Will’s Library: how I store my papers

There is no cake. Who knows, maybe in 100 years time my library will develop sentiency. Maybe it won’t. This is a picture of GLaDOS, from the game Portal 2 – go play it, it’s fun. There we go, now this isn’t copyright infringement, it’s advertising.

Like every other scientist I’ve ever met, I constantly complain that I’m not reading enough. When I was a PhD student, I used DevonThink Pro (which I got for free as a student – smart move Devon!) to keep tabs on everything I’d read/needed to read, but when I switched to Linux I couldn’t use it anymore.

This started a ~two year search for a good way of handling all my papers. Before you all scream ‘Mendeley’ at me, I was an early-adopter (2009) and it deleted all my notes, and I have yet to find something else that I’m certain I could copy all my PDFs and notes out of with ease (which DevonThink let me do).

So, in a fit of irritation, I wrote my own program to store all my papers and notes. It’s very, very simple (which is the only reason I use it) – put all your PDFs in one folder (and maybe sub-folders within it), keep notes on them in a separate file (one paper per line), name your PDFs sensibly, and you’re done. I had very grand plans of making this an even bigger program with a web interface, etc., etc., but after arsing around with Sinatra (which, by the way, is great) I decided I didn’t need any of it.

So, if, like ~=90% of the scientists I’ve met, you’ve just got a big folder where you keep everything, or if, like me, you’re paranoid about using a structure that means you’ll never be trapped in a program, give it a go. On Linux, type ‘ctrl-alt-t’, then ‘wl -p pearse’ to see anything I’ve written that you bothered to keep, and ‘wl -p pearse -o 1’ to open the first/only of those papers. And yes, I know this is a very simple program, but this is probably the most useful thing I’ve written all year 😦


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