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Mac Addict: Papers Review

Welcome to the first post of Mac Addict. Your first stop for Mac only software, hardware, and gadgets reviews with students in mind. With school comes textbooks, workbooks, and of course, journal articles. The hard drives of college students and professors alike are littered with dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of articles. How do you tame the chaos?

Enter Papers

Papers is like iTunes for your budding journal article collection. It has all of those same search and organization features that we have come to know and love in iTunes, but applied to PDFs. Have a paper due on the French Revolution? Start a smart collection, set the conditions for inclusion in the list, and voila! All the articles you have now and will add later will be included in that collection. Imagine the zen-like calm that will descend upon you as the realization your research is intuitively organized and easily backed-up. You, my friend, will be envied when crunch time hits.

But it doesn’t stop there. You’re at your desk and you remember reading this amazing book review that you popped into Papers, but can’t find it now. No problem. Click the ‘Reviews’ button on the top and it displays only those PDFs that you’ve marked as reviews. Now, you need to send that to the rest of your group. Easy as pie. Just hit the handy-dandy ‘E-mail’ button, type in the e-mail addresses of your group, a little blurb, and *poof* your group has the article they need. Genius!

While all of this is well and good, what makes it the ‘must-own’ piece of software is the simple fact that you can download journal articles directly from databases like JSTOR, Google Scholar, and Pubmed, plus loads of others. Tabbed browsing within Papers. Oh yes, they went there. No more flipping between 6 different windows as you hunt down an article for your paper.  Find an article you want, click the download button and all of the bibliographic information comes with it, too. Go to ‘File’, hit ‘Export’ then ‘Word2008bibliography’ or whatever bibliographic software you have, and you’re ready to roll. “But I don’t know how to handle the proxies,” you whine. Go, Young Grasshopper, to the Reference Librarian and they will show you the path. Want to save that search for latter? Check a little box and it’s done. You can even mark up PDF files with notes and highlighting right in Papers, with either Preview or iSkim, or just read it in the ever handy ‘Fullscreen’ mode. Will that save trees and cash? You bet.

As far as performance is concerned, I’m running a 3 year old iBook with Leopard and 1.512GB RAM. I have a humble collection of 140 articles and it runs like a dream. Granted, if you have a collection of a few thousand articles you’ll probably see some performance issues, but that comes with the territory. If your machine is newer, it will run that much better.

The developers are incredibly helpful and quick with responses to e-mail. And those guys aren’t just software developers who had a good idea. They’re graduate students/research scientists, so they really know what it’s like to have an information overload. If you think they have compromised or cut corners on this program in any way, think again. In 2007, they won an Apple Design Award for it. Yes, it is that good.


The support forums are lively and it is a great way to not only share ideas and tricks with the other users, but suggest features for the program. If you use Firefox and Zotero, there are a few, but growing, resources there to help you get the most out of both pieces of software.

Did I mention they offer a 40% educational discount on the regular price of $42? That works out to about $26. So, for the price of a large pizza, wings, and ahem ‘beverage’, you can own a fantastic piece of software that will make your life 1,000 times easier.

By the way, they also have a number of other helpful program for those in the sciences available at:

I’ve been using this program for 2 years now and I wonder what I did before I found it. It made finishing my Master’s thesis that much easier and I knew I had an advantage since my research was always organized and ready to go.

Let me sum it up this way. If you own a Mac and you are a student, you need to own Papers.  ‘Nuff said.

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2 Responses to “Mac Addict: Papers Review”

  1. Jasmine says:

    What’s the comparison btw Papers and Endnote? Endnote makes me crazy, but the citation functionality is hard to give up…

  2. Mavreen S says:

    Papers is more like a virtual filing cabinet for your PDFs, while Endnote is all about the bibliography. You can export the bibliographic details from Papers to Endnote. If Endnote makes you crazy, there are a number of alternatives such as Bookends, Sente, Zotero, and a few online tools, like EasyBib. I believe Bookends and Sente are Mac only.

    Personally, if a piece of software makes me crazy I keep my eyes peeled for another (or two) that will do the same thing and keep me sane. Zotero and EasyBib ended up working really well for me. It’s all about personal preference.