Make your writing beautiful

This is a seminar I gave to fellow research students about some things you should consider when writing articles, to make them look visually beautiful. It was given for the first “HDR Lunchtime Seminar” at Caufield Monash. Apologies for any typos or other errors, I did it in a short amount of time because I was busy with some other stuff around the same time.

If you are interested in this topic, you may also be interested in the talk I gave at the Open Source Developers Conference, “Please, no more gauges: How NOT to visualize data” (video and slides are available).

Slides

You can view the slides online.

Cheatsheet

You can download the cheatsheet as a pdf or view it online.

Software

After the talk, a few people asked about the software I used when writing. Here are some links for anybody who is interested. All the software is open source, and cross platform.

As is often the case with new/different software, you may be familiar with existing alternatives:

  • LyX -> Microsoft Office
  • Inkscape -> Adobe Illustrator
  • GIMP -> Adobe Photoshop

Due to the fact we are talking about pretty complex pieces of software, you may find these alternatives clunky at first. I strongly believe that this is related to familiarity with other “ways of doing things”. I have met professional graphic designers who use Inkscape and GIMP instead of their Adobe alternatives. Also, I was trained in Photoshop and Illustrator in high school and uni, but am now pretty good in GIMP and Inkscape. Now I’ve learnt how to use them (though not as well as professionals would), they are just as powerful and intuitive as the alternatives for the tasks I use them for.

LyX (word processor)

A “What You See Is What You Mean” word processor, which outputs articles to PDF via LaTeX. I think this is a good introduction to the beautiful output of LaTeX for Microsoft Word or Libre/OpenOffice users. It is cross platform, and has great documentation. This is the software I am writing my thesis and all of my articles in, and although every now and then I’ll find one or two things a little tricky, it is by and large a much more pleasurable experience than writing in Word or LibreOffice.

Download

Documentation: LyX is different in that the best documentation is not on a webpage, but rather in a LyX document accessible from the Help menu. You can either view it in LyX, or output it to a PDF once you’ve opened it.

Inkscape (vector graphics editor)

Inkscape is the open source alternative to Illustrator. It may not seem as powerful at first, but it has all of the features that I used in illustrator, and is great for making beautiful diagrams for your writing.

Download

The GIMP (bitmap photo editor)

The GIMP is the open source alternative to Photoshop. I found the transition from Photoshop -> GIMP much easier than Illustrator -> Inkscape, because it shares a very similar paradigm for working.

Download – Linux/Mac

Download – Windows: Though not officially built by GIMP, I’ve used GIMP on Windows before with no problems. This is the download page linked to from the official GIMP download page if you want a Windows version. This is why I trust this site much more than the crapware sites such as CNET.

Categories: talks

Comments are closed.