Tutorial: LaTeX Light: Introduction to LyX

Time: Tuesday, 28/May/2024: 13:00 – 17:30

Organiser: Elisabeth Maria Magin, Universitetet i Oslo, Norway

Despite the presence of computers in our daily lives, choosing the right tool for the right task can be tricky. This especially applies when we’re already familiar with a specific tool for a specific task – like writing and publishing papers. Students in particular, but also many older colleagues, tend to use Microsoft Word or a similar word processor for the purpose, leading to a range of issues, not the least of which is compatibility. There are better tools available, like LaTeX, which offers a wide range of benefits over traditional Word documents, particularly for those submitting contributions to a variety of academic publications with different styles and requirements. LaTeX excels at compiling bibliographies and outputting them according to different stylesheets, meaning that resubmitting an article to a different journal only requires one change in the settings and a rerun for all of the references to be formatted according to the guidelines of the new journal. It further offers automated numbering of cross-references and handling of references, ensuring that table of contents, page numbers, bibliography and cross-references are always up-to-date without any manual work required. This is especially useful for those working with longer texts, where chapters and sections may have to be moved around during the writing process, and spares one the headache of having to manually update cross-references in the text.

Beyond these, LaTeX also offers other benefits. Using plain text and code to in, files can be edited on every computer regardless of access to proprietary software, rendering .tex-files completely portable and platform-indepedent; and since the visual output is decoupled from the content, it is also much easier to output the same document according to different stylesheets, for example using different fonts or page margins, than it is with Word.

But LaTeX can not only render the same document in different ways; it is also possible to create several different files out of the same basic document. This feature is especially useful if one happens to be writing worksheets for students or exam papers, or is a PhD student required to hand in a draft to one’s supervisors, where some parts aren’t quite finished yet. Keeping the student exam paper and the solution sheet, or the draft meant for one’s supervisors versus the drafts one is still working on in different documents can easily lead to much confusion and wrong the versions of documents being sent to the wrong person.

But despite the many benefits of LaTeX, the switch from a word processor to a plain text editor with markup language can be intimidating and difficult to tackle by oneself. This is where LyX comes in. LyX is a graphical user interface that aims to make the transition from word processor to LaTeX easier by using many familiar buttons from word processors to enter the LaTeX code ”behind the scenes”, allowing newcomers to LaTeX to focus on getting the text written instead of trying to remember the right commands. However, the use of LaTeX in the background enables LyX users to make use of many of the features LaTeX offers – such as consistent formatting, easy cross-referencing, consistent bibliographies and creating different output documents from the same source document, thus keeping everything in the same space.

LaTeX Light: Introduction to LyX is meant for everyone looking for alternatives to Microsoft Word, whether student or established academic; everyone who has ever spent hours adapting the bibliography to a different journal’s style or tried to stop the illustrations from completely messing up the formatting of the text. Over the course of four hours, this introductory course teaches up to 15 attendants how to write a structured text of any length – whether 5-page journal article or 15-chapter book – using LyX and compile it with LaTeX. In units of approximately 30 minutes, the course covers:

* The basic principles of “what you get is what you see” versus “what you get is what you want”
* The LyX interface
* Basic structuring in a LyX document (chapters, sections and subsections)
* Including images and tables in your document
* Bibliographies and cross-referencing
* Outputting different versions of the same document

To ensure that participants can do the practical exercises for each of the units, they should bring an unformatted paper draft (or some other text) with at least 3 sections, 3-5 subsections, 1 image and 1 table, which will be used as a training document.

Participants are also required to install the latest version of either MikTeX or TeXLive (only ONE of them) and LyX before the workshop. All of these are freeware and available for Windows, Linux and Mac.
The course will be lead by Elisabeth Magin, who has given similar introductions into LyX to a number of colleagues and students at the University of Oslo.