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The StartX Files: Learning the Ways of LyX - page 3

Lessons in the Circle of Life

  • October 30, 2001
  • By Brian Proffitt

Normally when I conduct an interview about a certain product, I get a hold of one or two of the main developers, who politely answer my questions via e-mail, phone, or ICQ. In this case, I tendered my request to Lars Gullik Bj�nnes for an interview. Bj�nnes, being swamped, kindly forwarded me on to the LyX developer's mailing list.

The LyX setup is pretty typical for an open source development project. There are around five core developers, with anywhere from 10-20 people working on the periphery of the project. Beyond that, according to GUII developer John Levon, there are "lots of other people with occasional fixes and, crucially, bug reports."

Working with the GUII is Levon's focus, particularly with the Qt2 front-end. Levon sees the project's primary strategy as "flexibly supporting the internal interfaces, with the minimum of duplicated code, and maximum ease of implementation for the UI coders," he explained.

"For example," Levon continued, "the dialog GUII code is currently in a very nice state--I can implement and test a dialog very quickly for Qt2, as I don't have to
concern myself much with LyX internals. The architecture is such that it enables me to concentrate more on the interface design than tedious interface code"

Other developers on the project agree that GUII is a main focus of LYX for now. The project has been some part of LyX even before KLyX, the proposed shift of LyX to the KDE environment.

"GUII makes you think beyond the limits of your favorite toolkit. It makes you think beyond a simple port to an alternate toolkit, which is what happened with KLyX and what several people wanted to do for a GNOME/GTK+ port. GUII is a very large step toward platform/system independence," said Allan Rae, who has been a LyX core developer since 1997.

Many of the developers agree that the dialog boxes within LyX are in good shape as far as GUI independence, and I would definitely concur. Retired LyX core developer Asger Alstrup outlined the remaining tasks for the GUII project: "The next task for GUII is the main window. This window is composed of a menu, a toolbar, the work-area and the status bar. The main challenge at this point is the work-area. Some work has been done in this area, such as implementing an abstract painter, but the task of handling user interaction has yet to be tackled."

Beyond GUII, the LyX developers are clearly not letting the rest of the program's features languish. Features from better read-only document handling to a thesaurus in the upcoming version 1.2.0. The developers are also looking at adding some features, such as character styles, which would give LyX better compatibility with Docbook.

LyX is something that you will want to look at if you have a real need to start managing your documentation in a highly structured way.

Available from: http://www.lyx.org/
Versions reviewed: LyX 1.1.6fix3 for Linux
License: "Quasi-GPL"
Cost: Free


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