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Looking for PIM / Thesis Writing Software for the PC

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Posted by Peter
Oct 6, 2009 at 11:24 AM


I am a PhD student writing a qualitative thesis (ca 250 pages with six main chapters) based on a range of (mainly textual) sources including interview transcripts, websites, notes, reference articles (primarily PDF), books, and the like. Scrivener (http://www.literatureandlatte.com) was recommended to me recently by a colleague and if I had a MAC I would jump at it. But like many others stuck with a PC (eg http://www.outlinersoftware.com/topics/viewt/1074 & http://www.badlanguage.net/i-want-scrivener-for-windows) I’m pulling my hair out searching for a Windows alternative. Scrivener’s author, as some have already noted, offers several suggestions (http://www.literatureandlatte.com/links.html). But these, including PageFour (http://www.softwareforwriting.com), do not come close to Scrivener’s slick interface in my view.

Next I became interested in PIM/GID (Personal Information Management/Get It Done) software. This post (http://www.outlinersoftware.com/topics/viewt/945/0/list-of-pims) offers a huge list of stuff but it’s not reviewed and I don’t have the time to go through each one and experiment. I’m impressed with Evernote (http://www.evernote.com) but I’m NOT thrilled with its synced online membership business model. The ‘Premium’ (monthly/yearly paid subscription) version offers PDF searching and indexing - a must in my view - but must I pay The Man for the rest of my career? The Brain (http://www.thebrain.com) and ConnectedText (http://www.connectedtext.com) are two runner ups but as someone else mentioned, Brain’s price is a little high and I’m still not sure what I think about the mindmap style of organization (a bit too geeky). Meanwhile, ConnectedText’s Win98-like interface, like so much of the PC stuff, doesn’t really cut it aesthetically.

Before I hand over my money and my life to Evernote can anyone here come up with a wonderful solution to my dilemma? Again, I’m looking for a piece of software that I can ‘dump’ (link) all my sources in one place and enables the beautiful marriage between content and form, searching and sorting, referencing and drafting, culminating in a final text. Like Alexander screams, ‘I want it all now!’ (http://www.outlinersoftware.com/topics/viewt/879/0/i-want-it-all-now)

Thanks for you thoughts.

Great forum by the way!!


Posted by Jon Polish
Oct 6, 2009 at 12:08 PM


I use Ultra Recall for purposes similar to yours It is extremely flexible. It is not primarily a writing tool, but you can make it one. Plus, it is very good with metadata which you will undoubtedly need to track your references. UR also indexes pdfs provided the file has text and not an image of the text. Files can be stored and/or linked within UR. UR can manage databases up to 2 TB. My largest is 16 GB and it works fine. The learning curve is perceived as steep, but I found it very logical.

As a writing tool, WhizFolders deserves a look. It does not handle pdfs in the way you specify.



Posted by Hugh
Oct 6, 2009 at 01:18 PM


Possibly too late, but Keith Blount’s closing comment to his post in this thread on the Scrivener forum may be relevant: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=6815.

It’s perhaps a pity that IdeaMason has shut up shop. It wasn’t perfect, but it was designed to do most of what you want.



Posted by Matty
Oct 6, 2009 at 01:52 PM


I definitely think you should at least look at Biblioscape. It seems to have been undergoing rapid development over the last year or two and has the potential to be what IdeaMason could never quite pull off. I used it happily until jumping ship for a mac last year. Actually, I’m curious to hear what people think of version 8.

Of course what you should really do is run away screaming from you Ph.D. program while you still have the chance, but that is another story.

God speed,



Posted by Daly de Gagne
Oct 6, 2009 at 02:01 PM


Peter, the problem with the PC world is that though it once boasted of having more software functionality than the Mac world, what it has in quantity doesn’t equate to quality.

I would not think of paying Evernote as paying the man - the amount is reasonable, and the program offers a way to collect all sorts of material, and some ways to process it, although as I get older I find its grey on grey tag list, and the limited ability to work with tags, a pain in the butt.

There have also been repeated requests for EN developers to enhance the information management aspect of the program, which has been on hold for about two years as the program developed its cloud and multi-platform capabilities. In fact, to do that, developers actually removed information management features from EN for the PC, and have tested the loyalty of people doing heavy lifting with information in terms of getting those features back in.

Meanwhile, other programs provide those features, at least in terms of tagging and metadata. Like I said, it is hard to find a PC program where the developer seems to have covered all the bases.

However, on the plus side for EN: it captures all kind of material with great accuracy. I love that I can drag ‘n drop PDF files into it.

And what does qualify EN as a writing tool for me is that I can have more than one note open at a time.

For writing, especially when using notes with quotes ‘n stats it sure makes it easier if you can see both your data and the window you are writing in at the same time.

Surprisingly, programs such as UltraRecall and MyInfo have not thought of that.

A program that has is WhizFolders. It works with the outline metaphor, and may not be the best place to keep all your data. However it is great for writing, lets you have multiple notes open.

It also has a key word or tag system that supplements the nested folder approach that is part of the outline metaphor.

Zoot 5 will also work well for you - it has multiple open window capability, captures stuff reasonable well, etc.

The beta version, Zoot 6, is up to about its 50th build, and may be solid enough for you to use now - although as part of the beta testing process the developer asks that all data files in it be deleted.

Zoot may be the best example here of an information collector, information processor, and writing environment.

One of its long time users and advocates is James Fallows, national correspondent of The Atlantic Monthly. There used to be on the Zoot Yahoo Groups site a file with James’ template for organizor research material for articles.

His articles, though well written and quite readable, are information and reference dense. He has found Zoot a good way to deal with a myriad of quotes ‘n stats ‘n facts that have to be woven together into an elegant work of enlightening prose.



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