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Re: Word processor - LyX

> > Given the choice a concrete interface is generally
> > prefered -- only after working on something large for a while does
> > structured word processing seem inviting.
> But is that because the visual method of composition is preferred or
> because there was heretofore no easy method of working structurally?  

I think it's really because visual composition is easier.  What-You-
See-Is-What-You-Get is really only half of it.  WYSIWYG is easier 
because what you do is what you see.  There is a direct 
connection between the output and the input.  In a structural word 
processor the *real* information is hidden behind the output.  The 
real information is labeling things as paragraphs, chapters, 
headings, etc.  But the output just shows line breaks, different font 
sizes, etc.  You have to learn the connection between those two 
things to use a structural editor.

> I think that starting children thinking about the logical structure of
> their compositions at an early age can only be a good thing.

Perhaps.  But logical structure can get in the way as well.  Logical 
structure works well in top-down composition, less well in bottom-
up.  Huh, I guess I've mostly seen those terms related to 
programming, but I think writing can be similar.

If you start with an outline, some rules for writing (introduction 
sentence, etc.) and then actually write the thing you are doing top-
down.  But I don't think that's necessarily a good way to write, and 
I think whole language is something of a reaction against that -- 
i.e., get the child writing without rules or requirements, just an 
emphasis on experiences and expression.  Later on you go back 
and correct spelling, poorly formed sentences, etc., but all in the 
service of expression.  I think that's the right sort of priorities for 

So, as I think about this more I guess I don't think LyX is good for 
children.  I like bottom-up programming and I like bottom-up writing. 
But I hadn't really thought about it that way before, so I've gotten 
something out of this discussion.

> > I wonder if it would be best to start with a good HTML editor (i.e.,
> > one that doesn't try to look just like a word-processor).  It has a
> > natural appeal to students, making web pages and all.  At the
> > same time, it could help a student think about writing in a
> > structured way.  Are there any good, Free HTML editors?
> > 
> If you mean "WYSIWYG" HTML editors, no.  Of course given the nature of
> HTML I'll argue that there is no such thing as a true WYSIWYG editor. 
> There is asWedit (I may have their non-standard capitalization wrong),
> but I'm not sure that would be appropriate for younger students.

A non-WYSIWYG HTML editor is, more or less, a structural word 
processor.  It isn't the best, especially considering the epidemic of 
unstructural HTML that's being written -- not a great example.  But 
it's a very practical use of structured editting, as well as being a 
fairly well justified one (more justified if the world didn't use only two 
types of browsers, but so it goes...)


Ian Bicking <bickiia@earlham.edu>