Stop Printing, Start Skimming

One of very usual things in academic life is (endless) paper reading. I usually see people print out their papers, read them, highlight them, mark some comments on them and finally, type some excerpt back into computer.

Normally, all initial materials are in digital PDF and we usually want our final result in digital form. Why bother to convert? Digital-to-analog conversion is costly (and vice versa). There's also environmental issue.

The answer is, there is no proper way to make notes while reading PDF. Although Adobe provides comment feature in its Reader product, it's DRMed and need the document author to enable first (which no one does). This feature is virtually non-existent for normal user.

I'm always irritated by this lack of annotation feature, especially when I have a lot of papers in the same topic to read. Fortunately, someone might face the same problem and they created a nice PDF reader software called Skim.

This screenshot should explain what Skim can do, better than any textual description.

Skim PDF Reader

Since now, I can mark my notes in papers while reading. When I need to write my own report and need some quotations, just open up Skim, look for highlighted text and copy them to word processor (for my case, TeXShop). That's all. Lovely. No need to print them out and retype them again.

Anyhow, Skim is still not perfect. There are some downsides:

  • When reading 2-column paper (usual for academic papers), selecting text will span over both column in the same line. This is Apple PDFKit (the same engine with Preview.app) false, not Skim. The workaround is using Alt+Drag, which is not so convenient for me.
  • Keyboard shortcut for highlighting is difficult to press. All is 3 buttons combination.

Skim is open source software. Only for Mac but I think there should be some equivalent softwares on Linux and Windows.

P.S. I also tried Yep, a tag-based PDF organizer. But my mac is too slow for handling large collection of PDF. Waiting for MacBook Air.

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