A roundup of academic workflow tools

by Karthik Ram. Average Reading Time: about 2 minutes.

Lately I’ve come to rely on a whole bunch of “2.0″ tools that I now find indispensable. I tried and given up on many products (e.g. Papers and its ios app) but below is a list of tools that I find myself using several times each day. I’ve chosen to highlight a few that don’t typically appear on most lists.

Pinboard -Bookmarks are an essential part of any research/teaching effort. I frequently bookmark pages for field work supplies (to buy later), grant announcements (that I plan to apply for in a future round), tutorials (frequently R related, useful StackOverflow answers), workshops (especially ones with useful handouts), syllabi (ideas for future lecture topics), teaching material, and even papers to read later. Compared with other alternatives, Pinboard is a no nonsense (yet feature rich bookmarking tool). Among all its features the killer (in my opinion) is archival bookmarking ($25 annual fee). The service saves a cache (including images , videos, and overall formatting) of any page you bookmark. This is great for links that change, expire, or disappear long before you actually need to refer to the content.

Pinboard also allows you to automatically archive items from Google reader (any articles you star are saved automatically), Twitter (your own or anyone else’s with the added option to bookmark links alone), and Instapaper (see below).

Instapaper – One can only read for so long a day on a computer and carrying around dead-tree copies of articles gets old real fast. Although I am yet to hop on the ipad bandwagon, I’ve found instapaper to be a great tool to send dense review articles to my kindle for later reading when I am away from internet distractions (Kindle’s painfully slow browser is a blessing).

iEtherPad - Collaborate on notes in realtime (either publicly or privately with a group of collaborators), with authorship colors and automatic versioning. iEtherpad also lets you create a subdomain for your research group.

Mendeley groups РThe killer feature of Mendeley, in my opinion, is the ability for small groups of collaborators to share PDFs and cite directly from it. Changes made by any collaborator are automatically pushed to everyone else!

Dropbox (and its alternatives): Although dropbox appears to be the de facto file sharing platform for most researchers, there are also other great alternatives such as Spider Oak (way more secure than dropbox) and Sugar Sync (more free space to begin with) if you end up running out of (free) space. Dropbox, however does increase space with referrals (more for academic users). This Prohacker post explains all the details.

Useful dropbox hacks:

  1. DropDAVA webDAV interface for Dropbox
  2. Dropbox FormsReceive assignments from students and data sheets from your research assistants/collaborators straight into your dropbox
  3. Add a widget for a quick drag n drop (OSX users only)

Did I miss something really useful? Add it to the comments below!



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