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About academic software tools

Previous Entry academic software tools Aug. 6th, 2010 @ 02:11 pm Next Entry
I see a fair bit of academic writing in my future. I basically live on my Mac, and even if I get an IPad etc it will have to be supplementary not primary. On some areas, I'm very seriously tooled up as far as software goes — geek stuff I need for computer consulting work, development tools, music and audio software, even some areas that I don't really need or use much but just happen to have acquired licenses for (through MacHeist, etc), such as image editing (I own licences for Graphic Converter, Pixelmater, Acorn, Intaglio, Vector Designer, plus LightZone for photos, plus open source ones, etc -- and maybe do some minor graphic editing once every couple of months).
But now I am thinking I should get tooled up as far software I am going to likely use for writing academic papers, and policy work, and keeping track of research. I'm probably going to be mostly looking at humanities based work, with relatively modest needs for graphs and maths, though this isn't 100%. And I'd like some suggestions and recommendations.
I think I basically want: an outliner; some sort of keep track of lots of bits and pieces database (what I'm calling an unstructured database, basically apps to keep track of relevant documents and snippets of data by project); a bibliography database app that integrates with Word. I am also thinking about changing away from Word as my primary word processor, but I know I won't be able to do this fully for work that involves interacting with other people. I have used, and been very happy with OmniOutliner as an outliner in the past. I have a licence for DEVONThink, which seems to be a very capable unstructured database app. Friends seem to love Scrivener, which includes both outlining and unstructured database capabilities, but seems to be far more directed at fiction writing than academic writing. I have licences for two bibliography database apps already, BookEnds and EndNote, but I haven't used either enough to yet have a clear preference, and I would appreciate hearing experiences with either.
So, any recommendations and experiences? Any other advice? Anything I am missing?
As far as my own preferences go: I dislike TeX/LaTeX based solutions (I have vaguely positive feelings about XML though, and would even contemplate a little XSLT hacking), I find iPad/iPhone integration to be a big plus (even though I don't have an iPad yet), I like Keynote and working with that is a plus, but I also have to use Powerpoint and Word somewhat.
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From:flick
Date:August 6th, 2010 07:12 am (UTC)
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I was very happy with Zotero, which is a free Firefox add-on. I think it does everything you're after.
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From:strangedave
Date:August 6th, 2010 11:11 am (UTC)
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The big problem there seems to be that I've recently decided I dislike using Firefox.
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From:flick
Date:August 6th, 2010 01:49 pm (UTC)
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In that case, I have no help, sorry!

It is a good reference tracker, though, if you happen to change your mind in the not-to-distant future!
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From:accy
Date:August 6th, 2010 10:28 am (UTC)
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I have vaguely positive feelings about XML though

These feelings need to be excised. Either through birching or excessive alcohol consumption, preferably gin*.

* While it is known that gin makes a man mean it also makes him dislike unnecessary use of markup languages.
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From:strangedave
Date:August 6th, 2010 11:01 am (UTC)
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The only time I did it, I actually found writing XSLT code quite intellectually interesting (despite the language having absolutely the most grotesque syntax known to man). There is clearly something very wrong with me.

The real problem is that there is no clear alternative to a lot of the things we now use XML for. Prior to the XML era, the usual solution to XML stuff was often to invent some special little Lisp dialect.
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From:dalmeny
Date:August 6th, 2010 01:19 pm (UTC)
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Sorry, I just use Emacs and Mercurial for all my writing projects away from work, where I must use the accursed Word software. I'd be interested in what others suggest though.
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From:strangedave
Date:August 6th, 2010 02:30 pm (UTC)
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See, religious differences - I was raised a vi user, never used emacs.
(actually never used Mercurial either, but I'm less religious on the source code control subject. I still mostly use subversion, but I know it isn't the state of the art any more)

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From:rabbit1080
Date:August 6th, 2010 03:19 pm (UTC)
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I used Scrivener for a bit, for keeping a copy of reference material and for organising essays. It was good when I used it frequently, however it takes a while to load so if I'm not using it much I prefer to just use finder/spotlight.

Most of my lecture notes for project management were written with "Freemind" - basic mind-mapping software; each cell can be text or html.

I also used "Endnote" software. This was around 5 years ago; at the time Endnote wasn't quite customisable enough in terms of how it formatted the bibliography but was otherwise generally ok to use. I assume there have been several new versions released since then.

(In terms of general database software, I've recently started playing with Bento. It's easy to create basic databases which you can then synchronise with your iphone & ipad. So now I have a list of movies I've been meaning to watch, when I go to the video library)
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From:rabbit1080
Date:August 6th, 2010 03:21 pm (UTC)
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ps. "freemind" saves its files in xml
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From:prk
Date:August 7th, 2010 10:12 am (UTC)
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I use Endnote for citation & bibliography management / generation in Word; I think there's a mac version.

Prk
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From:grendelis
Date:August 7th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC)

Inspiration

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An academic writer friend of mine still uses Inspiration for her brainstorming and writing apparently. We were introduced to it as Masters students almost 20 years ago! sheesh, time flies.
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From:redbraids
Date:August 7th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
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For collaborating with people, most do not have non-Microsoft software. So for simplicity of writing I tend to just use MS word, which Endnote integrates with. This won't help with note keeping of course, and people have lots of systems.

Good to hear you are setting up a reference database now. That will save lots of tears in the future. For disk reference storage, come up with a system systematically now, either storing pdfs "within" Endnote or in an organized file structure on disk. I have a dir for each journal, then one per year, then for the filenames I use year and last name format of only the first author and a few key words, e.g. "2010_Smith_thermal_atmospheric_profiles.pdf". Many people I know use some weird and non-systematic file name structre like the conference etc which is confusing when references are usually quoted as (Smith et al., 2010).
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 9th, 2010 10:33 pm (UTC)
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Dave
You will probably find there is an institutional licence for Endnote; there is at Murdoch. Upgrades of Mac versions tend to lag behind Windows by about 6-12 months.
Mart
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