Monday, April 24, 2006

Using EverNote for Academic Research - From GTD Wannabe

I have been meaning to write about notes management programs for some time now. Below is a post about how one dissertation writer uses EverNote to organize reading notes and other research information:

GTD Wannabe Reference Pages

I tend to enter most of my reading notes directly into EndNote. But I think the above might be a great solution for some people, especially since it is free!

I also use Microsoft OneNote for many of my other note-taking purposes. At some point I hope to do a bigger write-up about such note-taking solutions.

Categories: Note Management, Reference Management.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

What can I do with my [Pocket PC]

My favorite Pocket PC resource,, just released its new guide:

What can I do with my Dell Axim

This is a fantastic resource for ANY Pocket PC user (and even some SmartPhone users). So check it out!

Categories: Pocket PC

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Searching the Desktop

A key tool in a paperless world is the Desktop Search. Indeed, one of the reasons I am increasingly paperless is because desktop search engines are a great way of finding my information. Just imagine if you find any paper file simply by telling the filing cabinet what you are looking for. At their best, desktop search engines do just that.

Desktop search engines seem to be rapidly evolving. Leading contenders include:

Google's Desktop Search

Yahoo Desktop Search

Copernic Desktop Search

MSN Desktop Search

X1 Desktop Search


The following is a post from Lifehacker providing their rundown on these options (except X1 and BlinkX):

Seek and Ye Shall Find: Desktop search showdown - Lifehacker

CNet has a review here.

I myself have tried Google, Copernic, Blinkx and MSN. For some reason, Google became a memory hog on my two computers. I have temporarily removed it. MSN Desktop Search has been undergoing some great transformations lately. I have it on my desktop at home, but rarely use it.

BlinkX is mostly known for its video search, but it has some creative features for desktop search. One feature is a tool bar that sits in Word (or many other programs) and is constantly keeping track of possible items on your computer or on the web that might be relevant to your current document. Another cool feature is the ability to create Smart Folders. I created a Smart Folder called "Africa International Law" that automatically found items on my computer relevant to those terms as well as updated news and website information. Unfortunately, I found BlinkX to be a bit of a drain on my resources (512 MB RAM is all I have), especially since I tend to have four or five major applications running at any given time. UPDATE: Their own website doesn't seem to carry desktop search anymore, though I have a strong feeling they are merely in a new phase of development. Try here and here for information about downloading an internet-only version.

Currently, Copernic is my top choice for desktop search. I like the way search results are presented and I even like the web search features it provides (though I mostly still use google for the web).

Categories: Getting Organized

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Windows Live Academic Search

Windows Live Academic Search is now up and running! According to CNet, the service should only cover three disciplines: physics, electrical engineering, and computer science. However, I did a few quick searches for international relations-related topics and found that searches in that area already turns up some useful items. [Type in "international relations" and more than 27,000 items come-up.] And I am sure they will contionue to expand the database.

One advantage of the service is the two-pane view. On the left are the search results. On the right you have three choices: Abstract, BibTeX, and EndNote. The default is Abstract. When you hover your mouse over any search result in the left pane the abstract and bibliographic information pops up in the right. I think that could prove to be very useful.

I haven't had a chance to discover all the features, but I encourage others to begin trying it out. Also, since all (?) Windows Live services are in beta this might be a good opportunity to make suggestions to Microsoft as well.

Happy Searching!

Categories: Web Tools

Monday, April 10, 2006

Academic Search Engines

Academic Search Engines

ResourceShelf reported today that Microsoft Academic Live Search will be released tomorrow (Tuesday). According to Dean Giustini, Microsoft Academic Search will allow users to search academic journals and databases. Eventually it will also include books in its search. Among the interesting features he describes includes the ability to import citations into software like EndNote and ways to customize the display of information.

Google Scholar is usually the first place I go when looking for academic information (with UC Berkeley’s library coming a close second). I look forward to seeing how Microsoft’s offering competes!

UPDATE: (10:30 am, April 11)
I'm still waiting for Microsoft Acadaemic Live Search to come online. ResourceShelf seems to have pulled its orginal post. But The Distant Librarian helps confirm that the rumor is strong. Channel 9 Forums goes even further and suggests the new url:

But it was not up as of 5 minutes ago. (Thanks to Findory for the links.)

Categories: Web Tools

Finishing the Diss & GTD

Finishing the Diss. & GTD

We all have our ways of coping with academic stress. Obviously, this blog is one of my mechanisms. However, I was happy when a fellow colleague, Emily, told me she shared another of my coping mechanisms: Getting-Things-Done. GTD (as this is often known) is not much of a secret to bloggers and techies. But I think it is just now catching on among academics.

Before I get into this too much I want to offer one disclaimer: I often say that all things should be pursued in moderation and GTD fits this well. The GTD approach to getting organized and finishing projects is best used (I think) as a source for other ideas that you can incorporate into whatever personal system you already have working for you.

What is GTD?

Getting Things Done, is the title of a book by David Allen. It suggests a methodology for organizing one’s life and managing projects (reasons this may appeal to at least some academics). I have actually never read the book. But there is a lot of information about this approach on the internet. The following websites are good places to get an overview:

  1. David Allen’s Workflow Diagram

  2. Building a Smarter To-Do List, Part 1: from 43 Folders.

  3. GTD Introduction: from PigPog

  4. “Getting Things Done”: from Tutt Library

  5. Notes from Getting Things Done: from MineZone

How do Academics Use GTD?

I mostly use David Allen’s system for categorizing and organizing my tasks, and to remind me that if something only takes a couple minutes to accomplish there is no good reason to put off doing it. However, I am really just being superficial about it if that is all I say. As the above websites will show, a lot of thought has been put into this system. Academics may be interested in the following websites:

Fantastic Websites Where People Keep Thinking of Ways to Be More Efficient

A big part of the GTD community online is a huge community (to which this post barely does justice) focused on finding ways to improve personal efficiency and productivity. They often call such tips and advice lifehacks. For many, this is not about trying to cram more work into a smaller amount of time, but instead about trying to get things done so that you can move on to what you really want to do. Some great websites include:

More GTD Resources:

About Using GTD with your Pocket PC:

Categories: Getting Organized

Document Readers Part Three

Reading Documents on Your Windows PC – Part Three

Microsoft Reader, Adobe Acrobat and the CONCLUSION to all three parts

This is the final of three posts on document readers for the Windows PC.  See also:

In this post I will briefly present and compare two products I use for reading documents:  Microsoft Reader and Adobe Acrobat.

Brief descriptions of my criteria are available in Part One.

Microsoft Reader  is available for Windows PCs and Pocket PCs.  My guess is that most people who use it use it primarily for personal reading.  However, it has a number of tools that led me to consider using it for academic reading.  That said, in the end I decided the other tools I am reviewing were much better options.

Cost:  FREE

File formats:  Unless you purchase third party software (I found none for free) you are limited to eBooks that you purchase OR Microsoft Word documents that you can convert yourself.  As an academic tool I tested this with academic papers that I could download into Word and then convert into Reader.  

Highlight and Annotation:  Highlight any passage by dragging your cursor over it with the left mouse button pushed down and you are presented with a number of useful options:  bookmark, highlight, add text note, add drawing (useful to write something on the pocket pc, or to circle passages, etc.), highlight, and several others.  Notes are placed as icons on the side of the page.  If you double-click you can see the text you added.

Ease of use:  The interface is simple, which is a good thing.  I especially enjoy maximizing the screen.  The black background surrounding the page really helps make the text pop from the screen.  

Document Search:  A number of useful search options.

Additional Features:  You can add bookmarks.  Reader will also provide an audio (computer-generated) reading of the text.

Disadvantages:  I said above I have chosen not to use this for academic reading.  Why?  First, without third-party software you cannot convert pdf documents into reader format.  Second, there is no easy way to print any of your notes, comments, the text itself…  These were similar to the disadvantages of Mobipocket Reader.

Adobe Acrobat Professional 7.0  is my favorite document reader.  However, the pocket pc version is “reader only”, so I only use it on the desktop.

Cost:  EXPENSIVE unless you are a student (or faculty/staff of a university).  
At Berkeley I am able to purchase it for less than $50 (student price; faculty price is closer to $150).  
On or the Adobe website you can pay more than $400 (normal price).

Of course, there is the free Adobe Reader.  And the free Reader has some of the features described below.  The only problem is that when you download a PDF those features (such as the ability to highlight and annotate) are often blocked by the authors of the documents.  You can usually un-block them with the Professional version.

File Formats:  PDF, obviously.  Also, the Adobe printer driver (and Microsoft Office Add-Ins) make it easy to convert other file formats into PDF.

Highlight and Annotation:  Wonderful options for highlighting, underlining (although I wish the lines could be bolder) and annotating.  You can view the notes and highlighted passages in separate panes.

Ease of Use:  Adobe is slightly more complicated than some of the other programs but far more powerful.  

Document Search:  Excellent search options.

Additional Features:  There are many features that I would never use.  But I am looking forward to someday using the software to help assemble my dissertation chapter into one coherent whole!

One note about Acrobat Professional: If all you want to do is create PDFs I thoroughly recommend you try a number of free pdf creators.  For a long time before purchasing Acrobat Professional I used PDF995 with excellent results.


It should be clear that I prefer Adobe Acrobat Professional 7.0 on my desktop PC for academic reading.  The following summarizes my feelings about when I would recommend using Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Reader, Cerience Repligo, or Mobipocket Reader.

Academic Reading on my Desktop or Laptop:  Adobe Acrobat Professional 7.0
Academic Reading on my Pocket PC:  Cerience Repligo;  use Mobipocket as a back-up for text documents that Cerience Repligo cannot convert

Reading a novel on my Desktop PC:  Microsoft Reader
Reading a novel on my Pocket PC:  Microsoft Reader; Mobipocket is a close second.

Thus, for most students out there interested in going “paperless”, I recommend purchasing Adobe Acrobat Professional if you can get it for the cheaper, student price.

There are other software solutions out there.  For instance:
  • Tablet  PC users may wish to try PDF Annotator which allows them to draw right on PDF documents;

  • There are plenty of annotating and highlighting capabilities in most modern word processors (including Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, and WordPerfect);

  • And it is likely that Microsoft OneNote for Office 2007 (due to be released next January) may provide Adobe some competition, at least on my own computer.

Categories:  Office Software, Pocket PC