Dealing with PDFs: Organizing, Manipulating, Converting


The industry-standard medium for posting journals and journal materials is the PDF file. These files are handy for maintaining the data of the file in its original formatting. The PDF standard also makes it incredibly easy to collect journal articles on your computer.

Organizing PDFs 

I have a TON of journal articles on my computer. Whenever I want to recall specific articles, I have to trudge through files and located the files of interest via trial-and-error. I have stumbled across a neat program designed especially for this problem. The program is called ‘Papers’ and is available here. I have downloaded the demo and it appears to be quite useful.

Academhack on PDF organization:

Organizing PDFs: This one is easy. Any journal article etc. that I download as a PDF for future use I send straight to Devon Think. There are of course other choices, like Yojimbo and Yep. (Yep seems to be a good alternative to the brain in a box programs like Devon and Yojimbo, as it is simply meant to organize documents—worth a try if you are not already using one of the other applications.) (Sorry these are Mac only)

Manipulating PDFS

The best part of journal articles stored online is that I get to print them out and mark them up! There are now tools available online now that will let you do mark up or manipulate PDF files without having to burn through pack of highlighters every month. This program is called Skim (freeware!) and is available here.

Academhack on manipulating PDFs:

Manipulating PDFs: Many times I get a PDF that I want to split, or the reverse two separate ones that I want to combine into one. You can also use this to chop up a longer pdf and just save the small part that you want (like just one journal article as opposed to the whole thing.) My program of choice for this is PDFLab. PDFLab can be buggy, I have had it crash while I was working with it, but it is more powerful than a few of the other similar programs (I have never had it loose or “eat” a file, just had to restart the program.) If you don’t like PDFLab you can always give Combine PDFs. These are both Mac only applications, but if you need a PC version try PDF Split and Merge. Also you can use Foxit Page Organizer this is a more advanced version of their free Windows software program—Foxit Reader.

Converting to PDF

So you have a word document that you want to send off to a colleague. MS Office 2004 for Mac comes with a PDF-Print option that ‘prints’ your Office file to your computer as a PDF file. This is the method I most use most often to create PDFs and it works flawlessly. on converting to pdf:

Converting to PDF: If you have a file you need to convert from another format to a PDF this can also be done relatively easy (say you have a Word document you need to be a PDF). If you have a Mac all you need to do is open the file and select Print. Now rather than hitting return to print the document select the button in the bottom left of the pop-up window called “PDF” and select “Save as PDF.” But what if you have a PC or a file your Mac cannot open and want to convert it to a pdf. No worries there are online tools which will convert most file formats into a pdf. I have use PDF Online although there are several others (as a side note this is also a good way to handle a microsoft windows document which you cannot open (say you don’t own microsoft, or have an olde version and someone sends you a new file). This is a good resource to show students so they can always send you their assignments in the proper format.

The article on this topic is available here.


2 Responses to “Dealing with PDFs: Organizing, Manipulating, Converting”

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  2. 2 Rachael

    I’m curious if you know of any software for pdf organization that works with a PC. I’ve already decided that when my computer goes, it’s over to macs, but for the time being–it’s a real hassle to deal with all the academic papers I’ve been collecting. I can’t find anything to help, so for now… old fashioned typed-out directories for me. If you know of anything I could use, please let me know!


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