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I am looking for a user-friendly editor that will be able to deal with a longer document, including pictures and reference management.

Microsoft Word 2013 seems to not be able to handle this task properly, not being able to properly manage pictures (with captions) and reference management.

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    What operating system should it run on?
    – Undo
    Mar 5 '16 at 16:25
  • Been a long time since I've use it, but perhaps LyX Mar 5 '16 at 16:27
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    LibreOffice/OpenOffice might be an option. Comes for free, cross-platform, even has portable version for Windows. Plugins are available for reference management and more. But you should use the native ODT format with it: though DOC/DOCX is supported, it proved problematic with the kind of documents you describe.
    – Izzy
    Mar 5 '16 at 16:36
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Plain text, with AsciiDoc

Dr. Matt Neuberg writes very long, very technical books using plain text editor. He marks up his copy with AsciiDoc tags. Converter tools can then transform into PDF, HTML, and various ebook formats. He explained his tool chain.

This post mentions some other authors who do the same.

Plain text, with Markdown

Ian Hocking does similarly for writing novels, but using markdown tags, as he explains.

LibreOffice

As commented by Izzy, the LibreOffice suite and its module for word-processor should be able to handle a 50-page academic paper.

LibreOffice would be my first choice. Explore the plain text tool chain above only if you expect to do much more writing of even greater length.

Some huge tips:

  • Learn to use style sheets. Never apply styling/formatting manually.
  • Backup often. Any word-processor will eventually destroy your document. I offer my grey hair as proof.
  • Install no upgrades in the middle of your project.

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