The web has seen its fair share of research-friendly tools grow over the past years, which makes sense, considering more people are actively engaging online, uploading documents and photos, publishing blog posts, and more, simply expanding online information. Among these tools, are some very popular services, including Diigo, the Firefox-only Scrapbook, Google Books, and other quality research tools, which can help you organize your findings when you research for cars, for homework, for verifying or debunking science claims, and a whole lot more.
When you’re in the market for researching academically though, there are dedicated services that will definitely simplify your life. We’re not just talking about bibliographic reference managers (such as BibMe) or catalogue managers like Libra, which help you keep track of your gigantic book, DVD, song, etc collection. What we will discuss are tools that help you keep your PDF article library neat and catalogued for use when you have to compose your research paper, so read on to find out which services stand out in this category.
Mendeley is a renowned scientific research management tool and academic social network that helps you index and organize research papers and PDF documents into a personal digital library of sorts. Not only can you organize your PDF library, but you can also highlight and annotate your PDFs, as well as sync documents across platforms since Mendeley is available for download on Windows, Mac and Linux, and on iOS. Mendeley also has a great web app, which you can use to add notes to a PDF file, as well as edit metadata. What’s cool is that Mendeley extracts bibliographic information, such as PubmedIDs, from your PDF documents, which helps you keep a tidy personal database, complete with searchable information of many kinds.
Zotero [Cross-Platform Firefox Addon]
The open source Zotero not only helps you build bibliography and keep track of your references, it also provides a place for you to organize your PDF article library. Like Mendeley, Zotero can sync citations and entries across operating systems and mobile platforms. It also permits the user to bookmark, highlight and add sticky notes to pages, assemble a no-fuss mailing list, index full-text from PDFs, etc. Zotero not only stores PDF files, it also can store files, images, links, and entire web pages.
Benubird PDF [Windows]
Benubird PDF is part Windows Explorer shell replacement, part collection manager. You can use this program to group specific files into collections or even use the Smart Collection feature to automatically group files into virtual folders according to rules you set. By default, there are four empty collections ready for you to make use of, namely, Finances, General, Personal, and Work. You can also put files together into a zip archive from within this program and select specific folders to keep track (“Watched Folders”), as well as what files to show. In this screenshot, I chose to have Benubird monitor my Dropbox folder’s PDF files only.
Filtering files of a certain format isn’t the only unique feature that Benubird possesses, as it also allows you to add tags to any file and edit the PDF details (metadata) without having to open up your PDF reader. Despite the fact that Benubird froze up several times during my test, it is a pretty robust tool to help you organize your PDF collection better. You should definitely check it out (or see the cross-platform Shoka, which is another PDF library manager) if you constantly deal with a huge collection of PDF documents.
If you’re just collecting PDF-based research articles, Mendeley and Zotero are probably the best choices to help you keep an organized library, as they also pick up bibliographic information. If you’re looking for just an easier way to manage your PDF documents only, try Benubird.
What do you use to organize your research and manage your PDF document collection? Let us know in the comments.