I'm relatively new to LaTeX and have been using TeXnicCenter. I've heard one or two people rave about Lyx and am debating if I should switch to it.

What are specific benefits and drawbacks to using Lyx instead of TeXnicCenter? Are there any issues or annoyances you run into when using Lyx that you don't with TeXnicCenter? Can using Lyx hinder your ability to learn LaTeX well?


I think you must first understand the TeX/LaTeX typesetting system. TeX and its offspring PdfTeX, XeTeX, LuaTeX, etc. are programs that interpret a specific markup/macro language to create a high quality printable document format. TeX's power resides in its line, paragraph, and page breaking algorithms for pieces of text and its power to typeset mathematics.

TeX itself is not very friendly, therefore macro packages was created to work on top of it. The most basic one is PlainTeX that has a few basic macro's and the user must do most of the stuff directly (references, counters, etc.). This is what Donald Knuth the creator of TeX uses to write his series of books.

Later more comprehensive macro packages such as LaTeX, ConTeX etc. were developed that use TeX as a base to output beautiful documents. A lot of support software was also created, such as BibTeX, Metafont, Metapost, etc. The LaTeX distributions such as MiKTeX and TeXLive consists today of TeX/LaTeX interpreters, the base macro and class files and thousands of user contributed packages and programs.

LaTeX code is normal text file that can be edited with any text editor, but a number of IDE's are available to help with the typing of a LaTeX code. There are for instance buttons to insert code and to run the TeX/LaTeX interpreters, etc.

TeXnicCenter is one of these IDE's. You can also look at others such as TeXworks, TeXmaker, TeXmakerX, Winshell, WinEDT, that are doing more or less the same thing. You need to know your LaTeX well, because you are working directly with the code and have to do all the markup yourself.

LyX employs a different approach, using TeX/LaTeX as a typesetting engine and showing something of how the output will look. It is still not WYSIWYG. It just hides most of the markup from the user, but in the process the user also looses most of the low-level control. It is a great program with lots of users, but you still need to know a little bit of LaTeX to do anything more than a simple document.

In conclusion TeXnicCenter, and LyX are two totaly different system that cannot be compared directly. At all depends on how deep you want to get involved with a documents's markup. The LaTeX purist will not touch LyX, while the LyX fanatics would say that anyone who want to suffered with direct LateX code is mad.

  • 2
    +1 because, while not a direct answer to all that @Brandon asked, it gives a good account of the deeper issues on which a more direct answer would rest. – vanden May 14 '11 at 5:38
  • Maybe you want to read Is LyX an editor which should be recommended? – matth Nov 10 '11 at 16:51
  • Do not forget that since Latex is, as you said simply code and can be edited with any text editor, it can also be edited with Lyx. Lyx has the ERT (evil red text) which allows the all the low-level control you could wish for – Elad Den Dec 30 '15 at 7:10
  • Also keep in mind that LyX uses its own document format for .lyx files, which is itself not well documented; if the document gets corrupted, you had better have backups, and if you're used to keeping your docs in version control, merging is going to be a PITA. – retorquere Mar 8 '18 at 10:04

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