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Tools and ideas to improve academic efficiency

Updated roundup of DEVONthink alternatives for Windows (and Linux)

Since this blog isn’t being actively updated any more, I wanted to pop in to share a newer post that collects a huge list of new DEVONthink alternatives for Windows (and for Linux, too).

Meaning and Flow - Stay organized with a personal research database Windows and Linux alternatives to DEVONthink 2

Good luck with your research!

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Filed under: Academia, Computer, Dissertation, Files, Grad School, Linux, Online, Organization, PDF, Research, Tools, Windows, Writing

Making the switch to Linux Mint

Nearly two years after my original post on Linux software for academics, I’ve officially made the switch to Linux. To be specific, I installed Linux Mint 10 as my primary OS. I was originally planning to go with Ubuntu, but after reading this interesting post over at Lifehacker (“Why Linux Mint Might Be a Better Beginner’s Linux Than Ubuntu”), and doing a bit more research, I decided to go for the latest version of Linux Mint instead.

So, how am I dealing with the switch? Surprisingly well. I’m thoroughly enjoying the interface of the new OS– Linux Mint 10 (“Julia”) is beautifully designed. My main concern was that finding replacements for favourite and often-used Windows programs would be something of a challenge, but so far so good.

Here are my suggestions for replacement or equivalent software alternatives for academics making the switch from Windows to Linux:

Task Windows Software Linux Replacement
Document management and note-taking Evernote Nevernote
Notecase
Reference management and PDF organizer Endnote Zotero
Referencer
Mendeley
Email Desktop Client Microsoft Outlook Evolution Mail
Mozilla Thunderbird
Text Editor Notepad++ Kate Editor
Word Processor Microsoft Word Open Office
AbiWord
LibreOffice
IBM Lotus Symphony

Happily, Firefox runs wonderfully in Linux (hurrah for open source!). I’d miss my plugins, especially customized searches for Google Scholar, WorldCat, and Wikipedia.

There are some interesting Linux-compatible programs in development right now that hold potential for academics switching to Linux. I’ll be keeping a keen eye on updates for the following:

Zotero Standalone
“We are excited to announce the alpha release of standalone Zotero, part of the larger Zotero Everywhere project. Standalone Zotero Alpha does not require Firefox to run and is available for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux.”

Scrivener for Linux
“Scrivener isn’t meant to replace OpenOffice Writer for dedicated word processing needs but rather for help in ‘structuring and writing those difficult first drafts of long texts such as novels, scripts and thesis’.”

LyX-Outline
“LyX-Outline is a forthcoming add-on to the popular document processor, LyX, that will give it many of the same features as the writing tool, Scrivener. This add-on is a recognition that writing is about more than just plugging away at a piece of prose until it is finished. It’s also about tracking down loose ends, trying to visualize structure, and avoiding as many dead-ends as possible. In a word, it’s about getting from first to final draft by the quickest route possible, which may not necessarily be a straight line.”

Filed under: Academia, Bibliographies, Bibliography, Computer, Email, Files, Linux, Open-Source, Organization, PDF, Research, Software, Ubuntu, Writing

Fluxiom: is it the solution to online PDF organization?

Fluxiom

I thought I’d found the answer to all my PDF organization needs when I stumbled across Fluxiom. This online file management/DAM solution offers the ability to upload, tag, and search files from any computer to a hosted account.

I thought that it could be a good centralized solution to DevonThink for those of us on Windows, with the added bonus of being available from any computer. Sort of like a personal Google Books.

When I saw the price, I’ll admit that I winced a bit. Nine euros for the lowest-level plan seemed a little steep. However, the site design is amazing, and the functionality seemed well worth the price.

The About page boasts that Fluxiom provides “Full text search: Fast search inside documents like PDF, Excel, Word, Powerpoint, and others.”

However… once I scrolled down to the bottom of the Overview page, I discovered to my dismay that only the Basic (29 euros/month), Pro (89 euros/month), and Deluxe (169 euros/month) plans offer the full-text search feature.

For me, the full-text search within documents was the major selling feature. And 29 euros a month is rather a stretch for any academic budget. The 9 euros I might be able to justify to myself, but 29 is a bit much…

Do any readers have an alternative online PDF organizer they’d like to share? (Or does anyone have any friends at Fluxiom who we could sweet-talk into providing full-text search on the Private-level plan?)

Filed under: Bibliographies, Books, Files, Online, Organization, PDF, Research, Tools, Web

Maple and other Windows outliners

Maple

I’ve been looking for a lightweight outliner program to handle my piece-meal thesis work. I discovered Maple, which seems to be what I was looking for, from this list of outliner programs for Windows.

It lets me organize my writing into manageable sections, then easily work on each once I have the sources at hand. Also, I can export the tree as a flat file in doc, txt, html, or rtf.

In my ideal world, it would have support for footnotes or endnotes, but I guess you can’t have everything.

Maple
By Crystal Office Systems
Free 30-day trial, $21.95 US to buy

Filed under: Computer, Files, Organization, Research, Software, Thesis, Tools, Windows, Writing

Papers (PDF organizer, Mac only)

Papers

Yet another Mac-only app for academics…

Papers is now available in public preview. It has a really lovely user interface (reminiscient of iTunes) and previewing and note-taking ability built right into the program. It was built to house scientific papers and import straight from PubMed.

[ found via announcement at The Efficient Academic ]

Filed under: Academia, Bibliographies, Bibliography, Computer, Files, Mac, Organization, Research, Tools

Windows alternatives for DEVONthink

Many academics who use Macs swear by DEVONthink for organizing their research and files. Over at AcademHack, there’s even an entire category devoted to academic uses for the program.

I was intrigued by the organizational abilities of this program, and mourned my Mac-lessness. However, there are some alternatives for us with PCs. I’ve listed a few of the most promising DEVONthink replacements by price:

EverNote (free)
MyInfo (free 28-day trial, then $50)
AskSam (free 30-day trial, then $150 and up)
Nota Bene (free 30-day trial, then $249 and up)

Any other ideas for DEVONthink alternatives for Windows?

Addendum: This seems to be a current topic! I just discovered this thread over at The Efficient Academic group, which may also lead to some good suggestions.

Filed under: Computer, Files, Mac, Organization, Research, Software, Tools, Windows

Guide to online file storage/backup services

Obviously, no one on earth wants to lose their data. But to an academic, a hard-drive meltdown can be particularly horrific. Imagine, years of original research, gone. Just gone.

Luckily, there are plenty of online backup services to help stop this from happening. I’m a big fan of Mozy myself, but there are tons of choices. Ninety plus (on this particular list), in fact.

Enjoy– and save soon, save often!

Introduction to 90 Online File Storage Services
[ from LifeHack.org ]

Filed under: Computer, Files, Online, Research, Web

Make eBooks for your iPod

Via this web application, you can convert both text files and websites into notes readable on your iPod.

This might be a clever idea. Or it might be a very speedy way to make yourself go blind.

Create ebooks on your iPod
[ via Lifehacker ]

Filed under: Books, Computer, Files, Online, Reading, Tools, Web

Citavi – coming soon?

Citavi

I’m impressed by the interface and capabilities of reference manager Citavi, but for the moment it’s only available in German. However, they do apparently have plans to release an English language version.

I’m tempted to download the free version, even if it is in German, just to see how it all works together. Too bad it’s not French– I could handle working in French. But I know absolutely no German whatsoever.

Citavi [ via The Efficient Academic Google Group ]

Filed under: Academia, Bibliographies, Bibliography, Computer, Files, Organization, Research, Thesis, Tools, Windows

More Bibliographical Management Tools

After my last post, two helpful commenters suggested some further tools to consider for managing references.

Michael Dunn suggested JabRef, a bibliography reference manager that works with BibTeX format.

Rick suggested wikindx, a bibliographic and quotations/notes management system that can be used for either the single-user or for collaborative efforts.

While investigating these leads, I also came upon the Bibliophile Initiative, whose goal it is to “promote collaboration between developers and end-users of bibliographic databases.” They maintain a list of bibliographic database applications and utilities which I found to be a useful tool.

A big thank you to Michael and Rick for your help and suggestions.

Filed under: Academia, Bibliographies, Bibliography, Computer, Files, Online, Organization, Research, Software, Thesis, Tools, Web