March 15, 2010

documents organization for all

For those of you who know me in real life, you may know that I've often been jealous of Mac software but since I'm a die-hard Windows person, I've always just had to sulk and make do.  One of the programs I've been most jealous of is called Papers.  It's a software program for organizing documents-- pdfs, etc.  Of course, it does much more, but I'll let you read about it yourself since this isn't supposed to be a post about that program.

What I envied was the idea of all my PDF's in one place with a native PDF reader so that I could also take notes, etc. on the article I was reading (yep, I'm actually an academic).  Then, Mendeley came out not so long ago and it looks a lot like Mac's Papers but is FREE (at least for the moment)!!!  It also seems to have more features than Papers including an online sync function.  But one of the things I love most about Mendeley is that its developers are pretty responsive to user criticism and wishes.  Each new update makes me love the program more and more.

Of course, it's still not my dream are some additional things I'd like to see in the program:
  1. store other file formats (such as images and word documents) with their own native viewers (is this asking too much?)
  2. be able to see my associated comments or tags next in the documents pane-- sometimes this just helps with getting a sense of your research
Now a new program has caught my eye-- Paperpile.  Again it, looks a lot like Mendeley, but there have been some caveats like integration with Cite-u-like (which Mendeley also has off-and-on) and since Mendeley didn't fulfill ALL my hopes and dreams, maybe Paperpile will....I should note that it's in Beta form and only available for Linux at the moment.

Finally for those of you who are die-hard Zotero fans, I love this tool, too...but admittedly, I haven't found it as elegant as Mendeley...

Consider the images of what it's like to view a PDF in each program-- the top is Zotero and the bottom image is Mendeley. 

Notice the screen orientation.  I find it much more natural to read in Mendeley than in Zotero.  Mendeley maximizes screen real estate by making use of tabs.  And in terms of fulfilling all my wishes and desires, unfortunately neither program allows you to view your notes/comments/tags in the main viewer window (why do the developers think that we prefer to see the date that an article was added rather than the comments field?!).

For those of you who still aren't convinced why these programs are great, imagine being able to view all your PDFs in one place, make notes about all of them, and then search all your notes and articles at the same time-- all without having to open and close a ton of PDFs.  In an alternative scenario, if you make notes about an article in a regular pdf reader, your notes would essentially to only that pdf.  To search across everything, you'd need to use a desktop search program of some kind...But where Mendeley is really useful is that it's also a bibliographic manager-- you can cite and insert references into word or open office documents as you write the paper (CWYW)...

At any rate, I encourage you all to have a look at these programs....they're pretty impressive and I've found these types of literature organizers invaluable.

Now, I really, really have to work!

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