I have lots of PDF books scattered among multiple directories. I would love to have some software that makes me able to search for a specific book. Ideally, I would have the possibility to associate to each book the authors (multiple of them), a title, a year, multiple tags, and afterwards, to search by any field (e.g. all books written by an author, or books that have a specific tags, or books written between two years, etc.)

In my case, this is for scientific books, but I'm pretty sure such a software would work great for non-scientific books too.

Notice that I'm not always dealing with, strictly speaking, published books: I may want, for example, to include in the database some notes written by a professor, which have no ISBN or such.

I am on Linux (Xubuntu 20.04), bonus points for FOSS software.

  • This may be a duplicate of softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/39255/… - it's not clear whether you are also asking for the software to search your computer for the PDFs, or whether you're entering the information manually. Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 14:50
  • I don't think it is a duplicate. In the linked question, an actual library needs a software to manage physical books, borrowed copies, and library-specific needs. I had (mistakenly) used the word "library" just as synonym of "collection of books", and I have edited the question to prevent further confusion. Besides, it seems that BiblioteQ does not really work on my system: I'm trying to add an entry, but even after having entered all needed info, the Save button does nothing. In any case, I can't see how I would enter into BiblioteQ the path to my files.
    – renyhp
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 15:19
  • @JeffZeitlin as for the last part, I am willing to enter the info myself, but if there is an automated way, that's more than welcome.
    – renyhp
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 15:22
  • Would calibre (calibre-ebook.com) be something?
    – albert
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 16:57
  • 1
    @albert - Calibre's biggest "downtick" for this kind of use is that it insists on importing a copy of the ebook file into its library folders, rather than just using an extant copy. It's also targetted more for remote access and/or transferring to ebook-reader devices. That said, if the downtick isn't a problem for the querent, I wouldn't argue against using it. Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 17:22

3 Answers 3


Check out calibre.

Calibre allows for an advanced search for (not limited to) Title, Author(s), Date, Size (MB), Tags, Series, Publisher, Published, and more.



Expanding on my comment above, what I mean is you can use a search engine that can index your whole file system and then search for content.

An example of generic search engine I have used in the past is Sphinx Search. It has various plugins for different interfaces. There are others like Apache Solr, Elasticsearch, etc. They all require you to invest some time to undertsand how they work, and getting an interface e.g. a simple web page? If you are considering this route, I suggest also looking at github, as there may be new simpler search engines for Linux.

But to have a more structured search, you need a system like Calibre already suggested by others to import the pdfs...

edit: On Windows 10 for instance, you can index the whole file system by changing settings to also index file contents, under “Indexing Options”. Then you can use the “File Manager” search box to search for any text of interest. I can't remember is something similar exists on Linux, apart from using "find" and "grep" from the command-line.


If don't mind using a command-line tool for the searching and invoking of your program, you can try Ki:


You'll have to configure Ki to open .pdf files with the program of your choice, however (use ki -p for prompts about it). The program need not be a command-line one, of course.

I mostly use Ki for creative writing on the command-line where there are lots of files within a complex directory structure (using Nano or Less to edit/read them), but you could use it for finding and opening PDFs.

There might be some bugs in the ki -u (when used to install it for the local user or system-wide); so, installing to your path manually might be better.

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