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Ask Nelly:
     What is Lyx?;
     What are class and style files?

The Editors

Ask Nelly is a question and answer column. Nelly is the quiet person who sits at the back corner desk, who knows a lot, and when asked any question is always ready with a patient answer. If Nelly doesn't know the answer, Nelly will know an expert who has the answer. Feel free to Ask Nelly about any aspect of LaTeX, TeX, Context, etc.

Q: “LyX vs. LaTeX – What are the advantages and drawbacks of using this WYSIWYG system?”

A: First off, LyX isn’t WYSIWYG, it’s “WYSIWYM” (What You See Is What You Mean), and LyX uses LaTeX in the background. It’s more a matter of, “What’re the advantages and drawbacks of using LyX instead of TeXShop, WinEdt, or another LaTeX system.”

The advantage is it hides (almost) all of the braces, ensures that the syntax of what’s being generated is correct, and provides a decent editing environment with graphical niceties such as a math input palette.

The disadvantage is that it’s still maturing, and some features aren’t yet built-in, such as character styles, revision tracking, and others.

I really believe that LyX is conceptually one of the most innovative software projects in existence now (though I really wish that it was getting more exposure, and that there was an effort to make a “Cocoa” front-end for it for Mac OS X or for GNUstep).

A few additional points:

William Adams is a publishing specialist for ATLIS Graphics & Design who went to college to learn to be a graphic designer and worked as a graphic artist previously and wants to be a typographer. You can reach him at mailto


Q: What are .sty and .cls files? How are they different?

A: A class file (.cls) will completely define the structure of the document. The familiar article class is a good example: it provides commands for typesetting articles, such as \section, \tableofcontents, \author and so on.

Packages, or style files (.sty), are then used to provide anything else that the class doesn't accommodate. More

Will Robertson is a PhD student in Mechanical/Mechatronic Engineering in the University of Adelaide, South Australia. His LaTeX experience came about from being distracted with it while writing various reports and papers on his "real" research, and now he's hooked. Will may be contacted at mailto


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