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.

Personal KM: How do you store journal articles?

[Repurposed from a class blog. Sorry if you see this twice.]

I’m now squirreling away the PDFs of papers that I download for iSchool and once I got into the low double digits I realized that I really need a system. I haven’t found a good one yet. Anybody else?

For starters I’m trying to rename them to something logical (Norman-1993-ThingsThatMakeUsSmart.pdf, Markman-2001-Thinking.pdf).

But beyond that I need to keep them organized (1) in an inbox of assignments to be read and (2) with the courses for which they were assigned. I could also use a way to group them (3) by papers I’m writing. I’ve been bitten by the recent fad for (4) tags, so that would be nice. Since book chapters are often scanned without a title page an ideal system would (5) attach them to whatever I’ve got that resembles a standard bibliographic citation. And (6) any system I come up with should scale up and be portable for longer-term use when the semester or indeed iSchool are things of the past.

I could probably do all of the above except for (5) with aliases: put everything in a single folder and drag aliases into separate folders for each course, paper I’m writing, and topical tag. But that sounds pretty klunky, in part because keeping a lot of Finder windows open is problematic on a 12″ laptop.

So what are other people using?

I need a keyword

Is there a word which incorporates all of the following? Work habits and work spaces; time management; mnemonics and other cognitive devices; tools like notebooks and PDAs; personal and shared knowledge management tools (bibliographies, bookmarks and linkfarms).

It seems to me that these things are alike in some way but I can’t find a term which unites them. I certainly know a lot of people who share an interest in them, largely through Ed Vielmetti and his always stimulating Vacuum mailing list.

The most prosaic reason why I want such a term is to use it as a category for this blog. But I think that having a term to describe this set would be useful in discussing the set itself. I want to be able to say, “What kinds of X do you use to help with [a task]? Another X related to that one is [a tool or technique]. The best book I’ve seen about X lately is [title].” Not to mention that “Ed Vielmetti and his friends have the most fascinating conversations about X.”