LaTeX or Scrivener

Have been using Scrivener for more than two weeks as a writing software, and I have to say it is a sturdy way of writing. A regular word processing software is commonly regarded as not the most optimum environment to write big chunks of writing. Also yesterday I had a chance to attend a LaTeX training on campus, delivered by our colleagues. So I have tried both LaTeX and Scrivener. They are cross compatible, you can combine both strategies. Lots of online reviews about both software, but here are my take on them.

The question remains however, which one I prefer to use for my PhD theses? I am still a big fan of Scrivener. The idea of each sub-section is a new page document, “write now and format later” strategy, flexibility to move around the sub-sections, no more scrolling up and down through hundreds of pages of writing, its cork board view, and the document notes which facilitates my haphazard thoughts are paramount to my workflow. Scrivener is (as advertised), a writing software. Of course it is no an impeccable software. I found problems with referencing system, as the integration is not as smooth as in MS Word.

University of Nottingham uses Harvard system, and there are two ways to produce in-text citations: (Author, year) if the citation is located at the end of a sentence, or Author (year) if the citation is in the middle of a sentence. The first format was not difficult, what we need to do is copy and paste the reference from EndNote to Scrivener. It will appear like this: {Rosenfelder, 2011 #1453} . How about the latter? From Scrivener forum , I received help within a few hour of posting a thread. {Rosenfelder, 2011 #1453@@author-year} is an example if we want to use Author (year) format.

Now that the minor citation problem was sorted, I began to explore more. Biggest negative review about Scrivener is its compatibility. Unless my supervisors have Scrivener too, I still need to do “compile” and do the final touch up (creating the reference list, list of contents; for instance) in Ms Word. I tried, and it worked fine. I need to account for these extra time in the future, but for Scrinever has to offer as a writing software; I am happy to proceed. Also, Scrivener does not do well with images and tables, and they still need to be adjusted in other program. What I have been doing is to import my tables as images instead of keeping the format.

Is Scrivener superior compare to LaTeX? I don’t think so. They are different, and it depends on which one you prefer really. Despite the complicated look of LaTeX, I was impressed that it is not as difficult as it looks. LaTeX is a markup language and it is a coding based program, in contrast with MS Word which is an interface based software. It is excellent for typesetting equations and formula, and is also potent in terms of handling large documents. From my personal viewpoints, I prefer working in a less wordy environment (jittery brain!). I am a truly graphic person, and having codes intertwined with my writing will confuse me. For a long piece of writing such as my theses, it will not work. For shorter ones such as papers or resume, I think I can manage. Good knowledge to obtain for future publications as it is used widely in scientific world, and I thank Chuang Gao and Liming for the training.


Figure 1. My first LaTex trial.



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Theses management tool

My final PhD theses is a project, it is definitely the biggest written project I will produce (approximately 100k words). Before I started writing, I had a quick look on what can possibly go wrong with such a lengthy document, as a precaution. For instance, the regular word processing software starts to be unreliable when it hits 50k words. Another thing is how to sustain my writing focus. I am a mixed non-digital and digital person, but a graphic person for sure due to my design background. Every new idea starts with a clean white paper and pen, either sketches or merely scribbles. Then I move to Photoshop or digitalise my doodles. Also a big fan of programs or apps which can boost my effectiveness. One day it hit me that I struggle to retain haphazard thoughts about my theses. One minute I had a new idea I want to put in Introduction, the next minute I thought about a graphic I want to have to summarise my research methodology session; for instance. I made my notebook as systematic as possible, but I hit my limit. I want my important year to be documented too. So I decided to have layers of documenting ideas. From my notebook which is basically a brain spew with colourful markers, then I will filter it to Trello (task-based, filtering information from my notebook) and Scrivener when I start writing a sub-section. See this thread, my take on Scrivener and LaTeX.

So I am trying a brilliant (and free for simple use) mobile app called Trello, to document my workflow. Not just the theses itself, but also some bits and bobs around my PhD project. The idea is that my supervisors can see my updates at any given time, without me sending updates. Drafts of theses chapters or any other writings can also be viewed and downloaded by four of us. Also it gives me a platform to organise and mature my thoughts.

The second screenshot below provides a glimpse of my current Trello page. It is on my Drafts of theses chapter board. in Trello, I uploaded a screenshot of my Scrivener’s corkboard layout and binder . It gives a glance of what I am writing in this chapter.  So, I have a numerous concern about this particular chapter, including what I have written in the past 3 years and what I found through my pre-pilot and pilot studies. The research methods were amended throughout the course of three years, and in Trello I can jot down quick reminders about the chapter, including checklists of sub-sections. I can edit this anytime if I have new ideas. From this, I will bring my reminders and elaborate more in Scrivener by listing them down in designated Document Notes. A somewhat different workflow in comparison with using a regular word processing software.

Trello is a magnificent online collaborative tool, plenty of good reviews out there. We can set a deadline, apply labels in different boards and add in members. And I think for individual use, it is a great way to freeze ideas and manage them. I am sharing my page with my three supervisors, and hopefully we can make a good use of it. Of course nobody has the same workflow, whatever floats your boat really. If you’d like to try yourself, make your way to .The only downside is that the free account covers up to 10MB only (which is not much), so big files still need to be saved in a Cloud space somewhere.

20170316_Trello screenshot

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Differences in Sketches and Mental Imagery in Ideation Stage of Novice Designers

Update: The most recent publication is now up in Springer. 

It is part of my ongoing PhD discussions related to the use of external and internal representations.

Abstract. Previous empirical studies in sketches and mental imagery showed that there is no significant difference in overall quality and possibility to use mental imagery as design tool. This preliminary study explores distinctions between two kinds of sessions in terms of how ideas are generated. Four design sessions of two novice designers are used to unveil differences. Based on preliminary results, physical properties of sketches underlie differences, also the availability of visual cues apart from the drawings itself. During interpretation stage, sketches provides an additional dialogue which is not available in mental imagery session. The use of mental imagery as design tool in novice designers vary and may not as effective as in experts. Pauses and gesture in both sessions are found to be fundamental designing aspects, including in environment when sketches are allowed. When crucial differences are no longer assumed, interplaying roles between the two can then be explored further.

Link to publication as follow:


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Have a jolly Christmas

It is that time of the year again. The festive season, only a few sleeps to Christmas. I hope you are enjoying the season wherever you are, maybe with a lovely family gathering, whoever you are with. 2017 will be a big year for me as I am approaching my PhD theses submission. You might hear less from me (and I will be anti-social more or less the entire year)  as I will hold into all data until my viva and revisions. Then after all that this website will be a sharing platform for what I have learnt throughout the years. Have a lovely time and treat yourself a little with a Christmas break 🙂 Hohohoho!


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Drawing Circle 1 mini exhibition 22 October: Maps and pictures.

I cobbled together an overall map to show where the exhibition place (Da Bu Li Yuan) is and a more detailed map. It is not far from Shangrila Hotel, Ningbo.

Please ask the taxi driver to drop you at Dabu Park (Dabu Gong Yuan), 48 Dabu Street (Dabu Jie). Jump off, go through the park until you see a Chinese flag on the sky and walk further until you find an access door to Da Bu Li Yuan. The place is a gem in the middle of the city, trust me. Follow the map with pictures. That’s the easiest way to get there, although not the only one. Any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me via Wechat ID: miatedjosaputro .

22 October, the opening party will start at 5pm. Until 7pm. Free admission; booze and other drinks are available for purchase. Weather permitting, we will have a beer garden set up.

22 October- 5 November, you can drop everyday from 10:30 to 22:00, but the access door from park won’t be opened. Go through the park until you find another park’s exit, and turn right (Nandabu Alley). See the last picture on this article.

Information about the Ningbo Local Drawing Circle can be found here. The event only exhibits the first year drawing circle’s sketches (of 12 sketchers), individual posts can be found on the same page, here. Please scroll down. Doodles courtesy of 12 sketchers.

20161009_zoom out + in map 20161009_map with picture20161005_dwg circle 1 low NOTICE ON THE DOOR low The last picture is if a notice if you’d like to come from October 10th – November 5th but the access door from Dabu Park is closed. Carry on walking until you find another entrance which will lead you to Nandabu Alley, then turn right.


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Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2016

The transitory event building was designed by BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) and was opened in June 2016, in Kensington Gardens, London. For the last sixteen years, each year, bespoke architects were invited to design the pavilion. When I was in the UK for nearly six weeks during summer break, I had the chance to witness this piece of brilliant architecture. Such a pleasurable experience to be inside the pavilion, looking out. Or sitting on the patio looking into people queue-ing for beverages. I sat with my flat white, immersing the sun and my mind wandered around watching people do their own thing. Be it as contemplative as me; having a quick catch up with friends; or business meetings or supervising their children.

Other links:

Serpentine Gallery’s site, click here.

Dezeen video, BIG and Fiberline reveals the manufacturing process, click here.

P_1030737  P_1030741 P_1030744 P_1030747 P_1030749 P_1030750 P_1030751 P_1030752 P_1030755 P_1030756  P_1030740 P_1030761


Other casual photographs from my 2016’s UK trip can be found on my Flickr. Bye for now.


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The Drawing Circle mini exhibition’s party: October 22nd

Mark the date guys, October the 22nd! I have posted about the quirky establishment (click here) which will be the venue of the mini exhibition. Lovely lovely place downtown, perched in the middle of city’s hustle and bustle. The October 22nd is the opening party, and the drawings will be exhibited for the next two weeks. Each sketchers’ selected doodles will be displayed, and there will be a couple of artists exhibiting their projects too. We might purchase some beer and finger food from the bar; and we will turn the outdoor bit into a beer garden on that Saturday (weather permitting). Stay tuned for more details.

Would like to sponsor us? Ping me.

Would like to give us a hand with the prep? Ping me.

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