Hacking Document Management for Research

Over the past few years, I have put together a software stack for storing, organizing, and annotating the PDF documents – mainly slides and research papers.

I wanted a system that would let me take notes on my documents from any of my devices and would give me the ability to search through all my notes and highlights.

Considering that my devices are a Linux Laptop, an iPad, and an Android phone, I was not expecting one piece of software to accomplish this task– especially since I was not interested in using document management software that charged a monthly fee.

The software stack that I ended up liking the best is:

  • $0 – Zotero (Linux / Mac / Windows) –  Document management and meta data retrieval.
  • $0 – Zotfile (Zotero Plugin) – Document syncing through Dropbox, PDF note / highlight extraction.
  • $0 – Okular (Linux) – PDF editor
  • $0/$5 freemium – Xodo (Android) – PDF editor
  • $0/$10 freemium – Documents by Readlde (iPad) – Document management and PDF editor

One thing that might not be immediately apparent is that PDF editors can handle highlights and annotations differently. So, the highlights and annotations from one system might not be visible in another system. With my stack, I can annotate a PDF on my phone or iPad and then view the annotations on my computer — no problem.


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