Tuesday, August 24, 2010

LyX

This blog has been dormant for a while because I spent a week in Oklahoma visiting my wife's dad with the family. It's a good place for me to get work done that can be done offline. Many of the tasks that I normally procrastinate get done there. This year I worked on papers and textbooks. The Scala book started getting a bit big and I thought maybe I should try out a different tool. There are lots of reasons why big documents should be done in LaTeX. I've been well aware of the arguments. I just haven't been willing to clutter my brain with the extra commands. LaTeX, like many other tools along those lines, has a decent learning curve and you can't do much of anything until you have climbed a fair bit of the curve. I also like OpenOffice for the GUI. I didn't want to edit my big documents in vi.

I had looked around for GUI programs that sit on top of LaTeX and already had this program called LyX installed. I had played with it just a bit, but not enough to figure out anything about it. They said read the manuals and after a few paragraphs they lost my attention so I stuck with OpenOffice. Oklahoma provided more time though and with the Scala book getting to 100 pages I decided it was time to seriously try it out. The book was long enough to benefit from the LaTeX advantages and if it got much bigger I wasn't going to be willing to convert it.

So I did a massive cut and paste and started reformatting. It took a fair bit of a day, but the result was definitely worth it. Seeing the wonderful and automatically generated Table of Contents for the first time made it worth while. As I have learned more about LyX I have been able to use more capabilities. It is a really nice way to interact with LaTeX. I highly recommend it to anyone who has thought that LaTeX might be nice but wasn't willing to climb the learning curve to get started. You can even have it show you the LaTeX source as you write so it can help you learn LaTeX along the way.