Grant McDermott bio photo

Grant McDermott

Assistant Professor
Dept. of Economics
University of Oregon

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So, I'm thinking of making the big, bad move over to LaTeX. The document style and structure simply look too good for me to keep plugging away at Microsoft Word. Further, it seems that anyone interested in producing "academic" documents has to embrace the way of LaTeX, or go the way of the dinosaurs. (At this point I should say that, for all those not sure what I'm talking, just Google "LaTeX" and you'll see the awesome document format that characterises most research papers nowadays...)

Unfortunately, it's turning into a rather confusing move to make. In particular, it's hard to evaluate the trade-offs involved in choosing different TeX editors when you aren't necessarily sure what those trade-offs mean! Of course, I could go for "faking" the LaTeX design using different fonts and so on in MS Word, but that just seems to be delaying the inevitable and more time consuming in the long-run.

After some research then, I've decided to give LyX a go, as I believe it's a simplified extension of the LaTeX system and doesn't require intricate knowledge of  typesetting and so on. However, I believe that LyX can also make it difficult for other people to edit the document (e.g. co-authors), since they can't compile the source code in different (non-LyX) LaTeX editors... At least, that's what I understand at this point.

Does anyone have any advice on the matter? Is LyX a good place to start for a novice like me, or should I bite the bullet and go for something more advanced?

***

Beyond that... I'm also contemplating the need to sever broader ties with Bill Gates and co. by embracing the world of open source computing. For instance, I have a couple of friends that use Linux operating systems and they all rave about it. Only problem is that they are all either of a strong technical persuasion, or naturally predisposed to swimming against the stream (which makes me suspicious that they might overstate the benefits of turning one's back on Microsoft and the like.). 

However, I am told that Linux's Ubuntu OS doesn't require for you to have something resembling a BSc in Computer Science to operate. Supposedly, it's actually very user-friendly for the average punter like myself. Anyone out there in a position to confirm?

Thanks,
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