Academic Lifehacker


Tools and ideas to improve academic efficiency

Papers (PDF organizer, Mac only)


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

Citavi – coming soon?


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

Web 2.0 Database

Like most grad students, I work on multiple computers: home, work, library, archives. I’m all in favour of any Web 2.0 apps that can help me centralize my files.

Keeping track of all the solutions that pop up on a daily basis can be difficult. I know there are other Web 2.0 databases, but this one does a good job of organizing all the apps that can replace the Office suite.

Office 2.0 Database
[ from ]

Filed under: Computer, Files, Online, Organization, Research, Travel, Web, Writing

10 tips for keeping your desk clean and tidy

Tidy Desk by bripirie

I’m always a little suspicious of articles with titles like these: they usually seem to be written by those irritating people who naturally keep their desks clean and neat. It’s an in-born ability– they’re usually morning people, too.

However, the author of this one sounds like he’s been down in the trenches with the rest of us slobs creative folks. He says, “when I started wasting more and more time looking for lost items instead of being a brilliant creative person, I knew I had to do something.”

10 tips for keeping your desk clean and tidy
[ from LifeClever ]

Filed under: Advice, Files, Grad School, Motivation, Organization, Time Management



Caboodle is an organizer that collects random snippets of text or images. Pretty simple concept. But the interface is so orderly, and yet so versatile. I can already see how I’d use it for managing an upcoming research project… if I had a Mac.

Found via the ever-helpful Lifehacker, this is enough to give me a relapse of Mac-envy.

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

AcademHack roundup

AcademHack offers great lifehacking resources for academics (and has an exceptionally clever title, to boot). It was one of the blogs that inspired me to start this one, and I read it regularly.

I wanted to make a roundup of my favourite AcademHack posts to date. Though AcademHack is Mac-centric, there are still plenty of helpful posts for those running Windows (such as myself).

Alternatives to Microsoft Word
Finding a Journal: WorldCat
Checking the Web: Scrutinize This
Avoid Site Registration: BugMeNot Firefox Extension
WorldCat goes Public: Search the Web for any Book
Wiki Notepad Applications for PCs
Top Ten Academic Applications
Top Ten Academic Applications for Students

Filed under: AcademHack, Academia, Computer, Files, Online, Organization, Research, Software, Time Management, Tools, Web

Anxiously awaiting Firefox Scholar

Firefox Scholar
I am anxiously awaiting the beta launch of Firefox Scholar. At the moment, there’s simply a basic description of the software to tantalize us. The Q&A on Firefox Scholar over at Dan Cohen’s blog just whets the appetite a little bit more.

Filed under: Academia, Computer, Files, Online, Organization, Research, Software, Tools

Can’t Live Without It: Backpack

Backpack Logo

I signed up for a free Backpack account about six months ago. Since then, I’ve quickly come to rely on it. Why? It’s simple, it’s reliable, and it works for me. Backpack is an app from the lovely people at 37 Signals.

What is it? An online file/note organizer. I use it as a way to organize all that stray but vital information that gets scribbled down on sticky notes. I’m also considering its possibilities as a research organizer.

How much does it cost? I currently use the free plan, but they do have some tempting paid plans with nice extras that start at $5/month.

Where do I get it? Visit

Addendum: I did end up upgrading to the Solo plan, which includes more pages than I’ll ever need, as well as a slick Calendar app which has quickly made itself indispensable.

Filed under: Can't Live Without It, Computer, Files, Online, Organization, Research, Tools


Academic Lifehacker provides hints, tips, tools, and software recommendations for scholars, graduate students, and researchers.