Managing PDFs with iPapers

Revisiting the topic of how to manage a personal collection of PDFs, Don Turnbull turned up the interesting program iPapers by Toshihiro Aoyama. It manages PDFs in an iTunes-like interface:

It’s a nifty program but it does have a couple of limitations. It’s intended for use with the medical bibliographic service PubMed, so incorporating PubMed articles is a simple matter of dragging and dropping, and iPapers will then retrieve the bibliographic metadata from PubMed much as iTunes retrieves track listings. For non-PubMed articles, though, the import process is much less straightforward. An obvious improvement would be to make drag and drop work for any PDF and to pop up the dialogue for hand-editing bibliographic data by default when the program can’t retrieve it from PubMed.

Even better would be to support plugins so third parties could write interfaces to PubMed’s counterparts in other fields, perhaps to CiteSeer or Google Scholar. The hardest part there might be determining unique identifiers by which to do the lookup.

Another limitation is iPapers’ model of metadata. It is strictly oriented toward journal articles, so books, handouts, PDF archives of webpages, etc. fall outside its scope. Maybe more importantly, iPapers doesn’t currently allow for user-definable fields or tags. I’m hoping for a tool which will let me sort PDFs by topics, courses, and my own writing projects.

But it’s new and hopefully Toshihiro Aoyama is still adding features. Check it out and send him your encouragement.

5 thoughts on “Managing PDFs with iPapers

  1. Silly me — iPapers does include a way to group papers into something analogous to playlists, so it would be possible to have working collections for courses annd writing projects. No tags or user-definable fields, though (nor anything analogous to smart playlists).

  2. Hmmm. Actually I just tried it as I realized I have a couple of hundred PDF journal articles and other documents lying around on my hard drive. But I couldn’t figure out how to import non-PubMed PDFs. You say it’s not straightforward… well… but it’s possible? I tried importing, but no go.

  3. BibDesk rocks!
    My current research workflow:
    - Track down a paper online.
    - Does it have bibtex information online?
    If yes, copy and paste into BibDesk.
    - Otherwise I copy the textual reference information from the webpage and create a new entry in BibDesk using ‘New entry from clipboard’ (Cmd-Opt-L). Which has a really great, fast to use interface.
    - Another alternative I just recently discovered: Using Zotero to gather reference info. Most of the time the reference info on Google Scholar, Citeseer and other sites is incomplete though.
    - Finally, my favorite part: Drag the icon from the open pdf in Adobe Reader (in the title bar) to the new entry in BibDesk and it automagically saves the file into my nicely organized hierarchy of papers. You can tell BibDesk how you want it to organize and name your papers. I am using
    FirstAuthorName/Year/First_few_words_of_paper_title.pdf

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