Saturday, April 21, 2012

Reading journal articles on tablets - Getting close to Nirvana?

Watch this video -
Why you ask?  What does it have to do with reading articles on tablets?
Just watch it, and it will all become clear at the end!  If you have the patience to read it all that is.

See 2 recent posts (1, 2) on issues with reading journal articles on tablets.
  • Most people want to read journal articles as PDFs
  • They may have more convenient access to full text articles at their institutions/work place
  • They want to read and annotate the articles on tablets while at home or travelling
  • They want to have these annotated articles available from anywhere
  • They want to be able to search for and cite these articles when writing papers/blogs etc.
The previous posts covered the first 3 issues listed above.  To close the loop it was important to get these annotated articles back into a searchable library from where they could be cited and for creating bibliographies.

So here is a workflow using a tool called Zotfile which is an extension for Zotero.

What you need
1.  Download Zotero (get standalone version with appropriate connector if you use Chrome or Safari).  The standard version works with Firefox.
2.  Download Dropbox and set up a folder where you would like to share articles between your desktop/s and tablet/s
3.  Download Zotfile
4.  Set up Zotfile to specify a folder where you usually download full text PDFs on your work place computer.
5.  Set up Zotfile to save files from Zotero to the folder mentioned in step 2.

Here is the workflow:

Workflow for sending PDFs to Tablet, and getting back Annotated PDFs from Tablet

  1. Learn about an article
    1. Feed reader
    2. From Social network
    3. While browsing/surfing
  2. Mark for download to Zotero
    1. On Google Reader - Star it, or tag it as Zotero
    2. Email link to it
    3. Bookmark it using Diigo - put in Zotero list
  3. On work computer, go to full text article and download to Zotero
    1. This is usually a one click by clicking on the address bar Zotero icon.
    2. This will usually grab the related PDF, and also all the metadata like title, journal, authors, abstract etc.
    3. You can add notes or tags
    4. The search engine works very very well
  4. Send article PDF to Tablet
    1. Right click on menu item>>manage attachment>> send to Tablet
    2. This will send the PDF to the Dropbox folder specified above
  5. Read and annotate article on Tablet
    1. Open file in Dropbox folder
    2. Open with EZPDF
    3. Annotate/Highlight/add notes
  6. Retrieve annotated article from Tablet
    1. On Zotero right click item >> manage attachment >> Get from Tablet
    2. The annotated article is saved in Zotero library
    3. The annotations are extracted and saved as a separate item
  7. Write and Cite
    1. This works like most other bibliography tools
    2. In addition, you can grab a bunch of citations and drag and drop into Google Docs.

So does this really work? I have tried it for a couple of days and it seems to work.  Here are some screenshots.

1. Once configured, ZotFile adds a "Send to Tablet" and "Get from Tablet" menu items to Zotero

Extracted annotations and highlights from the article linked to the citation
Article on Social Intelligence Hypothesis retrieved from Tablet
A quote from the article highlighted (Highlighting was done on Tablet)

 Why did I use this article as an example?  Remember the video you watched at the beginning of this post?
I had just read this article and was struggling to understand it.  The article mentions using the Prisoner Dilemma and I had meant to read up on it.  Then I saw a tweet by @courosa regarding this incredible video and it became very clear.

Thus it was in fresh in my mind as I was writing this blog post.


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  2. nice idea.. thanks for posting.

  3. Great information you shared with us i am impressed from your blog.
    Thanks for sharing...


  4. That's a good idea. I call a friend to configure it . Thanks a lot for the post!!!