First and perhaps most importantly, Katy submitted her thesis this morning! To celebrate she baked a rather lovely lemon drizzle cake for the rest of the lab to enjoy. She says it’s ‘just’ a BBC Good Food recipe, but it was much enjoyed by all those who turned up.

Katy cutting the cake

The rest of the meeting was spent talking about what software we use, how we use it and whether it works!

We started out by talking about how Katy had used Word for her thesis. Rather than writing one extremely long document, she preferred to keep her chapters each as a separate document. This was partly to help with getting feedback on specific chapters from her supervisors, and also because she chose not to reduce the quality of the images she was using until very late on, so the size of the documents was pretty large even when kept as separate chapters.

Gareth is using LaTeX for his. He says the learning curve is worth it in the end, and avoids some of the problems Katy had with references.

We also briefly discussed Scrivener. Both Ellie and Liz had tried using Scrivener, and both found that it just didn’t really fit with their method of writing. Liz felt rather more strongly than Ellie! One of the big problems Ellie found with Scrivener was in getting feedback from her supervisor and maintaining any changes in Scrivener. This wasn’t to say it wouldn’t work for others though.

For referencing Katy has used Endnote. She had a few problems right at the end of her thesis preparation with Endnote misplacing the references in the Word documents, but she felt that was her fault for having multiple copies of the Endnote libraries around with the same name. Liz thought she’d seen the same behaviour with other causes, although she’d found a way to spot it. Another problem raised with Endnote was that although there are university-wide licenses, if we wanted to work on personal computers we had to buy a license at not-inconsiderable expense. For that reason the rest of us seem to mostly be using Mendeley, which is free but may not integrate so well with other pieces of software.

Note-taking was mentioned, with Evernote being used by both Ellie and Gareth. Ellie recommended Evernote Clearly for use in browser. Liz showed off her Livescribe pen and pad, which records as she writes and allows her to create electronic notes directly from her handwritten ones. Ellie uses Note Taker HD on her iPad, mostly with a stylus but was using her finger in this particular meeting. She doesn’t attempt to OCR the results, but uses the tagging along with different folders to keep track of things. Edgar uses Note Plus on his iPad, but admits that he’s still struggling to learn to write using the stylus.

SPSS was mentioned, and Ellie admitted that she’d been manually calculating stats using Excel because she hadn’t got to grips with that yet! This was compared to starting your car by cranking a handle at the front.

And we pretty much ran out of time there, without reaching any of the more interesting/esoteric software we may or may not use. This may be a topic we come back to in the future, possibly with more focus on specific tasks and maybe even with demos…