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Get Organized: 3 Document Management Tools For Bloggers By on November 27, 2013

We collect this myriad of industry statistics as PDFs, docs, audio files and PowerPoint presentations, dropping them in folders never to be seen (or heard) again. Do bloggers and writers need a digital document management strategy?

You Can’t Share What You Can’t Find

Document management for bloggers - keeping up with white papers, reports, ebooks, statistics.

Hmmm, now where did I put that report?

Bloggers are readers, signing up for white papers and reports on social media, email marketing, project management, customer retention, client communications, best business practices, and more.

What happens when we want to reference a concept in our latest article?

How can we share impactful stats or life-changing quotes when we can’t find that relevant report we just read last week?

According to content management solutions provider, M-Files, the cost associated with lost data is significant.

Without an effective ECM or document management system in place, organizations spend enormous amounts of time, effort and money searching for lost and misfiled documents. This often results in poor decision making due to out-of-date or incomplete information, duplicated efforts and lost productivity.

You are not alone in your need to get a handle on the ebooks, reports and white papers cluttering up your desktop, scattered through-out your hard drive, or unceremoniously dumped into your My Documents folder!

Here are some choices: do it the old-fashioned traditional way or use a virtual or desktop software like Mendeley or Calibre. Evernote might also work for you. Let’s take a look at what our colleagues are using.

Traditional Is Better Than Nothing At All

In a recent article on CoachNotes blog, I wrote about reports, white papers, ebooks and case studies I’d read recently. following along with the structure there for those many have followed links to and downloaded, a traditional folder structure for keeping up with and finding again might look like the diagram below.

computer files folder structureThere were 10 papers, reports across 8 categories including podcasting, small business, email and social media marketing, and optimization. A standard computer folder file structure for storing these reports might look like the one on the left. Of course, some categories could be collapsed, folded, expanded … For example, there could be a single Optimization category and the freelance and small business categories could be folded into business.

Most likely, you already have a folder structure that works for you for creating documents or even document retrieval. You could store your reports and ebooks in a folder structure like this one.

This folder structure could be considered old-school in our world of tossing everything in one pot and just using some type of search function to find it again.

Have you noticed how Google GMail encourages us to adopt such a stance by not encouraging the use of folders to store emails and spreading emails out across tabs?

Another place that this is prevalent is within the current Microsoft Windows® Operating systems, in which the ubiquitous SEARCH BOX begins locating related documents as soon as we begin typing into it.

That’s nice. Sure it works . . . IF you remember the clever name of the document you are searching for! What happens when it is a marketing document that doesn’t have marketing in the title?

#FAIL!

You Are Not Alone . . .

Calibre ebook management software - Downloaded and installed hundreds of thousands of time.Dumping everything into MY Documents is not a document management strategy — at least not for savvy bloggers, writers and content managers.

To be fair, for those of us who write, recommend and share facts, figures and quotes, an old-school method of keeping up with content is 50 times better than no method at all.

But wait! (Doesn’t that remind you of those late night infomercials?)

There are better ways to ensure your ability to find it again after you’ve read it.

You are not alone in wanting to corral your curated content.

See the statistics in that little chart? That represents a quarter million downloads of just one piece of software by your colleagues and comrades who absolutely must get a handle on the avalanche of industry information they curate to work their magic on behalf of visitors, readers and clients.

Enough said … let’s see what’s out there to give us a hand.

Digital Document Management Tools for Bloggers and Writers

From time-to-time they get re-discovered and maybe re-read but without a document management system or online library, that’s about the end of it. — Author

Evernote for Library Management

Originally I did not include any information about Evernote in this article at all because I do not use it for document management. However, before publication, I did a bit of research to see how others are using Evernote and what I found is that the sentiment about its usefulness in this regard, and the details on how and why use it, are all over the place.

General Sentiments

Long time Evernote user, GrumpyMonkey, shared his thoughts on what he learned over the course of using the application for the past four years in How to Optimize Your Evernote Experience:

I wish that I wouldn’t have dumped so many PDFs into my account (thousands). It would have been MUCH smarter to have stripped the text out of the big ones … and saved the PDFs in Dropbox as necessary … would have reduced the size of my database by as much as 75%, and might have made all of my searches occur much more quickly.

Those who use Evernote to manage documents share these reasons why:

  • searching files is fast for text and tags
  • small files work better (i.e., 30-page pdfs versus 200 page ebooks)
  • good for housing reports and articles when text is copied into notebook

There were many lively discussions against using Evernote for library management with these reasons being the most prevalent:

  • false positives when searching
  • bandwidth limitations for free accounts
  • Doc, text and PDF formats only (as opposed to .mbi, epub, etc)
  • doesn’t handle full-sized ebooks (200+ page ebooks)
  • need complex indexing and naming schemes in order to later find

In addition to the link above to GrumpyMonkey’s full forum discussion, here are some other lively discussions for and against using Evernote for document management:

* Evernote As An eBook Library?
* Organizing PDF library With Evernote
* Take a Minute to Collect Your Thoughts With Evernote
* Tim Lockridge’s Personal Reading List

Overwhelmingly, amongst those who have big library collections, the sentiment is to use Evernote to reference the salient points and keep track of reading notes and quotations. Then, actually house the more heftier ebooks, white papers and reports somewhere like Dropbox or within a dedicated library management system.

Interestingly, I found numerous Evernote users who actually use the Calibre software (discussed below) to manage their libraries, so let’s take a look at Mendeley and Calibre, two software tools to keep track of those important papers, in an easy, enjoyable manner.

Mendeley Reference Manager

Mendeley - free reference manager helps you organize your research online and ofline.

First up is Mendeley, a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research.

We’re not so interested in the academic side of things, like discovering research, but the online sharing features are useful for sharing reports and stats like those found in infographics with your clients and blogging colleagues.

The screenshot below shows the desktop software version of Mendeley. See the folder structure? The folders created in Mendeley are virtual folders — they don’t correspond with actual folders on your computer but are highly effective in organizing your content. In the middle pane, you can see a selection of ebooks and whitepapers I’ve collected. They can belong to different folders at the same time. For example, the report highlighted in blue is in the “email marketing” folder but it might also be represented in the “writing” folder.

Peek inside Mendeley - document management software - Custom folders

Peek inside Mendeley – document management software – Custom folders

Whatever you have organized within Mendeley can be synched between your desktop application and your corresponding web-based account on the Mendeley servers. And they have created mobile apps that let you update, manage, share and read your virtual library.

There are three features I want to emphasize here: (1) read your ebooks and papers from within the software; (2) highlight and annotate as you go; and (3) easily create end notes and citations when you need them.

“No more need for hand-written notes, sticky notes and highlighter pens. You can now annotate, highlight, and add sticky notes directly to your PDFs.” — Mendeley website

(1) Read your ebooks and papers from within the software. Open PDFs and capture your thoughts through sticky notes and highlights. Import and organize PDFs from your computer, EndNote™, Papers or Zotero.

Mendeley Document Management let's you annotate PDFs, create notes

Mendeley Document Management let’s you annotate PDFs, create notes

(2) Highlight and annotate as you go. If you like to use quotations from what you read in what you write, you’ll be on the lookout for quotable bits as you read an ebook. One way to make sure you can find suitable quotes again is to mark them when you discover them — not go searching all over again when it’s time to use them in your article.

(3) Create end notes and citations when you need them. If you write for an organization or manage content for a number of small businesses, they often want to know the sources of your statistics, quotations, and facts. Instead of hunting down a text document with dubiously formatted citations, open up Mendeley and print out properly formatted reference notes either as part of your MS Word, OpenOffice or LibreOffice document, or as a standalone page for inclusion in your report.

As a blogger, you might not need anything so formal; however, if all you want to do is briefly reference your sources, in Mendeley you’ll have them all in one place where you can quickly view them.

Get Mendeley at http://mendeley.com

Let’s take a quick look at the second library management software: Calibre.

Calibre EBook Management

Calibre Options bar

While Mendeley is a darling of the academic community (even though it is used outside it), Calibre is a free and open source e-book library management application developed by users of e-books for users of e-books.

Its “cornucopia of features” span library management, extensive searching, inclusion of flexible metadata, and customization abilities out the wazoo.

The truest concept of Calibre is making sure you can not only catalogue and find your documents again, but convert them to almost any format in use today, use them on almost any device you own, and share them through any sharing technology available.

Now, that’s a tall order for library management, but Calibre fulfills it — and then some.

Calibre document management with tags, meta descriptions, complete searches

Calibre document management with tags,
meta descriptions, and complete searches

There is such a wealth of good information, created by the developers of Calibre, that I would not do justice in this space trying to reiterate it. Instead, I want to invite you to view this video in which the user walks you through four different features, giving you a very rounded view of why Calibre is a good fit for your document management needs.

Even if you don’t sit through the entire video now, bookmark this article and come back to view it later. He covers these four areas:

  1. book list
  2. tag browser
  3. book detail view
  4. search bar

 

calibre-ebook-management-software-logoCalibre Document Management Software,
free, open source, user-friendly

 

Calibre allows deep customization, making document management easier and intuitive.

 

Get Calibre at http://calibre-ebook.com

A Better Way to Keep Up With Those White Papers and Reports

Neither of these document management systems are trial software where you download, use for a few days then either have to ante up or lose your hard work. No, you can incorporate either (or both!) of these digital library systems into your daily workflow without fear of the companies/teams behind them disappearing or them holding your data hostage.

An honorable mention goes to Qiqqa, which was reviewed by Justin Pot over on MakeUseOf.com. I haven’t used it but it was recommended as an alternative to Mendeley. There are two other applications I use to help manage and organize my research and reading: Scrivener and Kindle for PC. I won’t cover these here today but look for an article in the future about how (and why) they are also part of my writing, blogging and library management tools chest.

How Do You Do It?

Half the battle is identifying the need, then finding vetted resources that can fill your need. I hope these introductions have started you well on your way. Remember, “traditional” is better than nothing, you are not alone, there is a better way, and now you’ve seen what your colleagues are using.

Are you staying on top of the reading materials and statistics you gather? Which system are you using? Do you think one of these mentioned in this article will work for you?

I’d love to know! Feel free to share a link to your own faves in comment below. And do me a BIG favor? Share these gems with all your social networks!

Thanks for reading, commenting (and sharing)!

 


Image Credits: 3-D Thinking Man (c) 123RF Stock Photos. Personal screen captures by author. Screenshots from Calibre™ and Mendeley™ are copyright their respective copyright holders. Source: M-Files Corporation, The Business Case for Enterprise Content Management: A Collection of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Document Management Research Data (2013), p.10.

Vernessa Taylor is a micro and small business champion — helping professionals, solopreneurs and consultants choose smart technologies to build and manage their businesses. A techie with a quirky sense of humor, she writes serious stuff at CoachNotesBlog. Connect with her on Google+ and Twitter @CoachNotesBlog.

14 Comments

  1. Good stuff Vernessa. I actually use Evernote most of the time though sometimes I just leave the tab open on the story I need reference information from. But it took me a long time to decide to use it, as I relied on what I could remember most often.

    • Hi Mitch – It’s nice to know someone who uses Evernote to keep up with docs. The sentiment around using it vs. not using it was really polarized. I’ve gone back and forth with Calibre but have finally decided to use it more diligently. Thanks for popping in and sharing your process.

  2. While all the tools above will work, and i use Evernote for many things, I most often use Google Drive, which is always available and can configured anyway you want, or I use a Google Community as a curation site.

    I create a Community of one, make it private (invite only) and private-private by setting it so it won’t be searched by the spiders etc. The material in there is truly my own. You have the ability for the full substructure as yould in any system, a full tree of folders and subfolders.

    I think that very useful. For material published outside G+ I copy and sent it to g+ as a private post to my community.

    just a thought…with the community there is no software and complete control. Keeping up with the amount of material is a pain as usual.

    • Stuart, I’ve not heard of anyone using Google Community for managing their collections (actually, I’m not sure of what it is). Just in case others haven’t heard of it can you share what it is and how to access it?

      That’s a novel idea and thanks for letting us know how you manage your many docs!

  3. Ileane says:

    Hi Vernessa,

    Great collection of resources! I think you introduced me to Calibre some time ago.

    I use Google Drive for just about everything these days. I started organizing things into folders and that makes things a lot easier.
    For all of those pdf’s I use SoundGecko to convert text to speech then I can listen instead of read. That way, once I listen to the file I can just delete it. I can send the mp3 file to Google Drive or iTunes.

    Thanks for the additional resources.

    • Hey Ileane,

      SoundGecko sounds like a good idea. In our conversation on G+, you mentioned that SG has a variety of voices you can choose from. That’s good to know. I used to buy books on tape (or CD) and one thing that I often wished for was an option to select the voice.

      Looks like Google Drive gets another thumbs up for housing collections (Stuart uses it too).

      Appreciate the comment!

  4. Evernote is something I just started using. I don’t really have any “tool” but instead my own system. For example in writing my upcoming book, because I am interviewing a few authorities on different skill sets, I have a folder for each chapter folder, both in documents and email. In these are the appropriate studies I might references, interviews I’ve done and the chapter itself.

    Calibre sounds intriguing so I’ll look that one up.

    Over from LinkedIn group BHB

    • Hi Patricia – having your own system is as good as having a tool. Oftentimes, the lack of a system of any kind is the gap tools try to fill. I like Calibre because it is format agnostic – it allows you organize books, reports, pdfs, etc. regardless of the format, including proprietary ones like Kindle books.

      Speaking of writing and organizing reference materials, I like Scrivener for the whole process (http://literatureandlatte.com). Have you seen it?

      Thanks for dropping over.

  5. It’s a good document management especially for content writers, editors to manager their docs. There are various tool to use for free either its also alternatives.

    • Hey Yogendra – agreed, there are a few alternatives out there for content writers and editors. Two others that I didn’t include here but use for specific features are Mendeley (papers and bibliographies) and Scrivener (writing and organizing research).

      Are there others you want to share? Feel free to include them in a follow-up comment.

  6. This is a great article! While I am net savvy, I find myself still using a very outdated bookmarking system which doesn’t help me at all for the things that I really need. Evernote is my writing software of choice but I have never actually considered it useful for cataloging (although now I will research it as an initial option). Ironically, I will be “bookmarking” and then tagging this article in Evernote as my first step toward beginning a system of sorts.

    • Hi Stephanie,

      EverNote is definitely popular with the writers who left comments on this article. 🙂

      Doing research for this article, I found there was quite a bit of ambivalence as to how useful it was for cataloging and organizing documents. Most of those who do use it for that say tagging and importing PDFs as text is what makes the difference.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Arleen says:

    I have used Evernote and Do Planner. I really like a program I used called Paperport by Nuance. It works with my scanner. I try to scan my documents that are on paper and then shred them. This has made my life easier

    • Hey Arleen,

      Wow, I remember Paperport from ages ago! Maybe I had one of the scanners that Paperport shipped with. Small world, eh? Smart of you to shred paper after you’ve scanned it. Now you know it’s really been handled. 🙂

      Are you still using Do Planner?

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