30-second screencast on PDFs and metadata

The new version 1.5 of OS X literature management tool Papers has lots of new and improved features, but one of the most immediately useful is the ability to parse the DOI string out of a PDF and use it to look up the metadata for that file from PubMed. As the metadata that publishers put in PDF files is generally pitiful and basically unreliable for any practical use, this is a very welcome feature.

Here’s a quick screencast demonstrating this, as well as a few other things:

Download the full resolution QuickTime movie (9.5MB)

This video shows:

  1. The new landing pages for Nature articles, where abstracts and metadata are visible to readers who aren’t signed in, so you can link directly to articles and not worry that visitors will just get the default “you need to buy access to this article” page.
  2. Signing in to with the Secure Login Firefox extension.
  3. Zotero‘s recognition of the article, import of metadata and automatic collection of a HTML snapshot and the associated PDF.
  4. Reading the PDF in Skim.
  5. Importing the PDF by drag-and-drop to Papers (you can also just drag the PDF onto Papers’ dock icon).
  6. Using Papers’ “Match” button to extract the DOI from the PDF, look up the metadata from PubMed and attach it to the PDF in Papers’ library.

The Zotero step isn’t crucial – you could just use Papers and Skim – but I wanted to demonstrate both applications at the same time. Using both leads to a bit of duplication, as you’ll have metadata and PDFs in both Zotero and Papers separately, but there are possibilities for syncing between multiple bibliographic/literature management tools in the future.

This is a big step closer to getting a decent workflow for discovering, storing, reading and annotating scientific literature.


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