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Workflow on Mac (Mountain Lion) for PhD Thesis

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Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Aug 12, 2012 at 11:16 PM


Hi, Peter,

I can’t comment much on reference management or PDF annotating, as I don’t do much of that (I’ve been using Papers for that, but I haven’t leaned too heavily on it, so don’t want to make a recommendation).

I’m also not familiar with tagging software, so my comment may be off base. DevonThink can catalog all the documents in folders on your Mac, and you can use DT for tagging. I guess my question (for others to answer) is why do you need both tagging software AND DevonThink?

As for CircusPonies Notebook… I am not sold on that application as a great place to store lots of information. The notebook metaphor is intriguing, but it gets clumsy with a lot of information. At least that’s my experience. I also don’t think it is a very good outliner—serviceable, yes. But not the best option. My favorite outliner is Tinderbox, and it’s a great note application; however, you may not want to devote the time and effort into getting comfortable with it. If you want some insight into Tinderbox, I have a series of posts on my blog:


And a Mac Appstorm review:


If you don’t anticipate relying heavily on a complex outline, then you should be fine with the outline capabilities of Scrivener.

As for some of the other applications you mention:

TheBrain is a very nice application (but, as you observe, sort of Windows-oriented). It works fine on a Mac. It excels at organizing various pieces of information related to single topics. I think of it more as a super-charged Finder. I write about TheBrain on my blog too. I also wrote a review for MacAppstorm that you might find useful:


Curio is a nice “notebook” type of application. It is kind of a Swiss Army Knife. You can “explode” PDFs… that is, create a page for each page of a PDF and take notes relating to that page. You can build mind maps, do some basic outlining. If you like fiddling with your information, it could be a nice choice, but its very versatility is a bit of its undoing, so it doesn’t do any of those things as well as dedicated applications. I’m also not sure about how cohesive its exports are.

Anyway, I’m sure I have only added to your confusion with the above. If I were you and I were already comfortable with Scrivener, I would just get DevonThink and start using those two tools. They may be all you need.

Steve Z.