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I see all over the web that LaTeX specializes in correct presentation of mathematical formulas, used widely in science, engineering, math, and other highly technical fields.

I would like to have something similar to use for my non-technical writing. I'd like proper support for headings, footnotes, citations, and so on. I'm aware of markdown, but I'm thinking several notches up from that in sophistication. I'm not interested in WYSIWYG solutions, and I'm not interested in proprietary ones, either.

Anyone know of anything that matches this description? Or would LaTeX still be the way to go?

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Use Markdown (it's easy to learn), then auto-convert to LaTeX or whatever. –  what Jan 14 '14 at 12:41
IF you need more than markdown then LaTeX is the way to go. If you'd like to practice without worrying about the complexities of document setup - I'd recommend writelatex.com and then use en.wikibooks.org/wiki/LaTeX to answer your questions. –  Steph Locke Jan 14 '14 at 14:52
Comments removed: The purpose of comments is to seek clarification to improve the post. Extended discussions, arguments, and rants are not appropriate. –  Monica Cellio Jan 14 '14 at 22:52
@MonicaCellio Which comments did you remove? I'm kind of disappointed, because I remember hoping to refer back to my comments for reference if there was any new information in there, but I don't know what was even there, anymore. Was it only discussion of MS Word and proprietary sw and formats, without any new recommendations? –  user6710 Jan 15 '14 at 1:17
It was the back-and-forth about Microsoft and what is or isn't good/evil/proprietary/intelligent/capitalistic/etc. I kept the comments that contained helpful info (see the first two). –  Monica Cellio Jan 15 '14 at 1:23

4 Answers 4

If you're looking for a step up from Markdown but not as complex as LaTeX, take a look at MultiMarkdown. It's Markdown but with lots of extra features added and easy conversion to LaTeX, PDF or HTML.

From the site:

MultiMarkdown adds these features to the basic Markdown syntax:

  • footnotes
  • tables
  • citations and bibliography (works best in LaTeX using BibTeX)
  • math support
  • automatic cross-referencing ability
  • smart typography, with support for multiple languages
  • image attributes
  • table and image captions
  • definition lists
  • glossary entries (LaTeX only)
  • document metadata (e.g. title, author, etc.)

-- http://fletcherpenney.net/multimarkdown/features/

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And Pandoc can help bridge the gap when it comes to sophisticated input/output needs. –  Chris Jan 19 '14 at 1:30

I would still recommend latex. Its maintainable, I have edited ten year old documents.

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If you are asking about writing tools, you might want to try Lyx. Lyx is a front-end to LaTex and for that reason is a writing tool rather than a typesetting tool. Scrivener is another writing tool, but it is proprietary. Scrivener supports Multimarkdown.

While you may have read all over the web that LaTex is all about scientific and manual formulae, in the words of its creator Donald Knuth, the program was designed to "create beautiful books". It is first and foremost a typesetting program. Create your document using another tool and when you are ready to typeset it, use LaTex. You can write in Open Office or Libre Office and export to LaTex.

If you are talking about typesetting programs which are alternatives to LaTex, there are LaTex derivatives such as ConText, LuaLaTex and XeLatex. Lout is another possibility. There are proprietary solutions such as Quark and InDesign.

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Lyx can be found at lyx.org. It is a QT based app licensed under the GPL, and is about a 200 MB total download. (Which seems to include LaTex itself.) –  DougM Jan 22 '14 at 13:28

To follow up on Steph's comment, we've also just released a new rich text editor mode for writeLaTeX - see this blog post for more details. Although it's still in beta, it's already received a very positive response, and we'll be continuing to add to it over the coming months. I'm one of the developers, and if you give it a try I'd welcome any feedback, thanks.

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Why do you think Steph wrote a comment and not an answer? –  John Smithers Jan 15 '14 at 13:34
@JohnSmithers -- Anything in a Comments section is a "comment" (whether it should be there or developed into an "answer" and placed in the Answers section). –  martin f Jan 16 '14 at 5:43

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