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I have a huge collection of PDF. Mostly it consists of research papers, of self-created documents but also of scanned documents.

Right now I drop them all in one folder and give them precise names with tags in the filename.

But even that gets impractical, so I am looking for a PDF library management application. I am thinking of something like Yep for Mac, with the following features:

  • PDF cover browsing (with large preview, larger than Nautilus allows)
  • tagging of PDF (data should be readable cross-platform)
  • possibility to share across network (thus rather flat files than database)
  • if possible: cross-platform

Mendeley seemed to be a good choice, but I am not only having academic papers and don't want to fill it all metadata that is required there.

The only alternative I could find thus far is Shoka, but the features are limited and developments seems to have stopped already.

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

One possibility is Calibre.

It is an ebook management program which permits conversion to various ebook formats but is cross-platform and can manage databases of pdf files (and not only).

If you decide to install I suggest you do so manually as the version in the repos is not very up to date. Follow the instructions on the site.

A screenshot: enter image description here

Another possibility is Zotero

It is is bibliography manager but permits adding book details directly through a browser and other sites, pdf attachments and more.

Zotero Chrome extension

To import the pdf's into Zotero you can see this page.

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I used Calibre before, but it had massive performance issues when I had not more than a few 100s of PDFs. – mcbetz Dec 15 '12 at 15:44
I retried Calibre, and yes, it has massively improved on performance. But it fails on all PDFs that are not books - and most of mine are no books - because of its required fields. – mcbetz Dec 17 '12 at 11:35

I use Docear. Mind-mapping is the mode which I prefer to explore tagged (hierarchical) notes and references. The way they implement hierarchical node trees, it is effectively tagging.

The UI for building out mind maps is fast. Though there is some learning curve to overcome at the beginning, it pays off in spades when you actually index your material in a way which primes your recollection later on. It is the closest thing to augmented memory that I have found besides the Google/Wikipedia/[askubuntu]/etc. combos. =)

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Have you Tried Gnome Documents?

GNOME Documents is a standalone application to find, organize and view your documents.


Install via the software center

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Give I, Librarian a try:

It shows PDF covers, it allows tagging, it is web-based so network access is easy and fully cross-platform.

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Referencer (GNOME) is a simple tool for managing document collections.

Tagging is possible.

It tries to find metadata on arXiv or via DOI, but you can add metadata manually too, of course.

But I guess development stopped.

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Referencer seems good for academic papers with metadata. I use Zotero for that. I however need a document manager for files that I created. – mcbetz Dec 17 '12 at 11:53

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