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Looking for PIM / Thesis Writing Software for the PC

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Posted by Peter
Oct 7, 2009 at 06:38 PM


A 24-hour update.

I’ve spent a few hours now reviewing Evernote, Mendeley and Zortero. (There is another review of these three programs here: http://nickprojects.com/category/management/.) Here are my quick reflections.

Evernote Pros & Cons
If the number of YouTube videos on how people use it in their everyday is an indication, Evernote seems to be gaining a kind of pop status, primarily among college students. Trendy or not, I found it’s online ocr capabilities unmatched in the other programs. Although I haven’ t tried it myself, there is a feature for sending images from a mobile phone and getting them automatically uploaded to your database for ocr processing (e.g business cards, menus, street signs) with very little effort. This has very interesting implications for any visual data gathering in the field. I also like the ease with which it handles note-taking and importing multiple file types (limited in the free version). It seems to offer a glimpse of how an internet of things might emerge (but now I’m getting off topic). On the downside, after only a brief amount of testing, my ‘Current Monthly Usage’ is about half empty which makes the ‘Premium’ option ($5/mo) a necessity. Also, it doesn’t handle pdf markup and you have to log on each time which makes offline work impossible.

Mendeley Pros and Cons
Mendely caters more to the professional academic which I like. However, like Zotero, it’s really a citation/reference manager (e.g. Endnote) on crack and not intended for writing text. This was not immediately obvious to me however but perhaps should have been. Still, it’s ability to annotate pdfs sets it apart from the others. It also has collaborative features which some people might find useful. Like the other two it can grab and import web selections as individual posts. The most frustrating aspect about Mendeley is the inability to create any kind of arbitrary note on the fly which definitely disqualifies it as a piece of writing software. It only manages imported material.

Zotero Pros and Cons
I don’t think I really have much anything new to say about Zotero since it seems like a fairly well known add-on for Mozilla. It’s an open source app that feels solid with a strong community of followers. Like Mendeley, it’s really a reference manager with some added features over a program like Endnote or Reference Manager. For one, it can search and find the reference information for a given website or pdf which helps reduce data entry. It also permits note-taking. It has a clean interface and I generally like it as well as Mendeley. On the downside, while it does annotate web captures, it cannot markup pdfs which was a disappointment. Also it’s tied to Mozilla which means if you’re on the net for research you’ll probably stuck with Firefox.

In the meantime I found this post that suggests Adobe Bridge can be used for pdf management which was an new twist:
http://peregrina.wordpress.com/2009/01/29/using-adobe-bridge-to-organize-documents/. I’m looking forward to try that out.

Zoot was a disappointment because is only imports the text and looses the pdf layout along with any comments. And similar to most of the other programs recommended in this thread the interface environment is just a little to harsh to be staring at it for more than a few minutes at a time. Maybe it’s time to get a Mac after all.

So, I’m still on the look out for the optimal PC Scrivener alternative and may just have to settle for the outline view in Word in the interim. :(

I hope somebody with find this useful!

Cheers, Peter