Thursday, November 19, 2009

Trying to organise my library of PDF papers

I have recently been trying to find a better way to organise the library of papers I have got in the form of PDFs. I have tried two recently: Mendeley research networks and papers.


Papers is a superslick OS X application that I have trialled a couple of times. A few of my colleagues use it and it really is well designed and easy to use. What is especially powerful is that you can search for papers, download the pdf and have it put in your library all within the application. Another useful feature is that you can drag and drop pdfs into it and it will go out and get all the correct annotation information for you. It currently costs €29 or $42.

Mendeley research networks

Mendeley is an application that I came across a couple of days ago and overall I am really impressed. The company describes itself as "Like iTunes for research papers." and it has got quite a bit of positive press lately.

Mendeley consists of a desktop application and a social web application. The desktop application is cross-platform and allows you to import pdfs, organise your papers into libraries etc. and annotate your pdfs. As with papers it can rename your pdfs based on the annotation information. The real magic though is in the web part of the product. You can sync your libraries (annotations and pdfs) to the web allowing for easy cross-device shared libraries but more importantly it allows you to set up libraries as shared with different users. It also will allow you to see researchers with similar interests and give you statistics about your library and even about papers that you have authored.

In addition there is also a web sciptlet which they call a web importer that allows you to import paper annotations directly from pubmed, web of knowledge etc.. Unfortunately this doesn't import the pdfs too, that has to be downloaded separately. Also there are plugins for word and openoffice so that you can cite and provide reference lists in your papers. Finally, for the latex fan boys it outputs to bibtex.

Rough comparison of Mendeley with papers


  • Free

  • Inbuilt annotation and notes of pdfs

  • Can store your library and even the pdfs on the web

  • Easy to sync libraries between computers

  • Can share libraries between people

  • Cross platform i.e. windows, mac and Linux

  • Easier to use your citations in word and openoffice


  • Can't download the pdf within the application (can download the pdf independently and then import it, on which it will automatically get the metadata)

  • Not as slick as a native OS X app