Posted in Presentations quality, Technical (ms word, tex), Tips, useful software
When you are doing research, you tend to collect a lot of papers. I remember that at the end of m PhD, when I moved to another continent to do a postdoc, I dumped a huge box of photocopies in my parents’ basement. A few years ago, I had collected two cupboards full of photocopies. It was getting seriously out of hand. Then, of course, journals started putting everything online as PDFs and the same process started all over again but this time filling up hard disk folders instead. I used to have subject-based folders, which sort of worked until something fit within 2 or 3 or 4 of my subjects. Searching for some old paper you had read a few years back became more and more nightmarish. Then somebody showed me Papers.
Papers is a program that acts like your iTunes library for PDFs. It also connects to online search engines such as Web of Science (WoS), Scopus, PubMed, arXiv, JSTOR, Google scholar, and half a dozen other ones. That means that you can search from within Papers, retrieve, and store PDFs directly into your library but more importantly, Papers keeps a record of bibliometric data such as title, authors, abstract, doi, keywords, notes, etc. You can set up collections of papers by topic either by hand or by using smart folders that use automated searches of the bibliometric data. I like it that you can nest topic folders so you can either view PDFs from a sub-topic or go one level up to see all PDFs about that topic. My only complaint is the lack of Boolean and wildcard searches.
However, the best thing by far is the quick search function, which makes a real-time selection that narrows down as you type in more keywords. For example, you once read this paper, it was about X, one of the authors was Y, maybe it was published in Z. Once you type in X and Y, usually the selected list has narrowed down enough that you can see journal Z and a few seconds later the paper you were looking for. This is amazingly good! Last but not least, you can export all the data into an EndNote XML library (or BibTeX etc.) and use it to make reference lists.
There is one tiny little problem: it only works on a Mac (or your iPhone but that’s not really that useful). The reason for this is that OS 10.5 has a PDF API built in (a subroutine library that can be used by any software) whereas MS is trying to push its own version of PDF. Personally, I was so hacked off with Windows Vista last year and so enamoured with Papers that I switched to the Mac. It’s the best decision I have made in a long while: I haven’t sworn at my computer since!