Essential software for academic work on Mac: 2021 update

It’s been seven years since I listed 25 apps essential for academic work on Mac. This list has proven to be very popular and relatively stable, but over the years I dropped or significantly reduced using 13 of these applications and I added 2 new ones to the list. Here are the 14 apps I use everyday in 2021:

Screenshot 2021-06-12 at 11.00.21

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Posted in Automation, Bibliographies, Collaboration, Files, Graphics, Notes, Presentations, Projects, Tasks, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Setting up Notion for Academic collaboration

We’ve recently introduced Notion for collaboration within our research group. Notion is knowledge management system where you can develop and store content in pages, organized in a series of relational databases. To leverage Notion’s full capacity, it’s crucial to set up the right structure.

In our Workspace, we organize our content into seven main databases:

Our main Notion databases organized in top-level pages
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Notion for academic collaboration

Since the early days of Macademic, we have searched for academic collaboration software. The need for such software intensified as our team expanded, our work grew more complex and the pandemic limited face-to-face discussions. Over the years, we have tried Google Docs, Evernote, Slack and Asana, not to mention Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive, OneNote, Teams and SharePoint. Many of these were helpful, but none lived up to our requirements. Recently we discovered Notion, which has become a true game-changer for our team.

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ReadCube Papers Beta – organising references

The ultimate purpose of academic work is to advance and disseminate knowledge. This means constantly identifying, absorbing, engaging with and eventually challenging prior academic work. There are several Mac apps that can support this process. Ideally, such an app would help to find scientific publications online, download and organise the relevant files (usually in pdf format) on local computer as well as related bibliographic meta-data (e.g. author, year of publication and title), annotate these files, and finally insert citations and bibliographies referring to this work during academic writing.

Earlier on Macademic, I wrote many entries on Papers, in my view the best academic reference and pdf management software for a Mac. However, a few years ago Papers was discontinued and started to be less compatible with new versions of macOS. As crashes became frequent, I searched for a replacement.  For a while I used Mendeley – it worked ok, but I always had a feeling that it is not an app developed with a user in mind. I also tried Sente, Zotero, BookEnds and EndNote, but nothing was comparable to Papers in its ability to organise, annotate, share and cite. Continue reading

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Asana for academic collaboration

All my projects are in collaboration with other researchers. In the last year, I’ve been working with a tool that has revolutionised this collaboration: Asana. By now we’ve completed 3 publications and 3 research funding applications using Asana and currently working on 4 more projects. Asana is now forever pinned to my Safari toolbar. So it’s more than ready for a Macademic review! Continue reading

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TaskPaper 3

I have recently completed a large grant proposal and several research manuscripts. Such sticky projects involve hundreds of details that need to be remembered: “reformat table 3”, “find the page number in reference 76”, “ask someone to rework figure 5”, “read an article that the reviewer has pointed to”. I have no idea how I would stay sane, if not for TaskPaper, my favourite app for dealing with complex projects. Continue reading

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Citing organisations in Papers 3.0

Organisations, rather than people, often co-author reports and other materials which should be cited and referenced in scientific work. After many trials and errors, I have finally resolved how to elegantly cite organisations with long names and short acronyms using Papers 3, my pdf organisation and reference management software (extensively covered on this site).  Continue reading

Posted in Bibliographies, Writing | Tagged | 17 Comments

Annotating PDFs with Highlights

Note taking in the era of PDFs has clearly become an issue for most people working with electronic documents on a daily basis. As far as I know most reference managers now implement some form of a note taking/highlighting feature. However, we may not necessarily be happy with those built-in capabilities as they may not be well aligned with our own flavour of note taking. In this constant and incremental “apps vs. user needs” matching exercise it is nice to see new offerings with a slightly different approach. Continue reading

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The future of email: an empathy algorithm

Some of our most popular entries are on how to write good emails: both what to say and what not to say. But what if the computer could tell you how to tailor emails to different people? Continue reading

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BusyContacts and academic networking

Three months ago, I started using beta-version of BusyContacts, which a reader suggested in a comment to the post on organising academic contacts. Last week this software (developed by the maker of my favorite BusyCal) released the first official version. I have really enjoyed BusyContacts, which not only can replace Apple’s Contacts but can even compete with large CRMs such as Daylite. Continue reading

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