One day I stumbled upon a very nice application that merges the lazy approach of a typical word processor with the good-looking output of a LaTeX document: LyX (which is pronounced "licks"). Its a classic example of a program that does one thing and does it great.
Main window (and this blog post!)That said, it isn't perfect. Some common actions require some pretty arcane key shortcuts (Command-M puts you into math mode). Math mode still uses standard LaTeX "\" macros, so new users of LyX should have such a document nearby (I'll post a few at a later time). The given interface for some of the common symbols is pretty awful, as well. Just take a peek:
Ugly toolbarsAlso, it looks like it uses the GTK+ toolkit, which is pretty renowned for giving pretty poor results across all platforms. It also rigidly enforces structured document formatting, as the back-end processor will handle everything. Then again, this last point is one of the appeals of LaTeX.
That said, even with these issues, LyX is a great entry point for technical papers. I've been using it for all my notes this semester, and it has performed admirably. It provides a good range of export options, from plain-text to PDF, that make distributing/sharing documents easier. "Easier," not easy, since collaboration is impossible without everyone using LyX, as its save files are plain-text and very similar to TeX source files. It also has some pretty awesome-looking output:
LyX, ultimately, is a great program for math and science documents, but enforces too many restrictions for casual users.