Keeping/reviewing/annotating reference materials on an iPad
April 19, 2019 6:25 AM   Subscribe

I have a bunch of PDFs and Word documents that are relevant to my work. Some of the PDFS are quite large, fwiw. I’d like to keep them on my iPad so that I have them accessible if I need them during the day—and I’d like a good way of both annotating them and keeping a separate notes document as my own gloss/aide memoire. Is there a good unified solution for this?

For me this is for work, but I think this would be relevant for anyone working with multiple sources for a research project/thesis.

The PDFs are a mix of text and slide decks; the word docs are only text. It would be great if the solution allowed me to search across resources simultaneously.

This would be a lot more intuitive to me if I were doing it on my MacBook—I’d just like to find a way to do it on the iPad because I don’t carry the laptop all the time.

Extra points if the solution were shareable across devices (iPad and Mac), but since my work blocks sharing apps from the network, I’d need an offline mode for most of the day. Thanks!
posted by Admiral Haddock to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You should very seriously consider buying and learning LiquidText. It's expensive and complicated, but that's because it's the only app that does what you're talking about with many different types of materials.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:51 AM on April 19

Papers is a reference manager largely aimed at academics, but it will store both PDFs and Word .docs and lets you annotate them. It syncs through the cloud so you would have access to the same documents with notations automatically between your iPad and your computer (although I think you would have to buy the two apps separately). I'm not sure about the best way to do a separate notes document with it, though.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:20 AM on April 19

Zotero is a web-based method of storing the citations and the pdfs. It's free and although the website is less than awesome sometimes, it's still waaaay better than other options. Readcube recently bought out Papers and there are lot of elements in flux for management of the resources. I find that importing citations is kinda haphazard with books or non-journal things.

Liquidtext is really good, but it does not handle handwritten annotations as text.

Personally, I use GoodReader to store most of my PDFs, they can be on your ipad or in the cloud on another system. It searches across PDFs and allows for handwritten annotations that can be retained with the PDF or exported out. You can use pop up notes, highlighting, and just writing directly on the PDF.
posted by teleri025 at 8:21 AM on April 19

I use notability for many of these functions.
posted by spitbull at 9:13 AM on April 19

I use a combination of Zotero (their unlimited plan of $120/year), Zotfile and Apple's iCloud to solve exactly this problem. Zotero allows you to add notes to your entries, too. I chose to pay Zotero, instead of Papers because I wanted to support/reward an Open Source product and control where my data is stored.
posted by skye.dancer at 11:25 AM on April 19

I should also mention that I work across 1 desktop machine, 2 laptops, an iPad, and an iPhone, so the solution is pretty flexible. A lot could depend upon how much storage you need for your PDFs, though. I don't store a lot locally because I have SO. VERY. MANY PDFs; hence the cloud storage option. Apple only charges US$0.99 per month for a heap of storage, so I went with them instead of Google or Dropbox.
posted by skye.dancer at 11:31 AM on April 19

I use Dropbox combined with Notability (for external notes) and PDFexpert for scribbling on PDFs themselves. I haven’t found a good app that does both in a way I like yet.
posted by nat at 2:47 AM on April 20

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