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Note-taking and Information Management for Humanities & Social Sciences Research: Tools, Techniques, Tips: Software






  • Free, open source
  • Citations with notes
  • Notes as "index cards" linked to citations
  • Organizes and allows annotation of PDFs
  • Excellent at capturing publicly available web pages 




  • Free
  • Requires installation onto the desktop
  • Organizes and allows annotation of pdfs-automatically names pdfs with article titles
  • Backups onto the web

Papers (Mac Only)



  • Designed as writing software, rather than information/citation manager
  • Must be purchased and installed
  • Notes as index cards
  • Writing and notes together


Scanning is not enough. To be searchable, PDFs must be OCRed (Optical Character Recognition) which means that the pdf "image" is rendered into text.

Adobe Acrobat Pro has built in OCR.

OCR is also available more or less free elsewhere though quality and features vary:

Google OCR

PDF to OCR from PDFzilla

OCR is almost never 100% perfect.

For highest quality OCR and also foreign language OCR, try ABBYY.

Adobe Pro

Adobe Acrobat Pro

Allows highlighting, sticky notes, etc. for PDFs

Built in OCR capability which allows a computer to "read" the text of a PDF

Comparison of Adobe features

Cost=reasonable at Cprnell Campus Store with Cornell discount


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