Freeware :: software for thesis/manuscript organisation

Isn’t the internet brilliant? I mean a time-sucking, life-absorbing, haven of procrastination style of brilliant. But still, I love it. Lately I’ve been trying to harvest some of this free techy goodness to try to improve my productivity. Well, the internet should at least try to earn its keep and pay back some of the hours I’ve lost reading blog articles and Facebook stalking. Here’s my favourites – some common, some less so. Let me know if you’ve got anything else I should try…

Evernote. The thinking person’s Pinterest. Stick their little icon on your browser’s bookmark bar and if you find a webpage you want to remember you click it and save. The benefits over just saving it to favourites? You can choose to clip the whole page, sections of the article, or just the url. Tags allow you to easily sort what you’ve saved. And their free desktop software (NixNote is the Linux equivalent) means you can sift through everything and arrange it not only into groups (notebooks) but groups of groups (stacks). If, like me, you’re constantly turning to the internet for help with everything from stats to tips on using Word then it’s useful for saving webpages you know you’ll want to use again. They’ve got loads of extra features – you can send emails directly to your account, and download any number of extensions or apps to organise your life.

Mendeley. OK, so this isn’t exactly new. But I finally found the perfect way to handle my papers.
1. Empty folder for journal articles, free downloadable books, presentations – anything I may want to reference
2. Set Mendeley to watch this folder – anything added to it gets added automatically to Mendeley.
3. To avoid mess and clutter if I download something that could be a complete dead end, or I don’t fancy filing right away it goes on my desktop – anything there I know I need to action.
4. Everytime I open Mendeley newly added papers are still marked ‘unread’ – I check for these and make sure all details are correct. I also add tags – I have a set list of tags I know are useful to me eg ‘light effects’, ‘salinity effects’, ‘seaweed’. This is better than trying to make folders as several papers can fit in several themes. When I want a quick reference for something I can search for that tag and off we go. Yes, it did take the entire Wimbledon final to back catalogue all my papers. Has it paid off when writing my thesis – oh yes.

Remember The Milk. I’m still playing with this and having some issues getting it to sync with my Thunderbird email client but I love the idea of having different links sync to my calendar, Gmail account etc. Lists – digitalised – what more could you want? Anyone got any suggestions for better software?

Write Or Die. OK, So I haven’t used this in earnest yet. But if you’re faced with a blank piece of paper why not try a website/software that forces you to write or deletes what you’ve already written?! If the stick is too much there’s always the carrot – Written Kitten provides you with a sickly cute kitten picture for every 100 words you write.

Inkscape For putting together Figures for my thesis – lots of options for exporting graphics.

Free File Sync (or if you’re on Windows SyncBack to sync between my laptop and portable hard disk, keeping them both the same and allowing me to work on several computers or in several locations.

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