App for organizing tons of pdf and other files into a research library?
March 17, 2014 5:05 AM   Subscribe

1. I don't want to have to upload anything to the web. 2. I'd like to have one and the same file show up under multiple different categories. For instance, if there's a book about the math of baseball, I'd like to be able to have it show up in a category called "math" and also show up in a category called "baseball." 3. It would be cool if it could allow for the feature of associating a given file with an image, such as a book or DVD cover (so that browsing them could be like browsing on Netflix) or a book or DVD binding (so that different collections could appear in a graphic way as looking like items on a bookshelf).
posted by Eiwalker to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Are you on a Mac? If so, you have more options, with apps like DevonThink and Papers, which are all about organising document collections, or Delicious Library, which gives you the graphical interface, or possibly FingerPDF, which has both.
posted by holgate at 5:12 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I am using Windows computers.
posted by Eiwalker at 5:16 AM on March 17, 2014

Papers 1.5 is available on windows, but the reviews for the latest version (3) have been iffy lately. I'm still using version 2 on the mac and it works for me. It meets all your requirements. Give it a spin.
posted by Brent Parker at 5:59 AM on March 17, 2014

You can do at least some of what you want without any software at all beyond Windows Explorer, just by making shortcuts. Once you get the hang of this, it's even reasonably quick and convenient.

Create a folder called Math. Now go through your collection of PDFs looking for math-related ones (Windows Search can help you with a first cut at this). Right-click your math-related PDFs and choose Copy, then right-click in your Math folder and choose Paste Shortcut. Rinse and repeat for as many categories as you care to create, and now you can browse your collection via the shortcuts folders. You can create as many shortcuts to any given file as you want, so there's nothing stopping you from having the same file show up (via shortcut) in each of the Math and Baseball and Moon folders if that's appropriate.

Windows is moderately smart about keeping shortcuts up to date if you move stuff around, too, though once you've got a nice shortcut structure going you shouldn't actually have to do that much. Perhaps you could organize the underlying PDF files into folders named for the year or perhaps year and month you acquired them, which might be more useful than just having them all in a single massive folder; you can easily use Windows Search to get a flattened view of any collection of folders and subfolders, just by searching for nothing at all within the top-level folder, should you actually want a simulated single big massive folder for browsing.

Each time you acquire a new files, right-click it and Copy, then visit all the category folders appropriate for that file, right-click in each one and Paste Shortcut; there's no need to re-do the Copy step between the Paste Shortcut steps.

You'll notice when you do Paste Shortcut that the shortcut so created gets " - shortcut" stuck to the end of its name. If you'd rather they just ended up with the same name as the file, there's a tweak for that.
posted by flabdablet at 7:36 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Associating files with images can be done just by keeping each PDF in its own subfolder along with any images that seem appropriate, plus other stuff like notes about it if you like. If you make the shortcuts point to the image files rather than the associated PDFs, Windows will thumbnail them for you, and you can open the subfolder containing the PDF itself and notes and whatnot by right-clicking the image shortcut and choosing "Open file location".
posted by flabdablet at 7:43 AM on March 17, 2014

I've used Mendeley and have been VERY happy with it. I don't know what type of research you're working on, but depending on the scale, I'd also highly recommend a ScanSnap scanner. It will OCR all of your (older) documents which you can then search using the Mendeley software. The combination of the two was an incredible timesaver and really helped to make my research manageable.
posted by richmondparker at 10:33 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're on a PC, qiqqa apparently does all that plus has OCR which can do full-text searches, annotation, & extraction of keywords as well as tagging & automatically searching for likely metadata (eg author, title, journal title) when it's not been explicitly tagged. I haven't tried it because I am on a Mac (doesn't work with Macs :( :( ) but wish I could.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:47 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

2nding Mendeley. Specifically, if you don't want to upload anything, you can use Mendeley Dekstop on your computer. This will definitely accomplish 1) and 2) of your requirements, but I don't know if 3) is a feature. If it's not, you can try your luck with their suggest a feature forum.
posted by tinymegalo at 5:20 PM on March 17, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the helpful responses. For Windows computers, Zotero is probably the best answer to my original inquiry. However, for PDFs, it can't do everything Qiqqa can do. With Qiqqa, you can do key word searches for any folder, and because of the OCR it even finds words in scanned documents. Research will never be the same.
posted by Eiwalker at 4:40 AM on March 27, 2014

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