and tweak it, checking the output after each adjustment until you get it just right.
Don't be surprised if this process takes a good chunk of time, but once you get it set up, you can write to your heart's content and spit out perfectly formatted documents until the cows come home.

I only warned you because I did this myself a short while ago, trying to format a resume from a plain text file into a pretty document.
I have to say it actually worked VERY well, and the default 'Curriculum Vitae' formatting was very impressive.
I tried out a few different classes and every one had nice touches and distinct advantages that obviously would work very well for other types of documents.
But when a few very minor things didn't turn out exactly to my liking, I spent a LOT of time tweaking a Class and after 4 or 5 hours it still wasn't coming out exactly right (probably due more to my inexperience than anything), so I gave up and went back to the CV class I had tried in the first place.

Caveat Utilitor...

superboyac

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #12 on: March 16, 2011, 08:46:28 AM »
Edvard, I'd like to discuss the details of your issue here:
Quote
But when a few very minor things didn't turn out exactly to my liking, I spent a LOT of time tweaking a Class and after 4 or 5 hours it still wasn't coming out exactly right
These are my questions:
1) What was it exactly that you were trying to do?
2) When you say tweaking, what were you tweaking. (the more specific the better.  An xml file?  A settings dialog?)

I don't think I'd have more than 10 styles I'd use.  It can't be that hard to create 10 styles from scratch, could it?  Let's say it takes me 40 hours.  that's ok.  I'm fine with that.  What I don't want to do is after 40 hours, find out that it's really going to take me 100 more hours to figure this out, and then I just go back to Indesign.  i suppose I should just start playing with it.  I just can't see too many things that need to be tweaked.  Font, font size, font styles (italic, bold), line spacing (top, bottom), indentation, bullet lists, numbered lists.  This is all basic stuff.  Then I'd add some page decorations, like borders, page breaks, horizontal lines.  Is lyx going to fight me in trying to do these things?

superboyac

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #13 on: March 16, 2011, 08:55:49 AM »
Well, here's my first problem with Lyx:
No print preview of any kind.
I'd like to be able to preview what my document is going to look like without having to print to pdf, which takes a while.  I'd like to be able to make some changes, check the changes, fine tune the changes, check it again, etc.  I know, I know, "Lyx doesn't want you worrying about that." Whatever.  I need to see a preview!  It's 2011.

f0dder

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2011, 08:56:02 AM »
I'm going to nitpick every line spacing, every white space, the indentations.  I don't want it almost the way I want it.  I want it exactly the way I want it.  I don't want to go around in circles trying to "trick" the program to do it.  I want a program that will easily do these things.  Not with codes or syntax, but with buttons and dialogs and previews, etc.
From that chunk of text, it sounds like you want DtP software, and not something with TeX as the underlying formatting engine.

It's not that you can't tweak layout with TeX, but it's something you do once, globally, and then let go - you don't mess with individual line spacing, page breaks, et cetera. A GUI frontend for TeX isn't meant to be (ab)used as a pseudo-DtP application, it's meant to provide some shortcuts, possibly a bit of not-accurate preview, and streamlining the "create ouput" process so you don't have to fiddle around with a shell and a bunch of commands.

I need to see a preview!  It's 2011.
Content over form, mate ;) - while TeX is about making things looking good, it's also about separating all the layout stuff from content-production. You shouldn't be worried about those pesky details (and wasting time tweaking) while producing content. Go into content-production mode, write write write write write, and worry about layouting later.
- carpe noctem
« Last Edit: March 16, 2011, 08:58:35 AM by f0dder »

superboyac

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #15 on: March 16, 2011, 09:10:22 AM »
Hmmm...interesting, fodder.
Here's what I make out of all of this.  I like DTP software like Indesign because it has a "modern" interface.  There are buttons, and when I look on the screen, I see pretty much exactly what I'm going to print.  Now, what I find very attractive about Latex is that I can spend some time up front and really get styles just the way I want it, and then I don't have to do it again.  I also like that it can handle math stuff very well.  Indesign has styles also, I just don't know how good they are (I haven't tried it yet).  Also, getting math stuff into Indesign is a pretty big hassle.  I'd like to streamline as much of this as possible...BUT, I need to be able to see live previews of my document as I make changes.  I don't want to go back and forth between printing and a simple interface while trying to check things.

I really like the idea of Latex, I just wish it had a live preview.  All the latex people say that there's no preview because it's intentional.  "It's not WYSIWYG".  But I don't think that's the real reason.  I think the real reason is that it's difficult and takes a lot of time to program an interface that accurately (somewhat) shows to live document with all the styles attached.  And then they defend it with the usual language that programmers like to tell people like me: it's more efficient, keyboard shortcuts are better, I can do more with [insert more difficult method here] way.
Lyx says the same things.  "Don't worry about what it looks like, we'll take care of it."  But they do have some kind of preview interface.  The fonts are styled, there are colors and highlights, the line spacings are there.  It's just a matter of adding more of the interface features like making the window look like a page, showing columns for newspaper style articles.  But I know that takes a lot of work, and this is all freeware stuff, and like most good freeware utilities, it's going to take shortcuts with command line stuff and programming-like elements.  It's always this idea of "We want maximum power.  Whether it's easy to use or not is not our concern."

superboyac

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #16 on: March 16, 2011, 09:11:25 AM »
To sum up:
Why wouldn't somebody want Latex with a live preview?  Let's say it was available right now, and implemented really well.  Most people would NOT prefer to go back to another way.  That's all I'm saying.

superboyac

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #17 on: March 16, 2011, 09:15:20 AM »
I think I'm sticking with indesign.  I got a little excited yesterday.

mahesh2k

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #18 on: March 16, 2011, 10:15:41 AM »
As I am new in this community, I didn't see your past posts. But I can say about your style. Because I'm answering your present post.
No big words for you, I just impressed.

S P A M

kfitting

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #19 on: March 16, 2011, 10:43:25 AM »
Regarding preview, does this help: http://wiki.lyx.org/LyX/NewInLyX20#toc22

Edvard

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #20 on: March 16, 2011, 10:55:54 AM »
Edvard, I'd like to discuss the details of your issue here:
Quote
But when a few very minor things didn't turn out exactly to my liking, I spent a LOT of time tweaking a Class and after 4 or 5 hours it still wasn't coming out exactly right
These are my questions:
1) What was it exactly that you were trying to do?
2) When you say tweaking, what were you tweaking. (the more specific the better.  An xml file?  A settings dialog?)
It's been quite a while since I used Lyx, pardon the rust.
What I was trying to do was spiff up a plain text resume.
Like you, I had gotten tired of styles dialogs and thought Lyx could help me by doing the magical formatting part and I would just tell it what and where.

First, Classes.
A Class is not actually a style like you know them from other WP software, it's like a collection of styles that will get applied to certain parts of your document based on what you tell it to do from within the document itself.
Almost everything about a Class can be defined in the 'Document -> Settings' dialog.
I don't know where they are in Windows, but the files that define Classes have the extension ".layout".
Do a search for them.
Copy one to your Documents folder and use it by selecting 'Document Class -> Local Layout' in the dialog and point it to your local copy.

Where I ran into trouble was defining what parts of my resume would inherit what style element; kinda like trying to get HTML to look nice.
Is it a Header or Body text? Which Header size? That kind of stuff, but in Latex terms.
So then I'd get the elements straightened out and it was hanging 2 sentences on a third page or something so I thought I'd make all the fonts smaller.
Uh-oh, my address got smooshed; better define that part differently...
I can't remember everything, but that's the gist.
Quote
I don't think I'd have more than 10 styles I'd use.  It can't be that hard to create 10 styles from scratch, could it?  Let's say it takes me 40 hours.  that's ok.  I'm fine with that.  What I don't want to do is after 40 hours, find out that it's really going to take me 100 more hours to figure this out, and then I just go back to Indesign.  i suppose I should just start playing with it.  I just can't see too many things that need to be tweaked.  Font, font size, font styles (italic, bold), line spacing (top, bottom), indentation, bullet lists, numbered lists.  This is all basic stuff.  Then I'd add some page decorations, like borders, page breaks, horizontal lines.  Is lyx going to fight me in trying to do these things?
No, Lyx will not fight you per se, it simply does things automatically according to the set of rules defined in the Class.
Sometimes those rules do something unexpected (especially when you don't know them well), and sometimes you'd like to break a rule here or there, which is where you get into fights.

Here's where I try to cut it short and say RTFM (Read The Free Manual).
As in, go through the Help menu; the Tutorial, Users Guide, Customization, etc.
Read ALL of it; it's very thorough and informative.
Really, it'll help A LOT.

Quote
Well, here's my first problem with Lyx:
No print preview of any kind.
I'd like to be able to preview what my document is going to look like without having to print to pdf, which takes a while.  I'd like to be able to make some changes, check the changes, fine tune the changes, check it again, etc.  I know, I know, "Lyx doesn't want you worrying about that." Whatever.  I need to see a preview!  It's 2011.
That's why I said start with an example document that was small.
That way it won't take so long to generate a document for you to preview.
If your Windows Lyx has DVI preview, use that; it's faster than PDF, and is just as accurate.
In my opinon, the biggest reason Lyx doesn't have a "live" preview is that the formatted & typeset product is SO good that a 'live' approximation just won't do it justice and is actually likely to mislead you as to final appearances.
Really. It's that good.
I mean, even MS Word prints out differently then how you see it on the screen.
Which is why we keep coming back to the same point; you do the writing, let Lyx do the formatting.
That is it's destiny

Quote
I think I'm sticking with indesign.  I got a little excited yesterday.
Oh.
OK.
NVM.
 :P

Edvard

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #21 on: March 16, 2011, 10:56:37 AM »
Regarding preview, does this help: http://wiki.lyx.org/LyX/NewInLyX20#toc22
Not really.
What that does is allow you to see a rough rendering of Latex code snippets inline with the text you're working with.
The code still shows, and you still have to render to PDF or DVI to see the final results, which will show the rendered results of the code, and all prettified with your defined formatting.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2011, 10:59:43 AM by Edvard »

Eóin

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #22 on: March 16, 2011, 11:05:55 AM »
To sum up:
Why wouldn't somebody want Latex with a live preview?  Let's say it was available right now, and implemented really well.  Most people would NOT prefer to go back to another way.  That's all I'm saying.

LaTeX wasn't designed to be WYSIWYG, so providing one doesn't simply mean it's hard work, it means you'd have to fight the underlying engine. Would anyone really want to use a program when the two core parts of it are constantly at each others throats.

WYSIWYM is perfect for LaTeX, which is why LyX can do it, but that's not ideal for someone who wants to tweak every little detail.

All the latex people say that there's no preview because it's intentional.  "It's not WYSIWYG".  But I don't think that's the real reason.  I think the real reason is that it's difficult and takes a lot of time to program an interface that accurately (somewhat) shows to live document with all the styles attached.  And then they defend it with the usual language that programmers like to tell people like me: it's more efficient, keyboard shortcuts are better, I can do more with [insert more difficult method here] way.

Wow, so presumptuous...


40hz

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #23 on: March 16, 2011, 11:08:25 AM »
For presentation, a professional DTP app like InDesign or Quark Xpress is probably your best bet.

The trick to getting good work flow is to exercise discipline when you're creating content. That means when you're creating content -  stick to creating the content. Think plaint text file here.

Do all your editorial proofing and spellchecking here. Content should be as clean and correct as humanly possible before you even think of styles and fonts. Repeat after me: proof and approve all content text before you make it look pretty.

All stylization and formatting should be done in DTP and strictly controlled by style TAGs.

Once you set up your master document and style sheets, it's a relatively simple matter to "pour" your text into it and do the text formatting. And because everything is controlled by the style tags and master doc settings, any change to a style format becomes global.  

Adobe also has nice integration between it's other apps. So you'll gain productivity and workflow advantages using InDesign with the rest of Adobe's 'creative' suite.

 I'm more familiar with Quark because when I started learning DP, it was clearly superior to PageMaker or Interleaf. But if I were starting today, I'd definitely go with InDesign.

LyX is pretty cool. I like it. But IMO it often creates more work for you than it saves. And you need to make a commitment to rethink how you do things to get full benefit from it. The other big issue is staffing & support. If you're doing books as a business, you're going to eventually need to start hiring (or subcontracting) if it's successful. I think it's much easier to find InDesign freelancers than it is to find TeX experts - unless you live near a university with a big UNIX department.

Just my 2¢

timns

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Re: Lyx is the answer
« Reply #24 on: March 16, 2011, 11:29:14 AM »
What we need is for someone to try out Lyx and then write a review. I used to use LaTeX all the time back in the early 90's and loved it. Even now, those documents look damn good.