Oh joy! Oh bliss! The rumours had been circulating at HUJI for a long while -- some crazy guy at the Technion had been hacking LyX to support Hebrew. Lack of support for right-to-left languages, such as Persian, Arabic and Hebrew, is a very real issue for speakers of these languages involved in computers.

Suddenly, it has all come wonderfully true. Dekel's patches have been incorporated into the LyX distribution! Not only do we have a usable Hebrew (and Arabic! and Persian!) document processor, we are guaranteed it will continue to be supported! These are not patches you apply -- this is a document processor which comes "out of the box" with support for our delightfully weird languages!

LyX is a "WYSIWYM" word processor: What you see is what you mean. It's best described as a front end to LaTeX and related tools, but it really does more than that. LyX understands a fair degree of LaTeX (including mathematical typesetting and most styles!), so it can display on-screen an approximation of what the output will be like. Even footnotes and various table of contents features are supported, which is very nice.

LaTeX's output is incomparable to anything else you can see nowadays. Stuff looks so good that it seems true, because it could easily appear in a book. But the on-screen editing is very convenient. I imagine a non-LaTeXnician would prefer to use LyX; I myself, with some experience with LaTeX, found myself preferring LyX to a text editor for some things. Of course, LyX also offers a view of the underlying LaTeX, so LaTeX snobs can keep on feeling good about themselves.

But LaTeX is more than just some back end to LyX (like PostScript is to LaTeX): LyX understands even a fair degree of LaTeX that it didn't generate. So you can import LaTeX files into LyX to edit them. Try that with your-favourite-word-editor!

Installation was reasonably painless. I've yet to arrange LaTeX (the typesetting backend) to print the output in Hebrew, but it works at University, so it should work here too. Some minor bugs exist, but I expect them to be solved.

This is good news for all Iranians, Arabs and Israelis.


And a big thank-you goes to enth, for explaining to me again which is left and which is right. NOTE TO SELF: You left your watch on your left hand, which is the right one; right?

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