Academic Workflows

The’academic workflow’ is a representation of scholarship as a series of stages or steps connected to each other without gaps or duplication. Although simplified, the idea of the workflow helps to structure, develop, and communicate tools, knowledge and experience across various academic contexts.

There are three essential stages of the academic workflow:

  1. Capturing and processing existing knowledge.
  2. Creating new knowledge.
  3. Disseminating knowledge.

This blog is dedicated to Mac software and work techniques useful at each of the three stages as well as to cross-cutting tools related to task and time management and general productivity.

Capturing and processing existing knowledge

Every academic has to capture, processing and organize information received in electronic, paper, or verbal form as well as his/her own thoughts and ideas. Macademic covers organization of email messages, reference files, and notes. The Mac software I use for these purposes includes Apple Mail with MailTags (for email), NValt and Simplenote (for notes), DefaultFolderX, Hazel, and Papers (for pdf files). In the past I also tried (and still use it to some extent) Leap, Notational Velocity, DevonThink, Sente, Evernote, and HoudahSpot. Most of this software relies on OS X (formerly OpenMeta) tags. Macademic posts on capturing and processing knowledge are filed under the following categories: email, notes, files and Tags & Folders.

Creating new knowledge

In most of academia, especially in social sciences, the process of creating new knowledge is intricately connected to academic writing. Mac software which I use at earlier stages of writing includes OmniOutliner, Byword, and Scrivener as well as Google Drive (for collaborative writing). My publications are typically finalized in Apple Pages (for printing or distribution in the pdf format) or in Microsoft Word 2011 for Mac (for publishers). Citations and references are handled by Papers. I prepare graphics in OmniGraffle. In the past, I tried Mellel for writing as well as Bookends, EndNote and Sente for citations and references. Macademic has posts on writing categorized under writing, annotations and bibliographies.

Disseminating knowledge

Academic knowledge is primarily disseminated through teaching, publications (“the difference between alchemy and science is that the latter involves publishing!“) and presentations at scientific gatherings. I use Apple Keynote for both teaching and presentations. My publications and essays are usually circulated in pdf format through email or Dropbox. Macademic has several posts on presentations and on sending files by email.

Cross-cutting tools

As other knowledge workers academics have to manage their projects, tasks and time at each of the three stages of the academic workflow. I use OmniOutliner, OmniFocus and TaskPaper for task and project management; BusyCal, FantasticalPomodoro, and OfficeTime for time management and tracking. This blog is also about the benefits of automation which saves time and attention from routine to more creative and important tasks. My most important automation tools are LaunchBar, TextExpander, 1Password, Hazel and DefaultFolderX. To read more, check Macademic tags: task management, project management, calendars, timing and automation.


11 Responses to Academic Workflows

  1. Viswakarma says:

    May I suggest that you look at “Curio 3” ( for Mind Mapping, Brain Storming, and Project Management?


  2. Pingback: Year For Productivity: Session 11: Academic Workflow | Personal Knowledge Management for Academia & Librarians

  3. TJ says:

    Thanks for this blog, it’s amazing! There have been too many “confessional” pieces by former academics complaining about why they left academia, but finally here is a resource that shows you how to get on with the work and get the most out of your tools. This is truly one of the best discoveries I’ve made on the internet. Thanks, Aleh!


  4. Aleh Cherp says:

    Thank you TJ. You’re right, there are reasons to love academia. And good tools can make it fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. John Pumphrey says:


    I love your blog. Thank you!

    I notice that you use many different s/w programs in your workflow. I was wondering if your choices might be different if you were to start again from scratch today? Would the list of software be shorter / different?

    (Doctorate of Social Sciences student, Royal Roads University)


  6. Pingback: Starting from a clean slate: a minimal set of academic software for Mac | Academic workflows on a Mac

  7. emaillarseberhartcom says:

    No TeX?


  8. Joe Siri Ekgren says:

    Thank you for an inspiring post. No reference database like Zotero?


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