by PhilipJ on 5 September 2007
More ask the audience questions: How do you manage your electronic archive of papers? The dead-tree versions I leave in binders, but I’m having a harder time deciding how to organise my PDF library. Given that I’m starting in a new field for my Ph.D., it is the perfect opportunity to get things right from the start. So how do you do it?
So far I’ve been organising them as I would my paper copies: into various sub folders in a Papers directory (Experiments, Theory, Instrumentation…) that give a general idea of what the papers are about. When it comes to actually retrieving an article I want to read again, however, I have so far been using the built in Spotlight tool in Mac OS X. If you remember at least a few of the words in the paper, and an author name, chances are you can find what you’re looking for.
This breaks down, however, with old papers. These are normally scanned in from paper copies, and it isn’t possible to search for words within the documents any longer. I don’t have that many old papers, but it does make it more difficult than I’d like to find what I’m looking for, particularly when I have a bunch of old papers all on similar topics by the same people.
I’ve given Papers a try, which in principle seems like a nice way to manage everything, but in practice I found frustrating to use (and it’s also not free, which seems like questionable policy given that grad students will be the main adopters of something like this!). I also thought a bit about web applications like Connotea, but if I’m ever without internet connectivity, there goes all ability to search through my papers. It also doesn’t seem to keep a copy of the PDF of the paper for me. Furthermore, it requires that I tag the papers with metadata myself, whereas Spotlight does this automatically for me.
Chances are there will be no “perfect” solution, but I’m eager to hear how others keep track of their PDFs. And those who have the hundreds-of-PDFs-on-my-desktop strategy, no thanks!