I have many PDF files ( scientific books, lecture notes printed from powerpoint presentations and various other resources like old NASA reports without digital descriptor (DOI) ).

For scientific papers with DOI I use Mendeley, which is great for that purposes. It is especially god for exporting citations to BibTeX. But for this other PDFs like books and presentations it is not ideal and it mess-up my database. I do not want to cite these documents anywhere, so I do not need Mendeley reference management functionality here. Also, I don't like that Mendeley copy the files to his own library, which takes disk space (some of the files are BIG like 100 MB each file ). It makes Mendelay useless for organization of PDFs e.g. on USB-flash disk.

I want to organize this other PDFs in a similar manner I organized images in old ACDsee 3.0. Should be a combination of file browser and very fast PDF viewer. It would show a view of the .pdf file in some side panel instantly after I move the cursor over it. Maybe ideal would be just a PDF-viewer plug-in for file browser ( e.g. for Nautilus).

Organization of pdf-files should be done by standard file-manager operation (rename file, delete from disk, move between regular disk folders). It should not depend on some special internal database or library of the program. The organizational structure created by the program should be possible to browse by standard file manager even after when I uninstall the program.

and should be for Linux.


2 Answers 2


I may suggest tagsistant as tag database engine and zathura with mupdf backend as fast pdf viewer.

Pros: tagsistant is a file system, so it allow to use any software for reading and querying data stored in it.

Cons: it has no means to store notes and bookmark pages.

  • ad tagsistant it looks interesting; Will it work with nautilust or do I have to copy the files by termial; I ask especially because I see the strange @ symbol at the end of cp comand. I undestrand, there is probably no specific GUI - wich I would consider as great think if it would allo to use any filebrowser. Feb 1, 2016 at 17:49
  • tagsistant works with file managers. It encodes own queries as file names
    – ayvango
    Feb 1, 2016 at 20:15

I recently came across TagSpaces searching for something else, and it could be that this tool would suit your needs to some extent. This is what TagSpaces says about it self:

TagSpaces is an open source personal data manager. It helps you organize files with tags on every platform.

No Backend ➜ No Login ➜ No Cloud

TagSpaces is running completely offline on your computer, smartphone or tablet and does not require internet connection or online registration. You can still use platforms like ownCloud, Dropbox or Bittorrent Sync in order to sync your files between devices.

What it does is that it provides an interface on top of the file system where it adds the possibility to tag files, and to preview files, and some simple sorting and grouping features. This is accomplished through mangling the filename from Your filename.pdf to Your filename [tag1 tag2].pdf. Which has the advantage that you don't need to have a database at all to store tag info, and the disadvantage that your filename is mangled. :-)

Meeting your requirements

Starting with the end, this program doesn't need any database or other installation than the program itself. If you decide to not use it anymore, you could simply stop using it (or possibly clean out all the tags from the filenames before you stop using it). The files are always accessible by normal file operations.

TagSpaces provides simple file operation within the program, in addition to some sorting and grouping features. And the possibility to tag files, also gives you the opportunity to both to categorize for later references or to define actions to be taken related to the documents. You could have starring tags.

Regarding preview option, it has both the option to preview within TagSpaces, or open natively on your current platform. However, currently on a non-touch device you have to double-click the file to preview it, whilst simply selecting it on a touch-device suffices.

It is multi-platform, and runs under both Win, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS. The program is gratis, with the exception of the Android and iOS version. If you point all of these to the same folder, i.e. a Dropbox folder, you'll see the same structure. However in the current version, the iOS it not able to see Dropbox folder, which effectively makes it the odd one, as you can't see synchronized document on iOS as on the other platforms.

As it keeps the tags in the filename, this also allows for copying files around, whilst keeping the tag information. This gives you the possibility to copy parts of your library onto USB stick, or external folders, whilst keeping tag information. (TagSpaces also allows for cleaning of tags, if you so want).

Lastly, you can also create some documents within TagSpaces for addition comments, structure, or whatever. It supports directly out of the box plain text(.txt), html (.html) and Markdown (.md) files.

  • Does it do any indexing or does it have extremely fast disk search (like e.g. UltraSearch does)? Otherwise searching/presenting by tag would be very slow...
    – user416
    Jan 29, 2016 at 11:11
  • 1
    good, I'm trying to use it. I a bit don't like the filename mangling but if it provides enough usefulness I can get over it. One think I found disappointing right now is that thumbnails for images can be generated just by some PRO version - which indicates that it should be some sharware for commertial app ? Feb 1, 2016 at 17:58

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