I have recently taken an interest in LaTeX for the purposes of report writing. Up until now I have been using microsoft word and experienced some dissatisfaction with user ability to get to more abstract aspects of the program. Word is meant as a GUI with little thought for power users who would wish to customize and automate aspects of the program. Of course VBA provides this functionality but is too low-level and obscure to compare with TeX. In fact VBA is not meant only for word processing but as a broader language to cover most Microsoft Office Applications.

Enter TeX. I have found a much more user friendly programming interface, quite high level and definitely customizable. Furthermore many opportunities exist to develop "environments" from scratch. I can definitely see the power and flexibility this sort of interface provides. One of my favorite features is the ability to compile a program and have it automatically update basically everything, from bibliographic references to images to I am sure a whole lot more.

BUT there is one caveat. TeX is not a substitute for regular Microsoft Word for one main reason. It does not provide the user with the option of going into "non-developer" mode. That is, just clicking, moving stuff around, entering text into the end-product directly without having to navigate the actual code.

So there goes, TeX can do what Word can not, and Word can do what TeX cannot. Has the LaTeX community given this some thought? It could potentially blow MS Word out of the water if some sort of back and forth environment were conceived that would enable both regular users as well as advanced users to use the program. Actually scratch that, even advanced users could benefit from some sort of GUI interface, especially if it comprised of "Macro-recording" type utilities that would allow one to view the code generated by making a certain change.

I realize this is not as easy as it sounds, but it is definitely something I think the community should give a thought. Has anyone heard of efforts going in this direction from the LaTeX community?


2 Answers 2


Speaking of WYSIWYG: have you heard about LyX ?

Copy from the original website :

LyX combines the power and flexibility of TeX/LaTeX with the ease of use of a graphical interface. This results in world-class support for creation of mathematical content (via a fully integrated equation editor) and structured documents like academic articles, theses, and books. In addition, staples of scientific authoring such as reference list and index creation come standard. But you can also use LyX to create a letter or a novel or a theatre play or film script. A broad array of ready, well-designed document layouts are built in.

In fact you can find many other at Wikipedia, in the column editing style

List of WYSIWYG LaTeX editor


The problem is that a GUI needs a well-behaving source.

As an example imagine a button bold/unbold button: The GUI that should handle a LaTeX source can be programmed to add and remove \textbf if the button is used. But what if the source actually uses {\bfseries ...}? Or \myspecialfont[Some options]{Text}? Or \startbold Text \stopbold? Regardless how good the GUI is: There will always be a case it can't handle, you only need to look at xii.tex (https://ctan.org/pkg/xii) to understand this.

This is also true for word: You can unpack a docx and manipulate the xml-files (I removed once a faulty pagebreak this way). But if you are not careful you can break the document and the word-GUI will no longer be able to open it.

So often only the one direction is possible: You can start in a GUI (e.g. Lyx), export the code and add low-level stuff but then you can't go back to the GUI.

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