Tuesday, February 4, 2014

ReadCube: One Giant Leap for Sceintific Literature Management

Maybe you know the feeling?  A "scientific literature" or "articles" file with a confusing tree of sub-files that you need a map to navigate.  Hundreds of articles titled "Sci_paper01119922838347.pdf" that contain who-knows-what.  Constantly having to navigate your University's version of PubMed or Google Scholar whenever you need a new paper.

These were just some of my frustrations when trying to keep track of my electronic copies of various scientific literature.  My solution for a long time was to just print out the articles I really wanted to read, but this ended up being a lot of paper.  At one time I tried the EndNote pdf management tool, but I found this to be way too much work for every pdf, so I dropped it.  I finally accepted my life of being cursed to managing file trees of literature on my computer... until a colleague of mine introduced me to ReadCube.

When I was first told about ReadCube, I remembered seeing little links for it on Nature's website but I never actually clicked to see what it was all about.  It turned out that ReadCube is an academic software tool that has been around for a while now, and a lot of people have found it useful for managing their literature.  As always, I was skeptical but I downloaded it to give it a try.  This was a good life choice.

The first thing I actually liked about it was that it allows you to import all of your existing pdf articles into the program, it imports all of their information like titles and authors, and it sorts them into a searchable "library".  No more confusing pdf titles or file trees!  ReadCube allows you to create an account with your university information, and has a built-in PubMed and Google Scholar search tool for easy searching and downloading (with all of your university permissions) all inside the program.  It also allows you to organize your papers into "sub-library" lists, it will recommend new articles based on the ones you have, and, very importantly, it lets you read and comment on articles within the program's reader.  This can all be synced across multiple computers with your account, which is another nice feature.

It has taken me a while to get into ReadCube because I still think there is no better substitute than reading a paper article that I can markup with a pen, but I find myself using it more and more.  And of course there are glitches and issues and whatnot and the program is not perfect, but it is at least usable and it's the best thing I have come across so far.  You will also need EndNote or something for citation management because this is something ReadCube does not really do.  So download it and give it a try!  It won't replace the awesomeness of real paper (so far, nothing has), but it gets you close and is certainly worth using.

*Stock photo computer source and ReadCube logo source.

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