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Tools and ideas to improve academic efficiency

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.”

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

Academic Software Roundup for Linux

The open-source spirit (not to mention non-existent pricetag) of the Linux OS is appealing to many academics, I daresay, but they (myself included) may be hesitant to switch over to an entirely new operating system, devoid of their favourite programs. Mac users have an array of delightful programs for academic work (DEVONthink, I’m looking at you), but even us Windows users have some favourite standbys. Why make the switch over to a new system if we can’t find programs to handle our academic tasks?

I did some prowling through a very useful list of Linux apps to see if the functionality of the most important academic programs could be duplicated in Linux.

Referencer
PDF Manager, Citation/Bibliography Manager
Replacement for: Yep, Papers, EndNote

Referencer

gPapers
PDF Manager, Citation/Bibliography Manager
Replacement for: iPapers, Papers

gPapers

KeepNote
Note-taking software
Replacement for: EverNote, OneNote

KeepNote

BasKet
Note-taking software
Replacement for: EverNote, OneNote, UltraRecall

BasKet

Alexandria
Book-cataloguing software
Replacement for: Delicious Library, Books, Book Collector

Alexandria

A couple of cross-platform programs to remember if you’re considering making the switch: Zotero works on Linux, as does Mendeley.


Addendum: Some bonus Linux software links from helpful commenter Xonan!

Zim
A desktop wiki under constant development

Okular
PDF reader with highlight and commentary features

cb2bib
Extracts bibtex data from the clipboard, PDFs, etc

kdissert/semantik
Mindmapping software

Argunet
Java software for building argumentation maps

Integrate Zotero with gedit
Plugin for gedit text editor that allows to add citations from the Zotero bibliography manager to LaTeX documents

Thanks, Xonan!

Filed under: Academia, Bibliographies, Bibliography, Books, Computer, Gnome, Linux, Open-Source, Organization, PDF, Software, Tools, Ubuntu

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

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

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 Bibliographical Management roundup

Since I use multiple computers, my dream is to manage my bibliographical information online. I haven’t yet found a Web 2.0 (as in a central online solution) to successfully manage all of my bibliographical information. But I haven’t yet given up hope!

These are the various solutions I’ve found thus far. Perhaps they may be of help to others:

CiteULike
Connotea
Easy Bib (they also offer the more powerful paid MyBib Pro, which I’m considering)
RefWorks

Any other suggestions?

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

Caboodle

Caboodle

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

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