What are your killer apps for scholarship?
posted by Paul Gowder
I’m a shameless technophile, one of those children of the internet age who started using the web on Lynx, with a deep and passionate aversion to paper. Naturally, over the years, I’ve developed a warmhearted affection for a few pieces of software that really help my work move along. Here, I’d like to share two of them (obviously, I’m not getting any kind of payment or other consideration for this), and encourage you to share your own.
Probably my favorite application is Scrivener. A Mac app (though an afterthought Windows version exists), it allows the user to impose organization on the sorts of sprawling documents that we law people sometimes produce. Essentially what it does is allow you to break up a document into discrete chunks, structure them in a hierarchical (e.g. outline) form, and then move them around logically based on that hierarchy. Vonnegut once divided the world of writers into “swoopers” and “bashers,” where the former just starts writing and then fixes the mess in the mix, while the latter carefully crafts every single sentence just right before moving to the next. I am an extreme swooper; much of the time, when I’m writing an article, the whole argument changes before the end of the second draft. But this tends to introduce massive disorganization: all of a sudden, a point that used to be the conclusion becomes merely a premise, several core points of the previous argument have become digressions, and vice versa. That’s when I dump my Word doc into Scrivener and reassemble it.
My second favorite application is iAnnotate. This is an iPad app, though, again, there’s an afterthought Android version. (Ok, so I’m firmly in the clutches of the Apple ecosystem. There are worse fates in the world.) It’s a pdf annotator, and it’s basically just built right. I almost never print off an article anymore: instead, whether I’m reading someone else’s work or revising my own, I just dump it into iAnnotate as a pdf, which lets me draw, highlight, enter text notes, you name it, then re-save it in a form readable by any pdf reader. It can also import word docs and convert them on the fly. Thanks to this app, I don’t even own a printer anymore at home. And good riddance.
Your turn: what software streamlines your scholarship? And can anyone recommend a really good reference manager for me, preferably one that makes it easy to work with RAs? Right now, I just use Evernote, which is a great external-brain-kinda application, but doesn’t have the capacity to, e.g., take citations and stick them directly into Word documents like the dedicated reference managers do.