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I've used MS Word-style editors for a long time, but I never got used to how unintuitive and cumbersome they are. I'm not talking specifically about MS Word, but also other editors that seem to mimic Word, like OpenOffice, NeoOffice, etc.

I've found myself preferring to write in Markdown (much like on this site). I've found a few good Markdown editors, and I like using them a lot more than using Word-style editors. Here is what they generally look like:

The left side is the input, the right side is the result.

As you can see, it works much differently than a Word-style editor. This is a generally cleaner way of writing, since formatting is done right in the text, and is extremely simple to use (no highlighting some text, then clicking a button in some menu you have to find).

Although editing text this way is great, I've realized that the syntax can only be used for very specific needs (bullets, numbered lists, headings and sub-headings, bold, italic, and some other common ones). However, many features are missing. Here are some features that would be nice in a word processor:

  • Tables.
  • Indenting paragraphs.
  • Good image support (you can link to images, but not add them, since Markdown is just text).
  • More simple to use than Word and its cronies.
  • Cross-platform.

Some of these can be fixed with in-line HTML, but nobody wants to do that.

It seems Markdown was designed for editing text on the internet. Is there a similar setup that works better for desktop word processors?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Perhaps more complex than you desire, but latex has all those things. There are many different distributions (packages of editors and libraries) for all OSes, some are cross platform. Look around, you'll find plenty on the net. The downside is you have to do a bit of learning, while the upside is you can get up and running in a couple of days and you'll never need anything else for all your documentation.

Consider these:

huge and complex: texmaker
good to start with: lyx

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