I wrote my thesis using LaTex (pronounced La-tek, although other pronunciations are acceptable), a typesetting language. It's not like MS Word-- the output is not what-you-see -is -what-you-get -- you write a program and then compile it to produce pdf output. It's very handy when typing equations; you don't need to worry about portability. All pdf readers should be able to handle opening the finished product.
This portability of output can be contrasted with the various versions of Equation Editor on the market. Every time you upgrade to later versions of equation editor or math type, the equations you worked hard to prepare become gibberish.
You do need to learn the correct syntax. When programming in C or fortran, you can use an ordinary text editor like notepad, and then go to the command prompt or console, type in the compilation command, and wait for the executable to be produced. For latex files, compilation produces a pdf file. That was actually how I first learned to TeX; I used the console of a Linux distribution and an ordinary text editor.
A few years ago, I learned about TeXnicCenter. It was an integrated development environment (IDE) that allowed you to edit TeX files and then you can click on an icon to compile and view the output. To get it running, you had to install a TeX distribution-- I used an earlier version of MikTex, and you also needed to install a pdf reader (Like Adobe pdf reader). You needed to configure TeXnicCenter to recognize MikTeX and Adobe reader, and if you happen to be a newbie, getting it to work properly was hell. (I did learn though, and that's how the thesis got written.) For all of its faults-- and the only fault I could think of was how hard it was to get it working when newly installed, it does a very good job. If you compiled to dvi, then each new compile would lead to changes that you can easily track, if you had a dvi viewer open along with TeXnicCenter.
Pdf's were a problem. If you compiled to pdf, and you wanted to see the output, you opened the file with Adobe reader. If you make changes in the code you wrote and wished to recompile, you had to close the open pdf file; an open pdf file stopped the compiler from modifying the pdf because it was locked in place by Adobe Reader. So closing the open pdf took a few extra moments in addition to editing, viewing and recompiling.
Now fast forward to my new computer. Among the necessities of scientific writing (at least for the physics, engineering, and math community) is a TeX editor and compiler. So I looked up TeXnicCenter and MikTex and downloaded both of the latest versions. After installing both of these programs, I was surprised that .tex files were associated by Windows with TeXworks instead of TeXnicCenter. Since I did not recall installing this program, I decided to open a .tex file and found that it was a different IDE from TeXniCenter. I didn't like unncessary duplication, so I decided to look it up on the net, and I learned that it was bundled with MikTex 2.9, so there was no need to install TeXniCenter. Best of all, the output was a pdf file, and the associated viewer did not need to close the pdf in between compilation cycles.
I showed the program to the resident TeX geek, and she was overcome with admiration for TeXworks. Installation was a breeze-- you needed only one installation, just MikTeX 2.9. No more messing around with ghostscript, and configuring TeXniCenter.
The people who worked on MikTeX 2.9 did a terrific job of making the TeX editing easier with their latest stable release. In fact, I've uninstalled my copy of TeXniCenter and will be relying on TeXworks from now on.