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I'm an academic and I read a lot of pdf files for my work, mostly scientific papers and books. I have a constantly growing number of files I might want to read, but realistically I will never get to most of them. Currently I manage this in an ad hoc way, and I'm looking for a better solution for managing my reading list.

My current system is pretty silly: I leave papers open in browser tabs until my browser starts running slowly, at which point I go through and save them all in a folder, renaming them in an Authors - Title format so that I can find them by searching. Then I leave the most important ones open in Preview and hope I'll eventually come back to them. This is a bad solution because it uses up my computer's resources unnecessarily, and because it's not actually a good way to organise or prioritise my reading list.

Because of this I'm looking for a solution for organising a reading list with the following properties:

  • really easy to add pdfs, so that part doesn't become a chore

  • has some simple, easy-to-use features for organising and prioritising material to read

  • most importantly: designed in such a way that I won't forget the most important papers to read

  • pdfs are available at the touch of a button but don't need to be left open all the time

  • runs on Mac or iPad or both

Useful but not necessary features would be:

  • tracking publication data as in a reference manager (maybe there is a reference manager with these kinds of features)

  • the ability to make notes on pdfs

  • I can close a file and open it later without losing my place

  • can track web pages and other kinds of files besides pdf

As mentioned, perhaps the most important thing is making sure that I don't forget the most important papers to read. I don't actually know what the best design would be for that, and I'm open to suggestions for solutions that work in a different way from how I'm imagining.

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    This doesn’t really address your main requirement of designating the “most important” files, but I wonder if you’ve tried synchronising your folder of PDFs across devices and always sorting it by last modified date. This is what I do, and when I notice an important PDF drop out of the top 10 or so, I open it and make a trivial change (eg. highlighting) to bump it back to the top. I’ve tried some more complex systems but this is the only one that I’ve been able to stick to across many years, devices and OSes.
    – sjy
    Mar 19, 2022 at 9:37
  • some of this depends on where you get the pdfs. Can't you bookmark the pages (search, custom titles, easy to organize)?
    – depperm
    Apr 5, 2022 at 18:51
  • @depperm I want to store the PDFs locally, both to access them offline and because a web browser isn't an optimal PDF reader
    – N. Virgo
    Apr 6, 2022 at 0:48
  • finda? search for what you want, doesn't matter where you save them all
    – depperm
    Apr 6, 2022 at 17:03
  • @depperm thanks, that looks like a great alternative to witch (which I've used to select browser windows for years but is very slow these days) or the built-in spotlight search, which works pretty well for me for opening pdf files. But while the "save it somewhere and access by search" method is very convenient it has the issue that if you forget about a paper then you'll never type it into the search box, which is why I end up leaving papers open all the time as reminders to read them - the question is really about how to resolve that issue.
    – N. Virgo
    Apr 7, 2022 at 0:13

2 Answers 2

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If most of these are from online sources you could try vivaldi browser. They have a reading list feature where you can add sites to a reading list, search items on list, and mark them as read.

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In Android and ios you can use an app called listy. You can use it to list basically anything.

In Desktop (any OS) you can use WPS office. You can use WPS to sync all the documents in mobile and desktop too.

Hope this helps.

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  • Can you comment on how those solutions help to achieve the goals listed in the question?
    – N. Virgo
    Mar 18, 2022 at 6:27
  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Mar 18, 2022 at 7:26
  • That was just a suggestion I should have just commented it out but WPS is really easy to setup as per my knowledge, you should get an Introduction right after you install the app. I don't really remember a lot because I left using WPS a long time ago. Still a good application and a manage all your documents in one place(in the app), it supports MS documents, pdf's, you can edit pdf files too. And also setup a sync between your devices if you sign into the app.
    – BOSS
    Mar 20, 2022 at 0:40
  • I've used zotero reference manager at times when I was into research project. Have a look zotero.org. Free, linux.
    – tckosvic
    Mar 20, 2022 at 16:50

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