13. lyx-0.8.4 - Word Processor

Lyx is a Linux LaTeX front end. I don't do much TeX'ing, so I was looking for a gentle introduction. This review was for 0.8.4, Newer versions are now available, and better!. So don't do any of the following. It is out of date.

LyX is developing at a rate of knots! A much more recent version (0.9.19) is already available, that build first time (if you have the latest xforms library available). Locate the files and read the READMEs.

I think that there is talk of a code freeze, so maybe I should go back and take another look.

13.1 Install
13.2 First Use
13.3 TeX Inside
13.4 It's not WYSIWYG
13.5 MMI features
13.6 MMI glitches
13.7 Glitches



I already had LaTeX installed, from the Slackware 3.0 recommendations (ie not the extra fonts, but the basic foundations plus).

On the sunsite CDROM I found disc4/apps/editors/lyx-0.7p4.srcbin.tar.gz, but instead I downloaded lyx-0.8.4-srcbin.tgz from sunsite Incoming (Feb 96). IE a pre-compiled binary.

I did a tar -C /tmp/pkgs_ftp -zxf ...tgz, and I just couldn't resist the temptation. I ran it without installing it (and never having any previous version installed). This was a mistake, because it worked very well.

The srcbin package includes all source (this is a GNU), and doesn't use Motif. It does have a few notes about compiling with specific versions of libraries, but it tells you where to get them, and will probably matter less in future. It is also quite chatty, giving opinions on XForms and such.

Installing properly

	su root
	make -f Makefile.std install
Unfortunately that didn't work, and the preview command fails because it cant find lyx.sty. Linking it in from /usr/local helped.
ln -s /usr/local/lib/texmf/tex/latex2e /usr/lib/texmf/tex.


First Use

I just dived in, and looked at the menus. These looked like normal WP menu's with the usual icon-cryptic tool-bars. Help brought up a list of documents, I selected Documentation.lyx, and 10 seconds later I was looking at two windows. The second was a table of contents, allowing fast jumps to sections, the first window was the main display.

I then selected screen options, normal font size 18 (14). This took 6 seconds and made the screen more readable. That is a long time, but the document is long, and it only happens for global changes, where every-line has to be reformatted. Changing the window width then took 3 seconds (486-80).

Generally the MMI was slightly strange at first, but every new X11 app feels that way to me. A bit of experimenting showed that it is fairly consistent, and in some places high quality.

I like this package already, so there is a list of features I don't like later in this text. Please accept my feedback as being over-critical and subjective (( and out of date )).


TeX Inside

TeX is good when it works, but can be hell when it doesn't. Source documents can be unreadable and bugs unfindable (hopefully this is where LyX helps).

TeX uses a range of fonts, and the fonts used in your document may need converting between formats. In my case (eg previewing the multicol.lyx document on Slackware 3.0), it took a few minutes to do the necessary font convertions the first time round. However these remained available and did not require re-converting.

I got lots of badness messages, which wasn't particularly wonderfull, but the document appeared to be OK.


It's not WYSIWYG

Technically (pedantically) this is impossible. SVGA displays are not A4 and they are not 300 dpi (75 or 100 dpi is typical). Any font used on the screen will either be huge, or at a lower resolution. That resolution can make italic serif fonts look different, even though the printed page is OK.

So it's WYSLRN

Looks-real-neat? Yes! LyX repormats the right margin to the window, and omits the blank left margin (mostly). It does not show automatic page breaks, and selected fonts are approximations.

But I can still see latex_commands

Bold, underline italic, font selections and various others - appear in a WYSIWYG style, but a few latex command seem to be visible, especially tables.

Headings, and paragraphs are shown properly, whch makes a difference, and other commands are shown in red, so the text is quite readable.


MMI features


References to footnotes are shown with the foot marker. Clicking on it with the Middle button, shows the actual footer text. Clicking again (on or above) folds it back.


MMI glitches

Scroll Bar - Jump to

Clicking on the scroll bar with the middle button, does a 'goto' (goes to that position on the scroll-bar, in the document). This is good.

Doing the same with the Left button is BAD. Normally, I would expect it to scroll up/down by one page, and maybe repeat. (even half pages would be OK for virtual desktops).

Scroll Bar - Too small

If you use the PageUp key, the scroll-bar-bubble jumps by more than its own height.

Scroll Bar too sensitive

This is a generic problem with X11 and long documents. You pick up the scroll-bar-bubble using the middle key, and scan the document. Regrettably the entire scan of the document is done within the height of the window. With small documents this is OK, but big documents jump up and down too much with tiny mouse motions.

Personally, I would configure some sort of 'scroll document through MUD' mode. That would give a more 'stable' feel to the scroll bars, as they do flicker, and make it easier to find things.

Tcl allows Button-2 to drag the paper, (( repeating outside the frame for long docs )). So do a few X11 widgets. If Button-2 isn't busy it would be nice ...

Scroll jumps

I use a scrolling desktop. Sometimes a page of document is taller than the screen, so I don't use PageDown, I use arrow keys. I particularly like them in browsers.

With LyX, when the cursor (insertion point) touches the bottom of the screen, it jump-scrolls 20% upwards. This is good when editing, but not so good for scrolling. If it does it again, it could learn to scroll, with the cursor the selceted 20% above base-line.

Personally I would like arrows to scroll the page, after PageUp PageDown or any other action that scrolled the page. Maybe move sideways to exit that mode.



Readonly files in dir

Help, documentation, loads the document into a buffer (fair enough). However, I don't have write prmission on the file or on the directory.

The auto-save facility generated a few errors, and Preview failed because it couldn't write the TeX file for formatting. TeX got activated anyway, and started to talk to me in the xterm I used to start LyX, causing all sorts of problems (especially when not started from an xterm!).

Loads of Files

LyX created a lot of 'semi-useful' files, as part of the previewing process, you may find filename.{dvi, log, aux, tex, ps_tmp, lyx.bak, lyx.bak ) in addition to filename.lyx. These should really be created in a working sub-directory, or /tmp/LyX/$LOGNAME/.

Core dump

Occasionally the program code dumped and died. When this happened it was very sudden and all file changes were lost. A bit disheartening really. However I have seen applications do this at one release, and then be rock solid on the next. I guess it only takes one bad function to get included in several places to cause problems, but when that bug gets fixed, the product suddenly becomes reliable.