This post is the second in a series, looking back over the changes in information management over the past decade. Three major and interrelated developments are the move to querying databases of information as opposed to loading information from individual files, the practice of tagging bits of information as opposed to filing things in a hierarchical folder structure, and the representation of information as a temporal stream as opposed to a static page. This post is about the move to databases from filing systems, and how that improves your workflow.Read More »
As a PhD student I find myself roaming the Internet quite a bit in search of literature for my research project which can be really time consuming. Looking for the right keywords, opening each relevant result into a new tab, downloading each paper of interest, finding the cryptically named PDF file and then adding it to your library in an organized fashion (phew). So anything that can cut back this strain of accessing and organizing research papers is most welcome.
In previous posts I’ve mentioned Mendeley’s web importer, which helps retrieve papers directly to your Mendeley Web account. That’s all good, but what about papers that you already have on your computer spread about in different folders or hard drives?
There are multiple ways to import files from your hard drive directly into Mendeley Desktop. You can add one file at a time, a full folder in one go or even make a specific “Watched” folder.
A “Watched” folder is basically a folder that Mendeley keeps an eye on for any new files and automatically imports new documents with minimal interaction on your behalf. Just drop or download your PDF documents into your watched folder and Mendeley will do it’s thing (I mean auto-extract it’s metadata and add it to your library!).
So we now have a web importer for online retrieval and an automated watch folder. Looks like we are set!
My references and documents are all nice and organized within Mendeley Desktop and accessible online but when I look at the files on my computer, I notice something. In fact, I notice the lack of something: meaningful file names.
As you can see in the image above, the file names are not very explanatory and whenever I have to pick a file to send to a colleague or open it directly for some reason, it becomes a guess-the-mystery-file name game. Not to mention that every time I add a file to that folder with a similar name, I get this fantastic message:
The file you are trying to copy “sdarticle.pdf” already exists. Cancel or overwrite?
Good question, do I want to overwrite sdarticle.pdf? Do I have any idea what is in that file? The most probable answer to both these questions is no. Once again, Mendeley has considered this situation and provides an effortless way to organize your files with a built-in feature called: ‘File Organizer’.
As the name suggests, this feature can organize your files for you in a few different ways. You can store your files in a centralized folder with all the files renamed to a specific format. The format is easy to customize by simply dragging the naming categories from one input box to the other.
As you can see in the image above, I chose to rename my files and keep them in one folder with the file name following the format Author – Year – Title. I did not add the journal to the file name, but could have easily done so by just dragging it down into the file name.
There’s an option to organize the files into sub-folders, however I chose not to do so. That’s just my personal choice even though I know colleagues of mine prefer to separate things into sub-folders by year.
Once I’ve picked how I want my files to be sorted and renamed, I go ahead and click apply. Folders get created, files get renamed and I’m done:
These file names are much easier to understand and are categorised how I want them. This feature has not only organized my files into a folder with proper file names, but it will keep any new documents I add in the same orderly fashion. Neat huh?