LyX and Lulu

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Use LyX to create stellar on-line books for the Lulu publishing service.
Writing Your Book

At this point, you're ready to start entering text. Although it's best to get a good understanding of how LyX works first, so you can lay out the final text properly.

Go to Help→Tutorial, and LyX loads the tutorial into the working screen. Read through the LyX Tutorial, and follow the instructions for creating your first document. The tutorial is easy to understand, and completing the exercises will get you familiar with the program.

I know most of us will prefer the Quick Start Tutorial—so here it is. Go to File→New and create a new file. Type some sample text on the first line, as shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8. Using the sample text, choose Title to assign the proper format.

Remember, LyX handles what you want the text to look like on paper based on the assigned document class. So, to create a title page, all you need to do is select Title from the drop-down list. LyX marks these words as the book title, and you're done. Now if you press Ctrl-D, LyX exports the text into a .dvi file and displays your results on-screen. Notice that LyX has centered the text, added the date below the title and turned it into its own separate page—pretty cool.

LyX Features

Like a word processor, LyX has a few features to help you produce your final work. Academic math people use LyX because it can produce complex formulas fairly easily in printed documents. Doctoral students also use it to conform to standards for their final dissertations.

I find using the mouse awkward when writing. Consequently, I prefer to use command keys and other shortcuts to format text in LyX. LyX comes with a lot of documentation; however, finding answers to your questions can take some looking. A LyX help file titled customization.lyx describes various command keys and bindings to help speed up typing. Print out the file and look through the existing key bindings; they will improve your speed with document processing and keep your focus on what you're writing.

Also, keep in mind that entering a carriage return does not translate into an extra line in LyX. I'll admit, letting the program handle the formatting is unnerving at first, but the results will please you.

LyX automatically creates links to specific parts of the text file. Figure 9 shows how LyX builds a navigation tree based on the text in the document. This is similar to the Outline feature in other word processors and is handy for editing large files.

Figure 9. Use the drop-down menus to move through your document quickly.

Like a word processor, LyX handles tables and graphics with ease. To add a table, go to Insert→Tabular Material, and define the table size. Use the Insert drop-down list to place graphics in the document. As an alternative, you can click on the associated icons below the toolbar for graphics, tables and to alter text justification.

Finally, LyX has superior ability to handle cross references, citations and footnotes. While typing, use the Insert drop-down list to add footnotes, citations or cross-reference markers. Each has its own window for the text entered. To keep from viewing them, click the inserted icon, and they disappear off-screen. LyX automatically adjusts the output to keep the footnotes on the proper page.

LyX is powerful, and the documentation is lengthy—too large to cover in this short article. No doubt, using LyX is uncomfortable at first, but the benefits of letting the program sort out the document formatting are profound.

Lulu—A Self-Publishing Giant

If you haven't heard, Lulu.com (lulu.com) is a Web site for self-publishing. That's right, you can write your own books, articles, handouts and more. Once it's complete, send your written material to Lulu and select how you want it to be published.

With Lulu, users can choose various publication sizes and bindings. As the author, you can decide whether to glue, staple or stitch the final work. In addition, Lulu even offers hardcover binding.

Further, authors can publish and promote their books directly through Lulu. Lulu has an on-line store where you can browse by subject matter and author. If you want, you even can publish your work as a downloadable book.

As the author, you don't pay anything ahead of time. People who want to buy your work pay a preselected fee, and Lulu takes a cut of the price. Check out Lulu.com for pricing details.

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