So finally this week there’s been a major software release that I’ve been eagerly anticipating.
Since moving to OS X as my primary computing platform I’ve noticed that I’ve bought a lot more software. I don’t mean in the hundreds of pounds category (because, quite frankly, that’s why the internet was invented), but in the £10 to £20 category.
The OS X community has quite a thriving scene that would once have been described as ‘shareware’. The term seems to have been dropped, but the principle is the same. Try for free, buy it when your trial expires.
As predominantly a Linux user for the last 12 years, this style of software sales has kind of passed me by, because everything I need on Linux is free.
I don’t know whether it’s because I can afford to buy software now without being concerned about it, or whether I’ve suddenly discovered the fact that there is magical trade off between ‘getting organised’ and realising that the open source solutions available really don’t fit my needs, but now I happily shell out for products that I think will benefit my GTD lifestyle (no still not yet implemented, wait ’till next week).
One of the things I have longed for is a decent reference management system. I had previously used KnowledgeTree for this purpose, and of course Endnote. KnowledgeTree had many excellent features, and it’s been 2 years since I used it, but there’s a reactionary little part of me that likes my stuff local. I’m not a great fan of running Apache on my laptop just to serve up an application, I’d rather just have a local application that works offline. Endnote is a package I’ve always regarded with utter contempt, so much so that when I wrote my PhD thesis I did all the referencing by hand.
So trying out Papers from mekentosj was a real revelation. At its heart Papers is a PDF bibliographic database. What makes it interesting to the life sciences community is the fact that you can tag the PDF’s up with appropriate metadata and the fact that it seamlessly integrates with Pubmed and Connotea.
That library of PDF’s sat on your hard disk can suddenly be organised in ways you previously only could have dreamed about. Sort by Author, Journal, Title – have smart folders of papers autocreated from custom keywords. Drag and drop papers into your library and pull bibliographic information directly from the internet using the DOI. What I especially liked was being able to feed back to a couple of well known OS X bioinformatics tool developers during the development of Papers. Feature requests and bug reports were gratefully received and the 1.0 release is infinitely more stable than the pre-release version, far more fully featured and better integrated to online resources. There’s already been occasions where I’ve been in meetings and had the PDF at my fingertips rather than having to rely on Spotlight to (maybe) find the PDF I’m interested in.
It doesn’t just work for papers – I’ve got PDF’s in there tagged with metadata that means something to *me*. When I imported my document libraries initially it took my Word documents in too. It now sports a Firefox plugin that allows you to summon its bibliographic services from the touch of a toolbar button.
It’s one of those pieces of software that conceptually is very simple, but after using it for a month you have no idea how you lived without it previously, nor – most importantly – why this hasn’t been implemented in this way before. I admit to have missed a trick here, because it was always in the back of my mind to develop something like this, but I don’t think I could ever have executed it with the panache this program offers.
OS X user? Over 100 PDF’s stuck in folders all over your drive? You do need this software, I cannot recommend it highly enough.