Dear journals…

…can we please universally start accepting tables and figures as part of the manuscript during review (i.e., not at the end)? It’s a pain to either scroll up and down, or open a second instance of the PDF just so that I can actually understand what I’m reading. Yes, I understand that there are historical reasons for this, and it facilitates production, but at the time of writing and reviewing, we have different concerns (plus: production gets paid, I don’t). Journals have managed to move from printed copies to digital copies of the manuscript, so there is no reason we cannot do the next step…

Zotero!

If you aren’t, you should be using Zotero. It amazes me to see researchers ‘managing’ their references manually these days. It’s complicated, takes time, is prone to errors, and simply unnecessary. There are many options out there to manage your references, but you should look at the free and open Zotero. You can install it on all your devices, you’re not limited in the number of citations you can use, you can take it with you when you change workplace, and in fact you’re not even restricted to the feature of Zotero because you can use plugins. Seamless integration in word processors isn’t going to stand out from the competition, but getting stuff into Zotero takes no effort at all — it’s unparalleled easy with just one click in your web browser. You get free syncing, too. There really is no reason not to keep notes of what you are reading.

After grabbing Zotero, you probably want Zotfile, too. Zotfile manages your PDF versions of research articles. In my view, the most useful feature is the ability to extract highlighted text from the PDF. It’s so practical that I sometimes even don’t take proper notes (for the main points, you should store them in your brain anyway).

Image credit: Zotero, Zotfile

Zotero and Zotfile

Apparently there are still researchers out there (no, I won’t name you) who have not heard of Zotero and Zotfile. Zotfile takes Zotero to another level by managing PDF files, including the ability to extract highlights and comments from PDF files. Try them.

Use MS Word to Convert PDF Files

Recently we had to convert a PDF file to MS Word so that we could benefit from the Track Changes feature in MS Word. The proofreader did not want to use the commenting tools in Adobe/Acrobat because he found them inefficient to propose changes in the text. (Yes, he could make direct changes, but it takes much more time.) We had a LaTeX source file and faced the common challenge of turning this into a Word file. I remembered that Adobe/Acrobat can export PDF to Word files, but as I have experienced many times, the output did not satisfy me at all. I also tried pandoc, but it turned out that we used bits of LaTeX pandoc cannot (yet) handle. When checking the output, I discovered that Word can open PDF files. We quite liked the output and had to tidy up only a few bits and pieces to have an acceptable Word file.

We could have avoided this challenge by using markdown and pandoc to start with… my usual approach these days.