Scanning probe microscopy (SPM) techniques can obtain nanoscale images of soft materials in almost any environment and over a wide range of temperatures. Being non-destructive, processes such as crystallization can be followed in-situ, and the effect of changes in temperature on structures can be monitored at the nanometre scale. The application of these techniques over recent years has lead to a real change in our understanding of many fundamental processes. The capabilities of scanning probe microscopes are continuously being enhanced, with recent developments in high speed scanning and material property mapping promising to significantly broaden soft matter applications. Here a personal overview of progress over the last decade in the development and application of SPM to following processes in soft matter will be provided, and a look forward to future developments in the field.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(09)70199-3