Since LyX largely functions as a front-end to the LaTeX typesetting system, it has the power and flexibility of LaTeX, and can handle documents including books, notes, theses, to academic papers, letters, etc. Knowledge of the LaTeX markup language is not necessary for basic usage, although a variety of specialized formatting is only possible by adding LaTeX directives directly into the page.
LyX is popular among technical authors and scientists for its advanced mathematical modes, though it is increasingly used by social scientists and humanities scholars as well for its bibliographic database integration and ability to manage multiple files. LyX has also become popular among self-publishers.
Matthias Ettrich started developing a shareware program called Lyrix in 1995. It was then announced on USENET, where it received a great deal of attention in the following years.
Shortly after the initial release, Lyrix was renamed to LyX due to a name-clash with a word processor produced by the company Santa Cruz Operation. The name LyX was chosen because of the file-suffix '.lyx' for Lyrix files.