Re: TeX OR Lyx

Subject: Re: TeX OR Lyx
From: Chris Gooch <chris -dot- gooch -at- lightworkdesign -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Mon, 11 Aug 2003 17:58:41 +0100

Emily wrote:

Does anyone have experience using TeX or Lyx?
What are their strengths and weaknesses?

I'm not sure how much TeX knowledge you have so I'll
start at the beginning:

TeX (and LaTeX, which for the sake of saving time can be
thought of as just "a better TeX") is a set of typesetting
commands and an engine that reads a plain text file
which has the text of your document interperced with
the typesetting commands; you run the typesetting
engine over the file to produce a finished document
(traditionally as a .dvi file which is converted to postscript
by a seperate process; nowadays you'd use a version of
tex called pdftex to create a PDF file directly from your
input file).

LyX, on the other hand, is a (sort-of) WYSYWYG graphical
front-end for TeX, so that effectively you don't need to
know the TeX commands.

This is what the TeX FAQ has to say on WYSYWYG - there
is a link to a discussion of LyX:

Some strengths of LaTeX / TeX are:

1. it's free
2. scales well to large docs sets
3. best typesetting available
4. LaTeX enables you to concentrate on the
content of the document, as the styles
are defined seperately
5. very robust
6. infinitely expandable and well supported by
an open source community who make
new styles and addons available
7. does not have a pesky GUI front end!

Its main (perceived) disadvantage is the lack of a
graphical front end; this is where (systems like) LyX comes in.

The advantages of LyX over other front-ends to (La)TeX

1. it's free
2. it really does output proper .tex files which other
people who have regular (la)tex but not lyx can use
(some other frontends can't really manage this)

Main disadvantage seems to be it's only available for X Windows
(so, unix, linux, Mac OSX and Windows PCs running CygWin).

I use LaTeX here and its fine. We don't bother with a graphical
front end; I'd have liked to use LyX but setting it up with
CygWin on 20 PCs seemed like more effort than it was worth.
Most other front ends (especially for Windows) seem to be
commercial systems which cost as much as Framemaker.

The note at the end of the FAQ is a good one:

Nevertheless, The TeX world has taken a long time to latch onto the idea of
WYSIWYG. Apart from simple arrogance ("we're better, and have no need to
consider the petty doings of the commercial word processor market"), there
is a real conceptual difference between the word processor model of the
world and the model LaTeX and ConTeXt employ - the idea of "markup". "Pure"
markup expresses a logical model of a document, where every object within
the document is labelled according to what it is rather than how it should
appear: appearance is deduced from the properties of the type of object.
Properly applied, markup can provide valuable assistance when it comes to
re-use of documents.
Established WYSIWYG systems find the expression of this sort of structured
markup difficult; however, markup is starting to appear in the lists of the
commercial world's requirements, for two reasons. First, an element of
markup helps impose style on a document, and commercial users are
increasingly obsessed with uniformity of style; and second, the increasingly
pervasive use of XML-derived document archival formats demands it. The same
challenges must needs be addressed by TeX-based document preparation support
schemes, so we are observing a degree of confluence of the needs of the two
communities: interesting times may be ahead of us.

Basically what is happening is that both the Framemaker/Word worlds
and the TeX/LaTeX worlds are moving (from opposite sides as it were)
toward XML; intelligent GUI editors allow docs to be written up with
consistent markup but no fuss, style sheets allow the XML to be published
on the web, and a TeX back-end produces top-quality versions for print.

Christopher Gooch, Technical Author
LightWork Design, Sheffield, UK.

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