How to Organize PDF Files

If you’re anything like me, most of your research is done electronically, and you probably have countless folders chockablock full of memory-hogging pdf files. Or worse: one ginormous folder teeming with mostly cryptically named files. How can anyone put a cursor on what one needs? I’ve tried organizing my growing pdf collection by research project (e.g., NCTE conference, podcasting workshop), and while this method works to an extent, the organization also separates content that should be grouped together, making finding like content more of a challenge, especially if one has a bunch of folders.

So what’s the solution? Recently I discovered a wonderful, free piece of software, Mendeley, that is on the surface a pdf organizer. Mendeley allows one to create folders, import files into specific folder designations, and tag individual pdf files to enable searching across folders to locate similarly tagged content.

Mendeley also generates citations for imported content in a number of documentation styles. When a pdf file is imported, Mendeley scans the file and plucks out such bibliographic information as author, title of article, title of journal, etc. The software allows one to check the bibliographic information against several online databases to make sure the source information is correct. While the citation generator is not without flaws, it’s a handy feature that makes putting together a list of references fairly easy.

Another terrific features is the ability to read and markup pdf files from within the software interface. Highlighting and commenting are easy using built-in intuitive tools.

There are other great features: powerful search options; synching with other computers and mobile devices; off site storage (500 mb for a free account); connecting with others who have similar research interests.

Since I discovered Mendeley, I have come to rely on it as a regular part of my daily workflow and highly recommend this piece of software, which you can check out for yourself at 

All best,


1 Response

  1. Thanks, Kurtis! This is great.

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