LaTeX is by far the best professional typesetting program which is being widely used by academicians as well as by FOSS advocates throughout the world. It is free, standard, powerful, flexible, and enjoyable to work with. But STOP! This is a geeky narration of the story. The reality is that the vast majority of the individuals using the typesetting programs prefer the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) programs like MS Word over the scripting programs like LaTeX. The reason being:
1. The fact that you have to write programs (scripts) to produce documents scares many non-geeky people.
2. You do not immediately see what you have just produced and this gives many peoples the feeling that the document and the way it looks is not really under their control.
However, nobody denies the power and flexibility the LaTeX offers.
So, what can one bring the power and flexibility of LaTeX to average user? Answer: LyX.
LyX is a free and open source package which puts a user-friendly (kinda spelling idiot-friendly ;) Ha! Ha!) skin over LaTeX such that the user can see an interface much like MS Word or OpenOffice which is based on LaTeX. The binaries are available for Linux, Windows, and Mac. The list of its features very impressive and it works just fine. Some of its features are (taken from the program’s website):
- Mathematical formula editor
- Structured document creation (sections, labels, bibliography, so on)
- Extensive Graphics/tables support
- Support for writing documents in many different languages including right to left languages (like Persian and Arabic)
- Access to all LaTeX functionality with capability to insert plain LaTeX code anywhere in a document.
- Import LaTeX. Export LaTeX, Postscript, DVI, ASCII, HTML or send a fax
- Unicode support
- Latex source code viewer
- Extensive documentation
To see some screenshots of the program visit this link. There is also a Wiki for LyX. The binaries can be downloaded from here. The needed LaTeX packages come bundled with major Linux distros. For Windows, you can let the installer download MikTeX or can use that version of the installer which is bundled with MikTeX. Try LyX! you will be hooked.