LyX Devs Release First 2.0 Release Candidates

Considering that the dev team has been working on it for about two years now, the LyX 2.0 release candidates are starting to appear relatively quickly (RC2 at time of writing). The file format is now fairly fixed and should now be forwards compatible with all later versions, so this might be a good time for LyX die hards to check out 2.0, if they haven't already.

If you are an existing LyX user and you're building one of the release candidates from source, consider using something like:

./configure --with-version-suffix=2RC

This allows you to run the RC completely independently of other installed versions.

LyX is one of my favorite pieces of software, but I sometimes hesitate to recommend it as it's not for everyone. Let's just say, it is easy to use, once you learn how to use it. Even then, it's aimed at technically minded people.

In a nutshell, it's a writing tool in the form of a kind of text editor that outputs the finished document via a LaTeX back end. It's main target is academic writers, but particularly in light of some of the new improvements, it ought to be better known to all writers who want to separate content from layout. LyX 2.0 is an improvement of earlier versions of the software rather than a complete departure, which will please veteran users of the program.

Hurrah! LyX now sports a real time spellcheck that underlines misspelled worlds. The traditional step-by-step spell checker still exists, but it is now implemented as a sidebar rather than a free-floating window. The thesaurus now makes use of a different back end, allowing it to be multi-lingual. Unfortunately, for the moment, it uses its own window rather than a sidebar.

LyX 2.0RC1 in action. To the left, the document navagation sidebar in one of its many modes. To the right, a the new advanced search and replace sidebar. In the centre, something complicated taken from the documentation files.

A few of the new features make user of sidebars, improving usability. LyX has an advantage here as it isn't a word processor and can re-flow the text when sidebar is activated.

The advanced search and replace is an example of one of the new features that works as a sidebar. For basic use, it's still extremely easy to use but the advanced features are there for people who need them. In this YouTube video, a member of the LyX team demonstrates some searches that use regular expression searches on equations. It's even possible to specify a search criteria such as bold text. It's impressive stuff. Personally, I wonder if they should remove the old-style find and replace as it now seems superfluous.

Table handling has received some improvements. Some of the new features such the ability to create multi-row cells and to align decimal points and welcome, but frankly, I still consider the GUI to be a bit clunky in this area. For example, although it's a slightly different class of document creation system, the table GUI of say LibreOffice has a more polished look. Having said that, it's perfectly usable, once you get used to it.

While on the subject of table handling, it's worth noting that it is now possible to include a spreadsheet file in a LyX document. The output looks impressive (PDF file), but unless I'm missing something, it's not possible to see a preview of the resulting table within the LyX editor itself. Perhaps this is an enhancement that we can expect to see in the future?

There have been a few improvements in the area of document output. The creation of a document such as a PDF file now no longer blocks the editor as the build process is launched as a separate process, a welcome addition for people who create long, complex documents. The output and debugging pane has been improved, making it a bit easier to track down a hiccup that prevents a document from compiling cleanly. Thanks to a smaller, but useful, improvement, it is now possible to define a default document output format, rather than having to select it from a list in a menu. Also in the area of file output, it is now possible to create document bundles that contain all of the files that are referenced from within a LyX document. Handy for sharing documents.

Documents can now have unique color choices associated with them. This is particularly useful on LyX as it is possible to have a specific background color for, for example, a book project and a different one for articles.

These are some of the main additions and improvements that are part of the LyX 2.0 release. Nearly every area features smaller improvements and the full list would probably stretch into the hundreds. Hopefully, as well as improving the LyX experience for its band of dedicated users, some of the new features will drag some of the uninitiated into our little cult. There's still room for improvement, and as I said at the beginning, LyX isn't suitable for everyone. However, overall, this is shaping up to be yet another great LyX release. Looking forward to the final 2.0 release, guys.


UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.


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Although I really like the

Anonymous's picture

Although I really like the idea of lyx (focus on writing instead of formatting) it hardly ever worked for me. First of all because writing usually involves other authors that already think it is a pain that I use open office and second, I ended spending more time on trying to work out how to change the formatting inline with the journal or thesis requirements. Much like the experience of the other Austrian student above.

I do think lyx produces nice tables, and so I have used those at times, embedded as eps inside openoffice.

Lyx - large learning curve

David Lane's picture

As someone who spends a lot of time writing, I picked up LyX, thinking it would make it easier to crank out the things I do on a daily basis. And while it has some nice features, I found that either my mind is hard wired to the WYSIWYG model or I was missing something in the LyX model that just made it too hard to use.

This is not to say that if you haven't used it you should not try it. It has a number of nice features, supports a large array of plugins and seems to be very feature rich. But if you have decades of the other style, the WYSIWYM model used by LyX might be hard to migrate too.

That being said, I am willing to take a crack at v2.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

Thanks for the heads up!

Brendan Kidwell's picture

I'm trying to get started on writing a computer programming book, and I thought I was going to use XMLMind (proprietary, free to use) but I like the idea of using LyX a lot better now that I see it has direct support for rendering to HTML. I want to ship as PDF, EPUB, HTML tarball, and probably a web site.

Even though LyX may be more geared towards more technically-minded people, I enjoy its clear interface that's more focused on the content and semantics than the underlying code. XMLMind is nice but I still feel like I'm composing a Docbook program in it, rather than writing text.

Lyxis awesome

Anonymous's picture

I' m using Lyx for my thesis and can recommend it to everyone. I never have to fiddle with tabs, extra spaces and all little tricks to let a document look the way I want it to look.

It' s not perfect. Creating a title page was so cumbersome that I decided I would do that in Openoffice.

But for the rest Lyx rules.

When I had written my thesis

Anonymous's picture

When I had written my thesis (Diplomarbeit in Austria) with Latex, the assistent looked at the title-page and said: Hej, this characters look strange. She gave me then an example for a title-page written with word - and so I had to write my title-page again in openOffice and the rest of the paper was OK.
Strange, because my latex-title-page was much more beautiful then the ugly one written in word.