Mendeley: Try It

Mendeley is pretty cool.

I’ve been using it for a week or so and it’s definitely integrated itself well without being obtrusive.

Some things I really like:

  • Cross-platform: OS  X, Linux, Windows
  • Drag-and-drop your PDFs and it figures out the metadata as best as it can.  If it gets something slightly off, you press a button and a Google scholar check usually fixes it all up
  • PDF viewing is quite speedy and natural for me with their tabbed interface
  • Notes, highlights, etc: syncs with the cloud and can be integrated with other users that you share your documents with
  • I find storing associated URLs to be a very handy feature (links to the web site, supplementary info, etc.)
  • Cleanly store your PDFs in a directory of your choice (e.g. I use Dropbox to view them on my iPad)

Requests (maybe I can request some of these?):

  • iPad app (supposedly on the way)*
  • Sometimes highlighting/selecting text isn’t as accurate and intuitive as it is in OS X’s Preview application, which does selection brilliantly
  • Parse PDFs for their citations and do *cool* things with this.  What can you tell me about papers I may be interested in by looking at the citation network of my collection?
  • If Mendeley is like iTunes for music, it would be nice to have a slick storefront to browse related papers of interest and import.

* Related posts

Inkscape and Latex

I’ve been a fan of the open source Inkscape for some time now, especially for lower-level vector graphics drawing. But for diagramming purposes, I’ve tended to use OmniGraffle (made only for the Mac). I’ve found it pretty handy to use OmniGraffle with the program LatexIt (which comes bundled with the MacTex distribution).

Little did I know that Inkscape comes with batteries included Latex rendering support.  And with its “connectors” tool, Inkscape is a very competitive alternative to diagramming that is cross-platform and is open source.  For Latex rendering, it converts your favorite Latex equation into SVG (via Extensions->Render->LaTeX Formula).

As you can see from the image, I rendered an equation and then rotated the summation symbol 90 degrees counter-clockwise since it is just another SVG object to play with in Inkscape.

This is a powerful feature that comes with the Inkscape distribution, but unfortunately you may not see it in your menu.  You can Google around and figure how to get this to work based on various forum posts (though depending on your setup this may take a while).

Because it can be kind of a pain to figure out how to get this “default” feature to work properly, I thought I’d explain it for Ubuntu and OS X in one place so it would be potentially easier for others to get it going.

First of all, by “default” or “batteries included”, I mean that this is a Python extension that is included by default in the Inkscape software distribution.  According to the Python file itself, for the plugin to work properly:
functions for converting LaTeX equation string into SVG path
This extension need, to work properly:
– a TeX/LaTeX distribution (MiKTeX …)
– pstoedit software: <;

eqtexsvg.pyfunctions for converting LaTeX equation string into SVG pathThis extension need, to work properly:    – a TeX/LaTeX distribution (MiKTeX …)    – pstoedit software: <;

I’m assuming you have a Latex package installed (e.g. on Ubuntu, something like ‘texlive-full’ or ‘lyx’ or on OS X, the MacTex distribution).

The plugin basically takes the equation you feed in, runs latex and dvips on it to create a Postscript file.  The real meat comes in the program ‘pstoedit‘: it converts your postscript file to SVG.

But you have to make sure this program is installed properly.  If you try to install it from source with the default settings, it may not work because for SVG output in pstoedit, you need the GNU plotutils library.

The easy solution for both of these is to install pstoedit from a package repository such as apt on Ubuntu and MacPorts on OS X and it should depend on plotutils.  Unfortunately, the install on OS X may take some time because a larger list of dependencies are actually all compiled before pstoedit itself is installed.

But after you install these packages, restart Inkscape and the plugin should show up in the menu and work.