Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm looking for an application that can help manage a library of pdf documents. I prefer open source (or just free beer), but that's not absolutely essential.

I am aware of calibre and use it often for my ebooks, including those in pdf format. However, I'd like something for more general purpose use, especially PDFs that are largely - or entirely - graphics based, or contain small amounts of text (like keyboard shortcut reference cards and the like, research papers, and the like).

Easy management of metadata, search and filter, and easy access to the files from an application interface are the other main requirements. I don't need any device-sync or transfer capabilities, all the documents in this library would reside only on my MBP.

Anything out there that would be useful in this context?

share|improve this question
I someone is interested I started to make a tool comparison at… (you can contribute too) – sorin Jul 4 '11 at 18:18

BibDesk (free)

is free, does everything you describe, and integrates well with LaTeX.

share|improve this answer
this one looks great, going to check it out for sure. – Robert S Ciaccio Nov 30 '10 at 22:44

Papers2 ($79 for Mac and another 15$ for iPad extension)

Does what you want, but is not free, and does not have as good integration with LaTeX. Papers does have support for iPhone/iPad devices (at extra cost).

share|improve this answer


It is particularly suited for PDF Technical Books, Magazines and Papers

share|improve this answer

Yep (39$)

It handles the job of document management pretty well.

I have a license and it’s really good at finding all the PDF mess that I have scattered. Then the reading feature and the loupe are nice. They have a trial.

share|improve this answer

DEVONthink After a hundred years of research I decided on DEVONthink Pro Office for my academic workflow.

I recommend that you don't simply compare the features of the software listed here, but google around for how other people in your field use these apps. It will give you a better idea of what you actually want without trying them all.

share|improve this answer

Calibre (free/open-source)

Considering its price and features, Calibre should be #1 choice. Still I encountered two important limitations:

  • files are stored in a directory structure that you cannot control, root\Authors\Paper. This does make the sharing of this folder with solutions like Dropbox really hard to use.
  • the GUI is ugly like ** and not so intuitive

Please remember that these were the bad points, in addition it has tons of "good points".

share|improve this answer
OP said he knew about Calibre and it didn't suit his needs. – Dori Jul 4 '11 at 22:36


It's free unless you need one of their premium features.

Sadly, doing an OCR pass on uploaded PDFs is one of their premium features, but there are a couple of workarounds: you can either OCR your PDF before uploading it to EN, or upload JPGs instead of PDFs (as Evernote OCRs JPGs).

And speaking from experience: even if you think that you'll only need your files at your MBP, you might be surprised how often it's darn handy to have them all available in the cloud.

share|improve this answer
Evernote does not allow you to manager files at all, just notes. – sorin Jul 4 '11 at 18:16
@Sorin - Have you worked with Evernote? Managing PDFs is one of its core features. – Dori Jul 4 '11 at 22:39

Not free, but IMHO has far more functionality and customizability than Papers. (I've used both.)

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.