Looking for the best software and tools for academics working with digital files
October 18, 2012 9:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm giving a workshop to a group of humanities scholars (historians, philosophers, etc) on how to work with digitized sources that they have collected from various archives. What killer software/apps should I highlight?

I'm a librarian in a specialized research archive, and I work with historians and other scholars who often compile enormous personal collections of digitized files (primary and secondary sources, usually JPGs or PDFs) in the course of their research. I will be giving a brief (1.5 hour or so) workshop on how to wrangle these files into a system that works for them and allows them to spend their time analyzing and writing instead of, say, looking for an old file they remember seeing a few months ago. I'll be covering things like backup options (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc), file formats (e.g. print to PDF options for JPGs), and naming conventions, and will be spending a lot of time on reference and file management software (like Papers, Mendeley, Zotero, Qiqqa, and Sente). My goal is to cover to the stages of working with digital files (capturing, manipulating, backup, and analyzing), introduce various approaches and software options for each step, then encourage them to develop a system that works for them and their specific needs.

What killer software or apps might I have overlooked that might help them? I'm mainly just introducing various programs and approaches, so even a brief reference like "some people really like [Program X]" is enough. Free or relatively cheap would be preferred, but if the best program for their purposes isn't free I still want to mention it.

A couple notes: I will not be discussing OCR much, because most of the documents these people are working with are in other languages (German, Polish, Hebrew and Russian, mainly) and the source files are often handwritten or poorly-microfilmed. Also, remember that I'm talking to scholars about their individual projects, not librarians or archivists looking to manage large digital collections, so "best practices" for institutions are not as relevant here.

I've learned a lot in the course of assisting my girlfriend with her research (as discussed in this old AskMe about reference management software), but I'm sure that there are new tools I haven't used. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated!
posted by arco to Education (7 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I know it's not really built for this but for very humanities-type scholarship, I actually really like Scrivener? It lets you drop in almost any kind of file and also saves webpages in a research folder and you can also outline/write in it. I've heard it's not great for footnoting, but I pretty much work with MLA style always. (My dude who's done a lot of legal research likes Papers.)
posted by SoftRain at 10:15 AM on October 18, 2012

Check out Evernote!!!
posted by zagyzebra at 10:19 AM on October 18, 2012

Evernote and Zotero.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 10:33 AM on October 18, 2012

Yep and Tinderbox.
posted by RogerB at 12:32 PM on October 18, 2012

For those who are already reading books on their kindles, Clippings Converter is a priceless thing. It takes your clippings and notes made on the kindle and converts them to an excel, word, pdf or evernote file. For me, the excel spreadsheet was the most awesome way to keep track of all my notes for my dissertation. I loved it and that combined with Zotero was the most flawless and painless way to do research I can imagine.
posted by teleri025 at 2:58 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is actually a hardware, not software tool, but I'm waiting for my Scanbox order for just this purpose.
posted by MsMolly at 11:11 AM on October 19, 2012

I can't recommend NoodleTools enough - we use this for all our research-based projects at our middle school (and yes, it has university level settings). Had I access to this resource when I did my masters thesis eight years ago, I would have used it! I find the Notecards "tabletop" to be a very useful tool: allows for stacks, colours, tags, formatting into an outline, and aligning with a bibliography in real time. There is an iPad app now, so that is very handy for iOS users. Youtube Channel for NoodleTools

I love using urli.st to gather url addresses - basically, it makes shareable lists of websites and these lists can be categorized - VERY helpful for research! I use it to help my middle school students find good resources on specific projects. It also would have been helpful eight years ago when most of my research was done digitally.
posted by Raabster at 12:05 AM on October 23, 2012

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