Today, via but she’s a girl I discovered an incredibly useful piece of software – Papers.  Now I’m not the most tidy person in the world anyway, but when it comes to journal articles and papers I’m hopeless. I keep my references in a bibtex database managed by  Jabref, but as for managing actual electronic copies of the papers themselves, I tend to end up with various directories full of half sorted PDFs all with cryptic names like “fulltext” or “sdarticle1”.

For a while I’ve been toying with the idea of a script to read whatever metadata is contained in the PDF and attempt to rename and sort the articles into some semblance of order. Today, within three hours of downloading Papers, I’d managed to catalog, rename and tag around 300 PDFs.

Just import a PDF and Papers attempts to rename it sensibly and store it somewhere equally sensible. The software offers the option to search one or more of the online abstracts databases (web of science, google-scholar, etc) for keywords in the articles to locate missing metadata.

I did go a bit overboard at first, and let the program import every PDF I had on my desktop, this has resulted in about a dozen software manuals and component datasheets also being added to the catalog.  I can deal with this.
Papers does seem to be rather biased towards the sciences more than the humanities and arts; for example the default searches do not include any of the specific humanities abstract databases.

If you are a Mac using, OSX running, disorganised scientist, it’s well worth the £20 asking price.