Dork needs database
July 10, 2012 7:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to make a simple, personal, research database in OSX. Ideas?

I'm looking for a way to create a simple and easily-expandable research database, indexed by cross-referenced subjects. It'll be almost all PDFs and Word documents, ideally tagged with a number of subjects and topics, so that I'll have a simple and ever-growing index of subjects, like the index of a book, with articles and stuff tagged and cross-referenced to these subjects; that is, you select a subject or topic and are presented with a list of all the documents tagged with that subject. Ideally it'll be simple to grow this to encompass loads and loads of material over time. Sorry if this is a stupid and/or obvious question. (I use OSX.)
posted by Clotilde to Technology (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
PDF is a bit of a bear to support, but the go-to picks would be Evernote, Yojimbo, and, for bizarre 'visual thinkers', TinderBox.
posted by tmcw at 7:58 PM on July 10, 2012

It sounds like a bibliography-type program is what you are looking for. I've been using Sente and love it. It has tagging and search capabilities, including dynamic ("smart") searches and the ability to save them.

There are other programs for similar purposes, and I've tried many (Papers, Mendeley, EndNote, Bookends), but find Sente the most powerful. (Unfortunately, a lot of its power isn't immediately obvious in the menu interface.)
posted by StrawberryPie at 7:59 PM on July 10, 2012

If you are comfortable with editing a text file with GNU Emacs, you may consider using org-mode, an extension of Emacs. I've been using the tagging feature for GTD contexts but I can easily see it being applicable in your case (especially tagging and cross referencing). You can easily make links to actual documents as well.

The only difficulty is that you need to be familiar with Emacs which can be somewhat daunting.
posted by scalespace at 8:14 PM on July 10, 2012

Yeah, this sounds like a job for a bibliography program. I believe Bibdesk will do what you're asking (and more) and it's free. (I mostly only use it to avoid having to write bibtex by hand.)
posted by hoyland at 8:34 PM on July 10, 2012

I would use Evernote for this (full disclosure: I work for Evernote, but this is a perfect use case).
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:49 PM on July 10, 2012

I'm a big fan of Sente, but ... to be honest its searching / tagging / crossreferencing, while better than other reference managers, isn't up to the OP's purpose (especially if they're not grabbing journal articles, or have to add metadata manually).

I'm with tmcw & tylerkaraszewski - except that my preferred order would be Evernote, TinderBox, and Yojimbo.
posted by Pinback at 11:16 PM on July 10, 2012

You could also look into "The Brain". If you change the default color settings to black and white it is even nice to look at. Quite intuitive if it fits your style.
posted by mathiu at 4:42 AM on July 11, 2012

There's also "Devonthink" and "Papers".
posted by mathiu at 4:43 AM on July 11, 2012

Hi, thanks so much for all your suggestions, guys. I tried everything everyone suggested, I think, and right now it looks like Bibdesk is the best one for my purposes; Evernote and Yojimbo are too lifestyley, Sente is, for me, not very intuitive for tagging, Bookends is beautiful but is a bit cumbersome for someone working with files that don't already have metadata embedded and aren't on the databases it links to (I'm using this for legal cases and commentaries, and related memos and research papers), and TinderBox is confounding. On first glance Bibdesk does what I need it to very simply, so long as I manage the actual file directories myself.
posted by Clotilde at 9:59 PM on July 12, 2012

You might try DevonThink. I use it in law school, I find it indispensable.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:36 AM on July 30, 2012

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