Keeping track of PDF files

Now that I am back in the business of reading and using a lot of PDF files, I have a nice system in place. I thought it time to share it.

Some of the PDF files are ones that I already have on my hard drive. Others are ones I need to pull from the internet. Others, still, are ones I make by “printing” a web page and saving it as a PDF files. In all of these cases, the end result is a PDF file that is saved to my hard drive (well, to the Google Drive account for my school, actually).

From there, I open the file on my new MacBook Pro in Preview. It functions like every other PDF viewer – much like Sumatra that I use on my Windows machine – only Preview (which is a component of OS X) lets me highlight text and save the PDF with annotates. It’s like being able to highlight a book and save those highlighted parts, right there in most all of the PDF files I am working with (ones that are text based, of course).

Steve Marrin, "Preventing Intelligence Failure by Learning From the Past," International Journal of Intelligence and Counterproliferation."

From there, I drag and drop the PDF – with its saved highlighted markings – onto Evernote. I then make sure it has a nice pretty name, details on the author, often a link to where I got it on the internet, and then I mark it with tags – the course I am using it in, and subjects related to it. All this, so I can find it again, and all this, so that I can use the highlighted sections again. The tags – which work like hashtags, if you’re into those kinds of things – make searching withing Evernote an absolute breeze. Evernote doesn’t save a link to the document, but instead it uploads and saves the whole of the document – so I can pull it from any and all of my devices.

Evernote doesn’t save a link to the document, but instead it uploads and saves the whole of the document – so I can pull it from any and all of my devices. Anywhere I am, any time.

I read things once, mark them up once, save them to Evernote once, tag them once, and I am able to find things again, many times.  And I keep updating them as I go – I can always update when I have highlighted, or update the tags I am using for the document.

Super system. It’s working so well.

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