WYSIWYM (What You See Is What You Mean)

An open-source word processor that uses LaTeX to create complex documents.

Many of us have used a word processor at some point in our lives to write a letter or perhaps even to design a web page. Modern word processors, such as Microsoft Word, Sun's StarOffice and AbiWord, use the principle of WYSIWYG, what you see is what you get. This basically means that the way text appears on your screen is what the hard copy will look like.

However, in the UNIX/Linux world there are many programs that don't work this way. One is called LyX (www.lyx.org), and it is an open-source document processor that encourages users to spend more time working on the structure of a document rather than focusing on its appearance.

LyX uses the LaTeX typesetting language to produce high-quality, professional-looking documents in such formats as HTML, PostScript, DVI and PDF.

Rather than concerning yourself with formatting and spacing, like you would with a normal word processor, you tell LyX what you wish to do, and it uses a template called a "style" to construct your document.

This approach to the creation of the written word could best be described as WYSIWYM: what you see is what you mean.

At first sight, LyX looks a lot like a regular word processor. In fact, its interface is very WYSIWYG-like. But, LyX does not behave like an ordinary word processor. For example, it is impossible to create multiple spaces and multiple line breaks with the keyboard. Instead, the program will do this formatting for you.

Every element of your document, whether it be the title, a paragraph or even a table of contents, can be categorized. Through the use of a pull-down menu, the type of element you'd like to create can be selected. For example, Title can be selected from the menu. Rather than using a bunch of widgets to change the appearance of the text in the title, LyX automatically makes the text large and adds emphasis. The creation of the title alone would take several steps with an ordinary word processor.

Although LyX can be used to write small notes and memos, it really shines when a user is making complex documents. Its ability to add sections automatically to the table of contents as they are created, and to do section and list numbering, saves a lot of time and strain.

Navigation through a large, complex document is made easy by the use of links pointing to figures, captions, pages and quotes. The table of contents can even act as an outline browser. LyX is quite a powerful application; going over every one of its capabilities would be difficult in a short article such as this.

Although LyX is mostly used for the creation and processing of documents that contain text and sometimes graphics, the program also contains a mathematical formula editor. Entering mathematical equations and symbols into a document that are not part of a standard character set has usually been difficult and time consuming. LyX solves this problem by providing a WYSIWYG interface to LaTeX's superb mathematical capabilities.

By default, LyX comes with many styles and even a few templates to get you started. Other templates are easily created, providing guidelines for future projects. Although knowledge of LaTeX is not needed to use the program, LaTeX commands can be used in LyX documents to extend the program's functionality.

LyX may work differently from a regular word processor, but it is not all that difficult to learn. A copious amount of documentation is bundled with the program, including a beginner's tutorial, user's guide and other documents describing advanced features.

LyX makes the creation of documents easier, quicker and, in some ways, fun. For more information about LyX and to download the program, visit www.lyx.org.

Editor's Note: Stay tuned for a LyX tutorial, coming soon.

Tom Mrak is an aspiring 20-year-old writer and musician who happens to enjoy tinkering with GNU/Linux and technology in general. He currently lives in Duluth, Minnesota.



Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Re: WYSIWYM (What You See Is What You Mean)

Anonymous's picture

< The creation of the title alone would take several steps with an ordinary word processor.

All modern word processors including MS Word have templating functionality that lets you select a template for a document and then use paragraph types for Title/Section Headings/whatever - and have the table of contents automatically updated. This ensures a consistent presentation of documents.

I am keen to use LyX more having played with it but I am struggling to figure out the interaction between LyX/Latex in order to create a newsletter template with the layout I want.

Uses previously closed-source XForms, now LGPLed!

Anonymous's picture

Another good thing is the XForms toolkit used by Lyx is now open source. It was pre-released under the LGPL on April 1st and version 1.0 is due out on May 1st. This means fewer (or no?) unfixable bugs for Lyx and support on more architectures.

For Debian users, expect woody to ship with the old closed-source XForms 0.89 in non-free such that Lyx will still be in contrib (if woody really gets released in early May). But a free XForms in main with Lyx linked against it should hit the Debian unstable tree in May.

Peter Galbraith, psg@debian.org

Re: WYSIWYM (What You See Is What You Mean)

Anonymous's picture

As a physics teacher i use lyx to write most of my documents, because of the nice equations and the good communication with xfig. However i'm missing the nice interface that klyx had to offer. Did that project die out or is it just not maintained ?

apt-get install klyx at least gives no result.


Re: WYSIWYM (What You See Is What You Mean)

Anonymous's picture

Yeah, Klyx is no longer around. Although, I miss it. Perhaps Lyx will look as good one day. Although, I am certainly not complaining about Lyx. It's a rockin piece of software.

Re: WYSIWYM (What You See Is What You Mean)

Anonymous's picture

see this page, looks like klyx is unmaintained and not up to dat


Re: WYSIWYM (What You See Is What You Mean)

Anonymous's picture

The next version of LyX will have different frontends, including ones Gnome and KDE.

Re: WYSIWYM (What You See Is What You Mean)

Anonymous's picture

The was never a release of KLyx after KDE1.

But its still alive in KDE CVS, and compiles with

KDE 3. There aren't any big changes.

But it's enough for using it with the KDE3 environment.

And you can send bug reports...


Re: WYSIWYM (What You See Is What You Mean)

Anonymous's picture

I also use LyX in physics... and for everyhting else I do that requires word processing.

My favorite features are:

* consistent formating - LyX makes it very very difficult to create an un-professional looking document.

* clean interface - LyX does not have rows and rows of toolbars and other widget frosting.

* unsurpassed math formating - LyX makes it so easy to write documents full of equations.... without my hands leaving the keyboard.

* non-prorietary format - All LyX documents are saved in .lyx format which is plain ASCII text with markup codes.

... and many others ...

One can put in extra spaces and newlines, just use Ctrl-Space and Ctrl-Enter respectively. It is, however, not neccessary to do so. The hardest thing about learning to use LyX is un-learning all that you know about other wordprocessors. All you have to think about is what you are going to put into your document... NOT how you want it to look. For some people that is a difficult transition to make.