Paperpile is a web-based reference manager that works with Chrome and Google Apps to help you find, organize, read, and write papers online. Another reference manager you might say? Well, yes. But for having tried it myself, I must say Paperpile is a solid contender. Let’s have a closer look.
Paperpile comes in the form of a Chrome App. This means that it is dependent on Google’s Chrome browser to function. It also heavily relies on Google Apps such as Google Docs and Google Drive. But as you will see below, this dependence is also its strength (if you can resolve to adopt Google’s services).
Start a collection of references – Like other reference managers, you start your collection by importing references from other reference managers, by uploading your pdf collection (that will be analyzed and added to the collection) or by browsing the web for papers. Paperpile is particularly well integrated in a number of scholar search engines such as Pubmed and Google Scholar. With one click, references can be added to your collection and the pdf downloaded. For those of you with limited access to pay-for-access journals, a neat function allows you to search for the pdf of the paper through Google search. An increasing number of pdfs are indeed available through repositories or personal websites. Newly added papers are automatically tagged as new, which makes it easy to come back to them after a long literature search.
Store your papers – Paperpile uses Google Drive to store all your pdfs, which makes them available to you wherever you are, including on mobile devices. You won’t have to worry about running out of storage space with the 15Gb (30Gb on Google Apps for education) of free space Google Drive provides. Paperpile automatically renames uploaded or downloaded pdfs and organizes them in folders on the Drive. My paper collection was a bit messy but Paperpile helped put some order into it. It recognized a large majority of the pdfs I had, standardized the file names and arranged them in folders (thanks Paperpile :-D!).
Use your references – Once you are ready to write, you can use Paperpile with Google Docs to search your paper collection, include citations and generate a bibliography. Google Docs has a lot going for it: it has many of the basic functionalities other word processors have, is constantly evolving and is a great solution for collaborative writing. Google Docs can also be accessed and edited offline (but Paperpile will not work without internet connection). Still, at the end of the day, many prefer working with Word, and biology journals typically only accept Word papers. On this, Gregory Jordan, co-founder of Paperpile, said that integration into other word processors such as Word or Latex authoring tools is next on their to-do list. So wait and see!
Navigation in Paperpile – Navigation within paperpile is pleasant and the search function is very responsive. Articles can be given multiple labels that help organize papers by research field or project. Preset filters allow easy access to papers, book chapters or review articles of your collection. A ton of other small functionalities give Paperpile an overall mature and user-friendly feel.
You can give it a try for free for 30 days, then you are charged $2.99/month to use it. Paperpile is an initiative from a couple of researchers, Stefan Washietl, Gregory Jordan and Andreas Gruber that saw there was space to create a web-based reference manager that rivals the best desktop versions. And it seems they are very close to prove us right.