The effort to apply synchrotron spectromicroscopy techniques to life science problems is definitely beyond the feasibility-test stage. Furthermore, the commissioning of ultrabright, third-generation soft-X-ray sources such as Elettra in Trieste or the advanced light source in Berkeley has boosted this effort, most notably in the areas of scanning and electron-imaging photoelectron spectromicroscopy. Besides producing research results, the effort also develops new procedures and finds solutions for new conceptual problems. We first briefly review the basic experimental techniques in this domain; then we discuss some specific experimental issues, such as the specimen preparation problems caused by peculiar features of the techniques, e.g., their surface sensitivity. Third, we briefly present conceptual considerations on the optimization of the data-taking procedures. Finally, we illustrate the applications in biology with a few specific research examples, and analyze the probable future developments in this area. (C) 1997 John Wiley & Sons, inc.