ReadCube: An excellent all-in-one tool for organizing, finding, reading and annotating PDF articles
At a Glance
PDF library organization is important if you’re a student or a scholar. Enter new kid on the block ReadCube, a free Adobe AIR app currently in public beta. ReadCube offers a comprehensive, all-in-one solution for organizing, finding and reading articles. It's a worthy competitor to Zotero and Mendeley.
Once ReadCube and Adobe AIR are both installed, and an account is created, the only thing ReadCube requires are PDFs.
You can import a PDF library into ReadCube with one click, after which the app immediately starts the resolving process, identifying the articles, authors, and papers. Your own meticulousness with articles comes into play here, as ReadCube easily recognizes correctly-named files, and sometimes struggles with messy file names.
ReadCube automatically imports your folders, which are available to browse on the left sidebar. Also available here are search options, article recommendations, which are based on your current library, and open articles you are currently reading on ReadCube.
The integrated reader is a killer feature, eliminating the need for a standalone PDF reader. It gets even better with the Enhance PDF feature, which turns all citations and names into links, bringing related articles to your fingertips. A click on a citation will reveal the entire reference on the right-hand sidebar, and another click will lead to the full text, on your computer or through an online search.
Using ReadCube's built-in reader, you can also add highlights, annotations, and even take screenshots of any part of the article. Easy-to-use buttons on top toggle between the article's full text, any supplements it includes, your general notes on this article, and its journal page online. Aside from citations, the beautiful right sidebar also toggles between all inline comments you made, and the page-by-page view of the article.
Being an all-in-one solution, ReadCube naturally includes a search feature, which utilizes two of the biggest online resources: Google Scholar and PubMed.
The tedious chore of searching for articles becomes almost a joy when using ReadCube. When searching for keywords or author names, ReadCube provides useful suggestions, and formats the search elements as tags you can easily add and remove. The search results, unfortunately, are not perfect— I couldn't find my own article from 2011— but are very comprehensive nonetheless, almost eliminating the need for browsers and bookmarklets.
ReadCube, despite its beta status, is surprisingly devoid of obvious bugs. Aside from an unstable connection to Google Scholar, which is partially explained in the product's FAQ,the app is speedy, responsive, and makes me sorry it wasn't around in my own university days.
If you need a mobile app to go along with your manager, as offered by Mendeley, ReadCube still doesn't have one. Regardless, with its many useful features, it's a time-saver for anyone who deals daily with PDFs.