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?


8 Answers 8


BibDesk (free)

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

  • this one looks great, going to check it out for sure. Nov 30, 2010 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).



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


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.


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.


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".

  • OP said he knew about Calibre and it didn't suit his needs.
    – Dori
    Jul 4, 2011 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.

  • Evernote does not allow you to manager files at all, just notes.
    – sorin
    Jul 4, 2011 at 18:16
  • 1
    @Sorin - Have you worked with Evernote? Managing PDFs is one of its core features.
    – Dori
    Jul 4, 2011 at 22:39

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

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