I have been obsessing lately with various software programmes that may (or may not) aid the PhD process and increase my productivity. This is the inevitable outcome of a slight mid-thesis crisis which includes a mild panic concerning my submission date’s sudden appearance on the horizon. It is far away still, but becoming increasingly noticeable.

I have tried a long list of software programs that promise increased effectivity in thinking, remembering, writing… well, they all pretty much claim to make you a better person all round. Of course, they don’t always deliver on their promises. I thought I would write about a couple of the programmes that I like and use, or consider investing in, with the hope that some of you may have some recommendations or tips to offer a fellow researcher.

Evernote
There’s been quite an Evernote-hype going on for a little while now. It is a program that lets you type notes, collect web-clippings, pdfs, documents and images that are then stored on your Evernote account, always accessible online or from your smart-phone. I use it to note down my thoughts and the developments of my PhD – like a stream-of-thought research diary. I also collect web-clippings from interesting articles, or other things I find online. This is useful for two reasons: (1) you keep everything interesting in one place, and (2) if the website/article/image should disappear from cyberspace, you have a copy of it on Evernote. You can also give tags (keywords, essentially) to everything you keep in Evernote, making it really easy to navigate through an expanding (virtual) pile of materials.

Papers2 vs Mendeley
Thanks to a great blog post a while ago by Salma I ended up downloading the reference programme Mendeley. It stores and organises your references and you can also annotate your pdf:s by highlighting and adding notes. But best of all, it is free! There is one thing that annoys me with Mendeley though, and that is that it is not compatible to export references into Pages (the iWork word-processing programme I am using instead of Word). It hasn’t been a massive bother yet, but I can foresee some issues in the near future… So, I was wondering what reference programmes you guys use and what you think about it? I have my eye on on a programme called Papers2 at the moment. It both looks beautiful, has a great range of features AND it’s compatible with Pages. But it does come wit a price tag… Does anyone have any experience with Papers2? Is it worth spending a bit of money on?

Scrivener
Has anyone tried Scrivener? It is a combined word-processing and project managing tool, and from what I have seen, it has been getting glowing reviews from academics on various blogs and in comment sections online. Essentially, it allows you to write a research paper in sections, rearrange them easily and keep summaries attached to each piece of writing you do. I really want to get it, BUT… it’s £31.99 – perhaps a fair price to pay if it really is as awesome as everyone claims, but a painful blow to my wallet if it is not…

I have just downloaded a 30-day trial version of Scrivener to try it out for myself but would love to hear from you guys – do you use it and like/dislike it? Or do you use other programmes in your research and like/dislike them? Any tips for software that makes the research/writing process just a little bit more efficient and structured? Share your tips and recommendations please!

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Joelin Quigley-Berg | This post was originally written in August 6, 2012

Photo Credit: Christian Gonzalez/CreativeCommons