Dr. Strangelove, or “How I learned to stop worrying and love .pdf-documents"

I’ve this weird ritual.

Whenever I make a new acquaintance with a Macintosh computer at the University, I’m forced to ask two questions. The first being a usually given, “Do you have to deal a lot with .pdfs”. As you may figure the answer is without exception “yes, I do.” PDF, beside those damn .doc(x) files, is probably the most used format for text and published articles. The second question, however, is always answered with a negative: “Have you heard about the application ‘Papers’?”.


Papers is basically “iTunes™ for .pdf-documents”. However, it’s appeal is mostly within the academic line of work. It’s got integration with Google Scholar, JSTOR, and other repositories. It can detect meta-data (or bibliographical data) automatically if the DOI-number is somewhere in the article, or you can give it some help on its way by selecting title, authors etc. in the “match”-feature.


One of the features I use the most is  “smart folders” where I by boolean-logic find relevant literature in my library to whatever project I’m working on, these folders are automatically updated whenever new content is added. Papers is also a great companion when it comes to reading articles on the screen. The full-screen mode helps you focus, and the fact that papers remembers what you have read and printed out is also pretty nifty. 

Being brought up in a windows-world, I was used to organize my files into “””””smart and intuitive”””” folder-structures. Papers is founded on the mac-philosophy in which you shouldn’t mess with these things and access your music, movies, and pictures within dedicated applications, letting them take care of the file-sorting. However, Papers let you define how you want this structure to be organized, making it possible and easy to access your library from other computers without the application. 

I suspect that many make use of the horrible, but almost inevitable, reference manager “EndNote” (I always suspected the “end-“ being an evil-pun”. EN does also somewhat support linking references to the .pdf-file, but Papers does a far better job in other aspect. Papers, and this is important, is not really a full-blown reference manager, but it got all the export-capabilities you’ll ever need (EN, Word, BibTex, Ref.Man, TXT and so on). 

And most importantly, it is cheap as in cheese-cake.

Head over to mekentosj.com/papers and try it for yourself. I’d love to get your reactions in the comment-field. 

p.s. and there’s an iPhone version