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svidd

(Archived) Organizing PDF library with Evernote

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svidd    0

I keep seeing people online, including academics, who say they organize their PDF collection using Evernote. But I haven't seen anybody explain how. Could somebody explain this for me? I'm new to Evernote but I already see the following problems for somebody who plans to organize their PDF collection in it:

1)60MB/month limit. The average PDF library will be much larger. Mine is about 500MB at the moment.

2)It does not seem possible to import an entire collection of PDFs at once. I have to drag and drop each PDF individually to get them in Evernote. Otherwise the entire collection of PDFs shows up as one note with many attachments, which won't help for organizing them.

Here are examples of people saying they use Evernote for organizing PDFs:

http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/how-do-you-organizeannotate-pdfs/23839 (main article as well as in the comments)

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/qiqqa-organizes-academic-papers-students-friend-windows/ (only in the comments)

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GrumpyMonkey    4,063

I keep seeing people online, including academics, who say they organize their PDF collection using Evernote. But I haven't seen anybody explain how. Could somebody explain this for me? I'm new to Evernote but I already see the following problems for somebody who plans to organize their PDF collection in it:

1)60MB/month limit. The average PDF library will be much larger. Mine is about 500MB at the moment.

2)It does not seem possible to import an entire collection of PDFs at once. I have to drag and drop each PDF individually to get them in Evernote. Otherwise the entire collection of PDFs shows up as one note with many attachments, which won't help for organizing them.

Here are examples of people saying they use Evernote for organizing PDFs:

http://chronicle.com...tate-pdfs/23839 (main article as well as in the comments)

http://www.makeuseof...friend-windows/ (only in the comments)

Hi. I have an extensive library of PDFs (primary and secondary sources separate from the standard receipts, handouts, correspondence, etc.) and I originally tried to upload them all into Evernote. I have recently re-evaluated that decision, and recommend a different strategy: (1) extract all the text from your PDFs and put them into Evernote that way, and (2) put your PDFs into Google Drive or Dropbox for easy access.

Why?

(1) The larger your Evernote database gets, the slower the searches will be, so don't put PDFs into it unless you absolutely must. Text files are much smaller. [EDIT:] I am thinking now that this may not be correct (see conversation below).

(2) Large Evernote databases (mine is about 25GB now) take up a lot of space on your hard drive, so if space is limited (Macbook Air owners) this can cause problems, because you cannot toggle notebooks offline/online (as you can with the iPad).

(3) Large databases take a very long time to sync if you have to reinstall and do an initial sync. My latest one took several days, but that required lots of intervention on my part: once the app crashed (used up all of my local storage), and a few times the sync paused for some reasons (I don't know why, but it happens on my Windows machine too). If I don't have time to intervene a lot, it sometimes takes a week or more to complete.

(3) Text is searchable offline if you are using mobile devices. PDFs are not.

(4) The content of a note can be searched on mobile, but the content of a PDF cannot be, unless you open it in a PDF reading app.

(5) Many PDFs in academia (especially Art History) are many times larger than the note size limit (50 MB), so it takes some work to break apart files, and there isn't much point in doing all of that if you can just stick the text into a note.

For the nuts and bolts:

(1) I name everything author + date of publication (http://www.princeton...ganization.html)

(2) I create reading notes that link to the text and/or pdf file (http://www.princeton...ganization.html). For various reasons, I generally prefer NOT to annotate my PDFs (I used to mark up my dead tree books a lot, and it took a lot of work to change this behavior), and this makes it very easy to keep my comments / thoughts easily accessible.

(3) I have a master bibliography for everything that links to the reading notes, the text versions of PDFs, and the PDF files.

(4) Use a Mac. It is very easy to select lots of PDFs or text files and drag them into a notebook (creating multiple notes). I forget now how to do it with Windows, and I am not next to my Windows machine at the moment, so I'll let one of those users jump in on this one :)

[EDIT:] For more on optimizing your account, see this post as well (http://discussion.ev...ce/#entry157875)

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jbenson2    1,981

I keep seeing people online, including academics, who say they organize their PDF collection using Evernote. But I haven't seen anybody explain how. Could somebody explain this for me? I'm new to Evernote but I already see the following problems for somebody who plans to organize their PDF collection in it:

1)60MB/month limit. The average PDF library will be much larger. Mine is about 500MB at the moment.

GrumpyMonkey has some strong points - see post above

If you still want to upload all those PDF's, then cough up $5 and buy the increased upload.

Evernote offers Premium subscribers the ability to increase their monthly upload quota for a given time period.

Cost

Customers can purchase an additional 1 gigabyte (GB) for $5 (¥450 for Japanese users). As more currencies are added, the pricing for the 1GB increase will remain consistent with the monthly Premium subscription rate.

Customers can purchase up to 5GB of additional upload allowance per month for a total of 6GB, and up to 25GB of additional upload allowance per year (for a total of 37GB for the year).

Eligibility

Only Premium users can purchase additional upload allowance; free users who wish to purchase additional upload allowance will need to first upgrade to Premium. They can revert back to free status afterwards.

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gazumped    5,779
I have to drag and drop each PDF individually to get them in Evernote.

The two answers above will give you lots to think about, but I didn't see a reply to this part of your query. If you do decide to add PDF's to your database, the best way to do so in bulk is - set up an Import Folder (via the Tools menu) - and drag/ drop your files into that. A new note will be created with the same name as each file, and you can opt to have the files deleted from the folder once processed.

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GrumpyMonkey    4,063
I have to drag and drop each PDF individually to get them in Evernote.

The two answers above will give you lots to think about, but I didn't see a reply to this part of your query. If you do decide to add PDF's to your database, the best way to do so in bulk is - set up an Import Folder (via the Tools menu) - and drag/ drop your files into that. A new note will be created with the same name as each file, and you can opt to have the files deleted from the folder once processed.

Thanks. That is the Windows way. On Mac, the easiest way is to just drag and drop (separate notes are created). On both systems, however, I should have mentioned that it is a good idea to switch to manual sync. I've dragged in things before, and then decided I didn't want them, and wasted a bunch of upload capacity doing it.

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svidd    0

Great to get so many responses so quickly! Also thanks for the link to your organizing page, GrumpyMonkey.

It sounds like the main benefit of using Evernote for PDFs is the comprehensive search of text & annotations. That could certainly be helpful, but I'm alright with search for now. My PDFs are all already in Dropbox so I have the syncing & accessibility covered. My main interest is in the ability to organize by tags, so I'm going to poke around a little more to see if this will be worthwhile. (I hear Macs might have native support for this, actually, but that's a costly conversion for me in many ways.)

If I do go with Evernote for this, I certainly wouldn't mind coughing up the $5. That's a great pricing scheme.

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amer    19

I put all my pdf files in Evernote. It works really well and in my opinion is only way to do it if you deal with hundreds of pdf files. When adding papers to Evernote import folder I put article title, first author, journal abbreviation and year in the file name and it automatically appears in the note title. This helps to easily find articles without tagging, e.g. searching intitle:jof intitle:2010 returns all Journal of Finance articles published in 2010... Searching for intitle:author returns articles written by author etc.

Having all pdf files in Evernote offers countless benefits, e.g.

- you can link related articles

- you can search for say "Jon Doe (2010)" to get all articles that reference it

- scanned (non text) articles become searchable

- you can tag articles

- you can write comments next to pdf files

- you can put related Excel of Word file next to a pdf files

- all changes made to pdf files (e.g. highlightings) get automatically synced

I currently have over 1000 papers and about 200 ebooks in my Evernote database. Searching is fast as ever and my database is 2.3 GB

Regarding import, it is a matter of seconds on Widnows - just set up the import folder and copy all pdf files in it (Tools/Import Folders).

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GrumpyMonkey    4,063

I put all my pdf files in Evernote. It works really well and in my opinion is only way to do it if you deal with hundreds of pdf files. When adding papers to Evernote import folder I put article title, first author, journal abbreviation and year in the file name and it automatically appears in the note title. This helps to easily find articles without tagging, e.g. searching intitle:jof intitle:2010 returns all Journal of Finance articles published in 2010... Searching for intitle:author returns articles written by author etc.

Having all pdf files in Evernote offers countless benefits, e.g.

- you can link related articles

- you can search for say "Jon Doe (2010)" to get all articles that reference it

- scanned (non text) articles become searchable

- you can tag articles

- you can write comments next to pdf files

- you can put related Excel of Word file next to a pdf files

- all changes made to pdf files (e.g. highlightings) get automatically synced

I currently have over 1000 papers and about 200 ebooks in my Evernote database. Searching is fast as ever and my database is 2.3 GB

Regarding import, it is a matter of seconds on Widnows - just set up the import folder and copy all pdf files in it (Tools/Import Folders).

I think it depends on the size of your PDFs. If you are talking about journal articles and the like, then it may not be such a big deal. I have over 6,000 notes with attachments of some sort, and my database is ballooning beyond 25 GB now. I regularly beachball on searches (Mac) and the iPad can be achingly slow as well. Some of this is no doubt because of device limitations, and I may be a somewhat extreme case because I tend to have lots of large PDFs, but I am seriously considering deleting most of my PDFs. The tradeoff just isn't worth it when I can, for example, have everything in text in Evernote, locate an article I want to read, easily open up dropbox on my iPad, and then take a look at the PDF.

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JMichaelTX    3,601

(1) The larger your Evernote database gets, the slower the searches will be, so don't put PDFs into it unless you absolutely must. Text files are much smaller.

GM, while I agree with your general conclusion that Evernote is NOT the best solution for large numbers of large (> 10 MB) PDF files, I would like to comment on the above assertion that you made.

I don't think PDF file size should have any impact on search speed. It is the number of words in the PDF that have the real impact, since that is what is indexed for searching. Also, on the Mac the attachments are not even stored in the EN database.

So what really has an impact are PDFs with many pages, many words. I'm talking about more than, say, 50 pages. I know you have talked about having many PDFs that are several hundreds of pages. I can see where this many words would not only slow down the search, but also cause many notes to be found that are not of interest when searching on words in the Search block. There are so many words in these large PDF files that it greatly increases the likelihood of matching the words you are searching for. This is where searching on Tags or words in the Title are very help in eliminating unintended Notes.

For most PDFs that are only a few pages, there shouldn't be any problems.

Optimum Design for a Large Library

If your main objective is to create a large library of large documents, then Evernote is not be best solution, primarily because EN requires that you store the entire library on all of your "desktop" clients (EN Mac, EN Win). An extreme example would be like trying to store the entire Library of Congress on every computer you own -- it's just not practical, nor is it needed.

What is needed, IMO, is for the library to be stored in the Cloud (with at least one local copy on a dedicated external hard drive) and with keywords and abstracts (and notes/comments) on all of your devices to facilitate quick searching, including offline searches. Once you find the PDF you want, then it would be best to have an option to only download a few pages at a time for reading, or, if you prefer, download the entire document. If the document is quite large, then you may not want to download it on devices like the iPad and iPhone. A document "streaming" approach, feeding you only the pages as you need them, would be highly desirable.

I don't know of any services that provide this type of cloud library, but I would be surprised if there aren't some. Try doing some research with google using keywords like "cloud library".

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GrumpyMonkey    4,063

I can only speak from experience. My database is noticeably slower than in the past. I agree that it shouldn't be, because only the text from the attachments gets indexed, as you said. Yet, that is what I am seeing. As I said, I regularly beachball for several seconds during searches. It could be that I just have a lot of text in my account, in which case, removing the PDFs might not speed up the app one bit, and I have to learn to love the beachball. It will, however, reduce the size of my database, so I will probably end up deleting the attachments.

As for the cloud analogy you made, you are exactly right. Most of my problems could be easily solved (I think) by simply marking my notebooks as "online" or "offline" (just as I do with the iPad). However, no such feature exists, and I haven't detected any hint that Evernote is headed in this direction, besides the CEO's comment a while back about it being inevitable. Inevitable for a "100 year company," though, can be interpreted a whole bunch of ways :)

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JMichaelTX    3,601

I can only speak from experience. My database is noticeably slower than in the past. I agree that it shouldn't be, because only the text from the attachments gets indexed, as you said.

GM, actually that was my point. We need to separate file size (MB) from number of words in PDF file.

If you have a PDF created from a scan of a 50 page document the file size might be quite large, while the number of words is not that much.

Compare this with a text-only PDF created from, say, a Word document. The file size is obviously much smaller.

So, if you are extracting the large number of words from your 100's of pages of PDF and putting them in the Note as text, the indexing is still the same.

Thus, when you do a text search, Evernote must still process the index for millions of words in your Notes as text.

I just did a simple test with a PDF:

  • It had about 500 words/page
  • If you had 200 pages, that would be 100,000 words
  • If you had 10 PDFs, the would be 1 million words

Is an "inTitle" search any faster for you than a text search? It should be much faster.

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GrumpyMonkey    4,063

I can only speak from experience. My database is noticeably slower than in the past. I agree that it shouldn't be, because only the text from the attachments gets indexed, as you said.

GM, actually that was my point. We need to separate file size (MB) from number of words in PDF file.

If you have a PDF created from a scan of a 50 page document the file size might be quite large, while the number of words is not that much.

Compare this with a text-only PDF created from, say, a Word document. The file size is obviously much smaller.

So, if you are extracting the large number of words from your 100's of pages of PDF and putting them in the Note as text, the indexing is still the same.

Thus, when you do a text search, Evernote must still process the index for millions of words in your Notes as text.

I just did a simple test with a PDF:

  • It had about 500 words/page
  • If you had 200 pages, that would be 100,000 words
  • If you had 10 PDFs, the would be 1 million words

Is an "inTitle" search any faster for you than a text search? It should be much faster.

Huh. That makes sense. On the iPad, searches may be slow just because I have a lot of text indexed. On the Mac, searches can be a little pokey at times, but not terribly bad (intitle searches probably are faster -- I'll give it a try), and most of the beachballing comes from me typing directly into the search field and going through the incremental search. So, it does seem that my point about searches slowing down with lots of PDFs may be incorrect. I'll have to think about it some more.

Still, in the end, I'd make the same recommendation about not putting PDFs into your account unless you have to, because I think my other points still make sense.

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gazumped    5,779

I'd endorse GM's comments, not only because they seem like good basic housekeeping but also from a different direction - being able to find stuff easily.

Search is a powerful tool within Evernote, but as your database gets a steadily higher word count from many different sources (and eras if you're dealing with historical information), the chances of a given phrase being repeated multiple times rise rather quickly. Word searches - unless they're very specialised words - are pretty useless: too many hits. "Unique phrases" are also increasingly difficult to find, and searches need to be backed up with additional stacks or tags to ensure that information is findable again. Adding every bit of paper that crosses your desk will not make you more efficient if you can remember where it is - in Evernote. But you just can't find it for the moment...

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JMichaelTX    3,601

Search is a powerful tool within Evernote, but as your database gets a steadily higher word count from many different sources (and eras if you're dealing with historical information), the chances of a given phrase being repeated multiple times rise rather quickly. Word searches - unless they're very specialised words - are pretty useless: too many hits. "Unique phrases" are also increasingly difficult to find, and searches need to be backed up with additional stacks or tags to ensure that information is findable again. Adding every bit of paper that crosses your desk will not make you more efficient if you can remember where it is - in Evernote. But you just can't find it for the moment...

That's why, IMO, applying tags to every note is very important. They allow you to identify the keywords that are important/relavent to you, and to the Note at hand. Using Tags for search instead of words or phrases in the content should greatly cut down on the number of unintended results.

I never suggested that you should "add every bit of paper that crosses your desk".

I scan to PDFs and store in Evernote only those papers/documents that I might need in the future, but to lean toward scanning it if there is any doubt.

By applying a good title and Tags I can then find only the Notes I want.

The last thing I want is to store the document somewhere else, whether as physical paper or another electronic system.

But the case of storing a large PDF library is quite different. I don't really want a large library stored in the same database as my personal/business records.

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GrumpyMonkey    4,063

FALSE POSITIVES / INFORMATION OVERLOAD

Despite what you might think, I actually do not have a problem with false positives, perhaps because of my chronological naming conventions (http://www.princeton.edu/~cmayo/evernote-organization.html). I didn't include that concern in the initial list for this reason, and though I used to tag every single note with something, I have abandoned that practice as unnecessary (for me, at least).

PDF LIBRARY VS. PDF JUNK DRAWER

I also took the OP to be talking about a "PDF library" rather than a file cabinet or junk drawer approach -- the idea being that there is already a certain amount of curating going on, and that the PDFs in this library are directly relevant to your professional life. An example would be all of the PDFs of journal articles I have amassed for my current research project. These are precisely the kinds of things I want to have on hand all the time. I'm a digital hoarder, as I have documented elsewhere on this forum, and while I may continue to scan every single piece of paper that enters my life ("just in case" and for "peace of mind"), I've decided that from now on, only a small fraction of that will end up in Evernote.

WHERE TO PUT IT

JM makes a good point about storage location. Although I most certainly do want everything together in one place, and my naming conventions (YYMMDD + keywords for my stuff, author + date for other people's published stuff) keep everything separated pretty well, there is an argument to be made for having multiple external brains. The beauty of Evernote is that you can be on a relatively low powered device with very little memory, but borrow the power of Evernote's servers to conduct extremely powerful searches of your library, so you don't want to miss out on that opportunity. One hack is to have two accounts: 1 for personal and 1 for your library. If you want to conserve drive space, do NOT join the library account, because all of the content will be automatically downloaded. Leave it unlinked, but open a tab in your browser instead. From there you can do all of your searches. Obviously, if you are going to be offline, this will not work, so it is not a perfect hack, and it requires the annoying maintenance of multiple accounts, but it is a possibility (I am doing this now in preparation for my proposed lobotomy, when I cut out as much extraneous material in my external brain as possible to hopefully solve some of the problems I mentioned above).

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amer    19

I was also concerned that EN performance would deteriorate due to a large number of pdf files and I am glad that has not been the case. I have about 1200 paper x 30 pages on average + 200 books x 300 pages = 96,000 pages. And as I noted previosly, my database is about 2,3 GB. So I do not think so that the database size would be an issue for regular pdf files. Pdf files with scanned pages are another matter as they can be large.

Regarding the performance, I have no issues on three years old and underpowered Acer 1410 as well as as Galaxy Nexus.

I am attaching a screen shot just to illustrate how nice is to have articles in Evernote (tagging, preview, comments, links to related papers...).

post-57555-0-31274300-1347628023_thumb.p

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JMichaelTX    3,601

FALSE POSITIVES / INFORMATION OVERLOAD

Despite what you might think, I actually do not have a problem with false positives, perhaps because of my chronological naming conventions (http://www.princeton...ganization.html). I didn't include that concern in the initial list for this reason, and though I used to tag every single note with something, I have abandoned that practice as unnecessary (for me, at least).

I'm really glad that your system works so well for you GM.

However, I think a lot of people just search by quickly typing text into the Search block.

I believe a lot of false positives would result if you have millions of words from large numbers of large PDFs, or even large numbers of large text-only Notes.

I appreciate that you don't use Tags, but Evernote created them for a reason and I think they probably work very well for most people. Relying only on keywords that you have to remember and accurately type in the Title would be problematic for many users, resulting in Notes hard to find because they don't have the correct, or correctly spelled keyword. Using auto-selected Tags completely avoids this problem.

Frankly, I don't see any downside to Tags, and see many advantages.

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GrumpyMonkey    4,063

This is an old debate that isn't really a debate even, because I encourage others to use tags as well (http://www.princeton.edu/~cmayo/evernote-tag.html), with the caveat that you don't need them if you don't want to bother with them (understanding, of course, that you give up some funtionality for convenience).

I was addressing gazumped's understandable concern about false positives. To put it another way, if you intend to dump a bunch of stuff into your account like this, it is entirely possible to avoid false positives, but you will probably have to pick up a couple of advanced search techniques. It doesn't seem like a lot to ask; with my system, just one word "intitle:" Tags might help. So would my hack. I'm suggesting options here in a descriptive, not proscriptive way. There isn't right or wrong here, just possibilities.

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gazumped    5,779
There isn't right or wrong here, just possibilities

Likewise my comments about false positives and general 'background noise'. I'm just sayin' - don't put stuff into Evernote simply because it's there; it is necessary to manage the content*. And I'm not saying that either JM or GM have suggested, or would do any such thing. I'm just mindful that there are a couple of other people reading these conversations, some of whom aren't as experienced as us.

* I have (forinstance) a separate notebook for press cuttings, of which I have - a few - covering the last 20 or so years. The separate notebook is because sometimes I want to search only the cuttings, sometimes I want to search everything but. However being lazy and human I'm still finding cuttings that aren't titled or tagged as such and need to be moved over - usually when I've searched for something else entirely, but a coincidence of words pops the cutting out as well.

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JMichaelTX    3,601

* I have (forinstance) a separate notebook for press cuttings, of which I have - a few - covering the last 20 or so years. The separate notebook is because sometimes I want to search only the cuttings, sometimes I want to search everything but. However being lazy and human I'm still finding cuttings that aren't titled or tagged as such and need to be moved over - usually when I've searched for something else entirely, but a coincidence of words pops the cutting out as well.

Readers should be advised that Evernote does NOT allow you to EXCLUDE notebooks from a Search.

So, if you just type in text (without an search operators), Evernote will search ALL notebooks, including the "press clippings" notebook discussed above. This could contribute to potential false positives.

One solution to this is to add a Tag to all of the Notes in the "press clippings" notebook that CAN be used to exclude those notes.

You could, for example, create and apply a tag named "Exclude" to these notes.

Then, in the Search box you could type "-tag:exclude keyword1 keyword2", where you substitute your own keywords for "keyword1" and "keyword2".

Of course you can apply the "Exclude" tag to any note in any notebook.

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JMichaelTX    3,601

Also, of you're on a Mac, using Services and Automator can be helpful for importing files to Evernote. Here's a link that shows you how to set it up: http://nineboxes.net...-into-evernote/

You link points to an article created in 2009. Has it been kept up to date with changes to Evernote and Apple Mac OS?

Here's a link to an AppleScript solution by Veritrope that I use daily to import files to Evernote. It was created in 2010 and is kept up-to-date by its author:

Create an “Evernote Dropbox”: Get Files and Scanned Documents into Evernote Quickly!

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JC_Berger    16

I still use it (successfully, and I don't think I've made any modifications to the workflow since I first set it up. But if you have trouble with it, let me know and hopefully we can sort it out.

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Dear svidd and all,

This discussion seems to have veered off the original topic a bit. My question to svidd is "what is the purpose of your large collection of PDFs"? Are you a student or in a position which requires you to cite articles in papers that you write or is your large collection of PDFs for personal reference?

If you are in a position that requires you to write papers that need sitations, I highly recommend Zotero. I am working on a PhD in psychology. I do a lot of research, have a lot of PDFs, and write many papers that require formal citations and references. I rely on Zotero to help me create and organize my collection of PDFs related to my school work and research becuase it enables me to easily capture from the internet all the required information needed in the reference list per the APA style guide and it automates inserting the citations and generating the reference list at the end of the paper.

Dear all readers of this post,

I would be happy to see an integration between Zotero and Evernote. Based on my online research to date, I have not found any references to plans for such an integration. Zotero is very strong for; a) capturing, creating, and formating bibliographies based on mutiple style guides; B) collecting required bibliographic information from online sources; and, c) downloading and cataloging PDF articles with a mouse click. In addition to organizing PDFs, you can collect information about type of resource you might want to cite in a paper. It also provides the ability to link entries and take notes about each entry, however the note taking capabilities are rudimentary. It would be very helpful if there was a way to link Evernote Notes with Zotero items. I am aware of the ability to paste the note URL and I can do that to provide a one way link from Zotero to a specific note in Evernote, but it is not really a smooth process. Is there anyone else using Zotero and Evernote for research and scholarly writing? If so, would you mind sharing about how you are using both tools to help organize your research and writing? Thank you in advance.

Amie

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rbianchi    42

Hi Amie,

My workflow to integrate Zotero & Evernote is:

1) In the Evernote note, select the text that you want to link with the PDF in Zotero, and press Ctrl-K. A box will open to enter the link.

2) Go to Zotero and select the paper, right click and select 'Show File'. Finder will open showing the PDF File in the Zotero storage folder

3) Drag & Drop the file into the box open at step 1)

4) This is important: add to the beginning of the link this: 'File://', so you see something like File:///zotero... etc etc (with 3 slash '/')

That is all. If you click on the link in EN, then the PDF will be open in preview.

Bonus track!!

I use box.net webdav service to sync Zotero PDF files @Home and @Work

If the zotero storage folder is the same (@home and @work computers), the the link it is valid at both places.

Hope this help

Raúl

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