Organising PDF’s

Well, I’m back from my week and a bit of holiday, and am back in the office getting ready for the new year. Rather than get right into data analysis (that’s for thisafternoon), I’m taking the morning to get a bit more on top of my collection of PDF’s – reading through my “to read” list, and getting the unsorted ones a bit more sorted out. It’s really about as exciting as it sounds.

At the moment I use a Firefox extension called Zotero. This is a pretty handy thing that basically will download a PDF file and all the metadata (abstract, author, title, year etc etc) from a journal webpage, and file it away for you. You can then organise them into collections (like virtual folders), and give them tags, add supplementary material etc. Once you have a big collection of PDF’s, this is very useful – if you just file them away in folders on your hard drive, you end up with lots of duplicates, and its hard to be consistent about how you file them. With something like Zotero, you can have the same PDF file in many different collections – for instance it can be filed by topic, as well as be in a “to read” folder, at the same time, without duplicating the file. I also have a separate collection for papers that I’ve cited in articles. I’ve not really used the tagging feature much, nor have I added notes, although this seems like it would be a useful thing to do.

Anyway, thismorning I noticed that there is a new version of another PDF organising program – Mendelay. Mendeley is a proper desktop application (with versions for Windows and Macs), which has advantages over running as a Firefox extension (easier to keep windows organised), and also has an parallel online version, so you can always get to your papers from a web-based version of the program. This would be really useful to me. Zotero has an online “sync” system, so that you can keep multiple versions of Zotero up to date, and also has a web-based system, but you can only see your library entries – you cant actually open the PDF unless you set up Zotero on whatever computer you’re using, and then sync the whole library. At the moment I have about 2GB of PDF files, so this would take a really long time and be very expensive in bandwidth (in Australia at least) just to open a few PDF files.

So – the new Mendelay claims to be able to sync up with a Zotero library, and I thought PDF organising nirvana may have finally arrived! Unfortunately, it keeps crashing while trying to import the library…

Back to Zotero…

PS – you can see my Zotero library here, if you like.

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One Response to Organising PDF’s

  1. funnyoldlife says:

    Super – thanks! I’ll tell my colleagues at University College London about this, they’ll love it.

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